I was out of bacon (hang my head in shame). Fortunately I had the side pork (Americans call it belly pork) my brother had brought me from Loves Custom Meats in Vegreville. I decided to make it special by double smoking it.
I will start with some basics of making 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.
I would like to strongly recommend you get a small scale to measure the curing salts by weight. It is just more accurate and you will get a better result.
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 120 F. It is delicious but quite different without the smoky taste.
Side pork often comes with the skin on. You can make your bacon with the skin on and remove it after curing and smoking. I find it easier and like the result better when I remove it before smoking.
I work a sharp knife under one corner of the skin and then fold it back and keep pulling a sharp knife between the skin and meat.
Then I weighted the pork piece to determine how much of the curing mix to make.
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 or chili powder (optional)
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 or chili powder (optional)
As my pork side weighted 1.766 kg, I mixed up:
- 5.3 grams Prague Powder #1
- 71 ml brown sugar
- 27 ml kosher salt
- 2 ml Berbere Spice or chili powder (optional)
I like the touch of Berbere or chili powder as it gives a touch of spice to the bacon but the small amount means it is just a background note. It is still a wonderful bacon without it if you want no spiciness.
I put the pork on a tray so any loose curing mix would fall in the tray and rubbed both sides of the pork.
I put the pork into a large resealable bag and made sure that all curing mix that was on the tray got into the bag before sealing it.
The pork has to sit in the fridge for the curing mix to work its way into the meat. The length of time it has to be in the fridge is determined by the thickness of the meat. The pork side was 1 1/2 inches thick at its widest point. Allow 4 days per inch and add two days. So, 4 days time 1 1/2 inches is six days. Add two days and the pork has to sit in the fridge for 8 days. If your pork was 2 inches thick, you would let it sit 10 days. Do not dry cure a piece of meat that is over 2 1/2 inches thick as it takes too long to cure.
While the meat is in the fridge, turn the bag and rub the cure mix in every day or so.
After the pork has sat in the cure for the appropriate time, take it out and rinse the pork under cold water. Then let it soak in cold water for an hour, changing the water twice. This removes the strong saltiness from the cure on the surface of the meat.
Before you start smoking it, is important the surface of the pork is totally dry. Pat it dry with a paper towel and put it on a rack. Let it sit for 15 minutes and pat dry with a paper towel. Keep letting it rest and drying it with a paper towel until the surface is very dry and feels kind of sticky. Smokers call this pellicle. It just means the surface of the meat is dry and will take the smoke well. If you put the pork in smoke while wet, you can get a bitter ashtray tast.
I fired up my A-Maze-N Tube Smoker with hickory pellets. If you don’t have a cold smoke source, you can skip this cold smoke step and still have a great single smoked bacon.
I put the pork in my Louisiana Grills Pellet Smoker with a tray of ice and the tube smoker. I did not turn the grill on. You are cold smoking, not cooking the bacon at this step.
The ice wasn’t really necessary but it was a hot day and I like to keep it a little cooler in the chamber as the tube smoker does generate some heat. If it is a cold day, it is totally unecessary.
I let it smoke until the tube smoker ran out of pellets, 5 hours.
I took the bacon out and put it in the fridge, uncovered, overnight.
The next day, I preheated my pellet smoker to 200 F and smoked the bacon to an internal temperature of 120 F.
I let the bacon sit in the fridge for two days to let the flavours even out. Then I sliced the bacon with my trusty ham slicer.
Of course, I had to fry up a couple of pieces of the trim to taste it.
This is wonderful bacon and so much better than commercial bacon. When you put commercial bacon in the fry pan, it gives off a lot of liquid then starts to cook. This doesn’t. It just slowly renders the fat and gives a great bacon texture.
I make this with less salt for health reasons and I think this gives a better salt balance on the taste as well. It has a nice sweet/salt balance and the touch of spice is barely noticeable but enhances the flavour. If you like really salty bacon like the commercial bacon, increase the salt by 25 %.
This is just great bacon.
The Old Fat Guy
- 1 kg side pork, skin removed before weighing
- 3 grams (2 ml) Prague Powder #1
- 40 ml brown sugar
- 15 ml kosher salt
- 1 ml Berbere Spice or chili powder, optional
- If you are multiplying the recipe, it is critical that the ingredients are in exact proportion. Too much or too little curing salt can cause illness.
- Mix all ingredients except pork together.
- Put the pork on a tray and rub the curing mix into both sides.
- Put the pork in a resealable bag and make sure all curing mix that fell onto the tray gets into the bag.
- Seal the bag and put in the refrigerator for four days for every inch of thickness plus two days. (2 inches would go in for 10 days, 1 1/2 inches for 8 days).
- Turn and rub the bags every day.
- Rinse the pork under cold water.
- Soak in cold water for an hour, changing the water twice.
- Put the pork on a rack and dry with a paper towel. Let it sit for 15 minutes and dry with a paper towel again. Continue resting and drying until the surface is dry and tacky.
- Put the pork in cold smoke for three to five hours.
- Let the pork sit in the fridge overnight.
- Hot smoke at 200 F to an internal temperature of 120 F.
- Let sit in the refrigerator for two days.
- Slice and freeze any that will not be used in the next week.