I have been experimenting with Berbere Spice for a couple of posts. While I was using it, I had this thought that the complex spiciness would be great in bacon. I am totally unable to resist trying these ideas so, I decided to make some back (Americans call it Canadian) bacon with some Berbere Spice in the cure. I used my A-MAZE-N-TUBE-SMOKER to cold smoke it one day and them my Louisiana Grills Pellet smoker to do a second hot smoke to finish it the next day.
I will start with some basics of making back (Canadian) bacon. You have to use curing salts to make bacon. Curing salts are a mixture of salt and sodium nitrite.
The curing salts inhibit bacterial growth during the long smoking process. If you cold smoke meat for hours without curing, it will go bad.
The curing salts also give bacon its distinctive colour and taste.
Curing salts go by many names, Instacure #1, Prague Powder #1, Pink Salt and many more. Just make sure it is 6.25% sodium nitrite and the rest is salt.
The problem is that too little curing salt will not protect the meat and too much can make you sick. It is imperative you use the right amount.
There are two ways of introducing curing salts. One is a dry rub and the other is a brine where they are mixed with water. I prefer the dry rub for bacon and the brine for hams. I will be using the dry rub here.
When you are using a dry rub, you must have the exact amount of curing salts for each piece of meat. This means that, if you have more than one piece, you must do each piece separately so that you can make sure you have the right amount of curing salts.
Not all bacon is smoked. Several European countries have a tradition of making bacon without smoking. So, if you don’t have a smoker, you could still make this bacon by not going through the smoking process. After rinsing the cure off the bacon and soaking it, just put it in a 180 F oven until the internal temperature is 140 F. I call this Irish Bacon. It is delicious but quite different without the smoky taste.
So lets get started.
Get a piece or pieces of pork loin. Trim the thickest part of the fat off.
Weigh the piece of pork.
Mix up a cure with the following amounts for each kilogram of pork:
- 3 grams (2 ml) Prague Powder #1
- 40 ml brown sugar
- 15 ml kosher salt
- 1 ml Berbere Spice
If you are one of my metrically challenged readers, use the following amounts per pound of pork loin. The ounces refer to weight.
- 0.05 ounce (1/5 teaspoon) Prague Powder #1
- 4 teaspoons brown sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/8 teaspoon Berbere Spice
You note I give both a weight and a measure for the curing salt. I really recommend you use a small scale as it is more accurate than measuring by ml or teaspoon. However, I have used a measure many times.
So if your pork is 2 kg, multiply the ingredients by two.
Once you have the cure made up, put the pork on a large plate or tray. Rub the cure mix all over the pork letting any loose mix fall to the plate or tray.
Put the pork in a resealable plastic bag. Scrape any of the curing mix that fell to the plate or tray into the plastic bag. It is important that all the mix goes into the bag.
If you have a second piece of pork loin (as I did) repeat this process with the second piece.
Once the pork is in the plastic bag, put them in the fridge to cure. The length of time it takes to cure varies with the thickness of the pork. I use the following formula. For every inch of thickness at the thickest part of the loin, I allow four days. Then I add two days. So, a 1 1/2 inch thick pork loin would take 8 days (4 times 1 1/2 plus 2).
Some people say to allow 7 days per inch. I have done this as well and it works fine, the extra days don’t hurt anything and it ensures you will get a full cure throughout the meat.
My loins were two inches thick so I was going to put them in the fridge for 10 days. You should turn the bags and massage the bag to rub the cure in every day or so.
You will note that some liquid forms in the first couple of days. That is normal. A lot of it will be absorbed back into the meat over the rest of the cure.
After 10 days in the cure, I take the pork out of the bag and soak it in cold water for an hour, changing the water twice. This takes the surface salt off and gives a less sharp salty taste that I prefer.
Then, I dry the pork with a paper towel and put it on a rack. Every twenty minutes, I dry it with a paper towel until it is dry and the surface is tacky. This took an hour but can take more or less. It is important that the surface of the meat is dry or the smoke won’t take well.
At this point, if you don’t want to smoke your bacon, you can put it in a 180 F oven and cook it to an internal temperature of 140 F. This should take 2-3 hours depending on the size of the loin you are curing.
I put mine in my pellet grill and put the tube smoker in. I did not turn my pellet grill on. It is strictly acting as a smoking chamber while the tube smoker generates smoke. The tube smoker generates very little heat and will not cook the bacon. This is the cold smoke.
I smoked the bacon with the tube smoker for 4 hours.
I brought the bacon in and put it in the fridge overnight.
If you don’t have a smoke generator like the tube smoker, you can skip this step and just single smoke the bacon in your smoker. It will still have a nice flavour but it won’t be a deep smoke like you get from double smoking.
The next day, I preheated my pellet smoker to 180 F and put the bacon in. I cooked it to an internal temperature of 140 F. It took about 3 hours.
Put the bacon in the fridge overnight to let the smoke flavours even out.
The next day, slice the bacon to the thickness you like.
Of course, you must try cooking some!
This is the best bacon I have ever made. I like homemade bacon because I control the salt and sweet levels. I like double smoked bacon for its rich smoky flavour. However, the touch of spice and complexity from the Berbere spice put this over the top.
It isn’t really spicy, even She Who Must Be Obeyed didn’t find it too hot. But it does have a nice warmth that is a perfect foil to the sweet, smoky, salty taste of the bacon.
I just love this and it is one of my best creations.
The Old Fat Guy