Homemade Bacon

by Meg Cotner on February 14, 2011

They say bacon is a gateway meat for vegetarians, and I can totally see how that is. As a vegetarian I used to eat “Fakin Bacon”, that soy-based alternative meat product, something I wouldn’t touch now.  I enjoyed it then because the smoky, salty taste was highly appealing.  But it’s no comparison to the real thing.

Since I left vegetarianism 13 years ago, I’ve eaten a lot of legit bacon.  I’d recently heard that you could cure your own bacon, which was really intriguing, but a little daunting.  So when I caught wind of bacon curing as part of the Charcutepalooza challenge, I thought that this was the perfect time to dive in.

I looked at my main two sources for pork belly, but neither had them in stock, so I headed to The Meat Hook in Brooklyn.  They sell very high quality local, pastured meat that is extremely tasty.   When I got there, they were butchering what I think was a pig, with some hardcore knives, on a large table behind the counter.  The person that helped me brought out a whole pork belly and deboned it, and also cut off the skin.  I ended up with 2.71 pounds of belly.  It was gorgeous.

I cured it (using this bacon recipe from Michael Ruhlman) with salt and spices, plus I added some smoked paprika to the spice mix – this gave the meat a smoky flavor without having to actually smoke the meat (which I have no idea how to do anyway).  I also opted to not use pink salt.

The end result is some of the most delicious bacon I’ve ever tasted, if not the best I’ve ever had.  And the smoked paprika really worked!  The bacon is both savory and smoky at the same time.  I am just so impressed with how easy it was to cure and how well it came out.  I plan to cure bacon more often.

So, what did I do with the bacon?  Well, I cooked it on its own, in the oven, and had it with brunch. I find that cooking bacon in the oven yields a more pleasant slice of bacon, plus I don’t get spattered with hot fat like I do when I cook it on the stovetop. I also used the bacon in a braised red bean dish that I was really happy with.  I’ve also reserved the fat when cooking bacon on its own, and have used it to cook with.  I’ve been really happy with it, too – it lubricates my cast iron pan like nothing else!

I used the bacon in a dish I put together called a BST (bacon, spinach, tomato) sandwich in open-face form – it’s also a wet version because I used tomato sauce.  It was absolutely delicious – a very simple, homey, and comforting dish with lots of flavor.  Plus it’s really easy to put together.

More images from my bacon curing project can be found in my Charcutepalooza photoset on Flickr.

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{ 5 comments }

hennifer February 15, 2011 at 12:08 pm

Yummy!

Meg February 16, 2011 at 8:13 am

Indeed, it is yummy! :)

Janelle February 16, 2011 at 10:20 pm

You don’t mention where you keep the bacon to cure it and how long it takes? Or am I just stupid when it comes to curing meat?! :)

Meg February 19, 2011 at 5:30 pm

Hi Janelle – of course you’re not stupid! :) I cured it in the refrigerator for 7 days, and used a 9×13 inch pan to house it. I added to the post the link to the recipe I used, for clarification.

Lexi April 10, 2011 at 5:40 pm

Oh WOW! I’m so doing this asap. I recently bought some artisan bacon and it was the greatest bacon ever, but very very pricey. It looked lots like yours in the first photo though, so I’m definitely going to give this a try! Thanks!

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