You have heard of bacon. It is usually made of side pork (Americans call it pork belly). You have heard of back bacon (Americans call it Canadian bacon). Have you heard of Buckboard Bacon. Bacon is quite fatty. Back bacon is quite lean. Buckboard is kind of in between.
Bacon is made of pork belly which is heavily streaked with fat. Back bacon is made from pork loin, which is quite lean. Buckboard Bacon is made from pork shoulder or butt roast (which is also part of the shoulder). This has large pieces of lean meat with wide streaks of fat.
The last time my brother came to visit, he brought some wonderful cuts of beef I can’t get easily here. I am going to visit him so I wanted to do something in way of thanks. I thought brining him something he may not have tried before was a good idea so I made some Buckboard Bacon for him.
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 140 F. It is delicious but quite different without the smoky taste.
Also, if you don’t have a cold smoke generator, you can skip the cold smoke and just hot smoke it in a smoker. It will be delicious but will have less smoke taste.
Let’s get to it.
I started with a large boneless butt roast. You can buy one bone in and debone it if you like. The boneless butt was just on sale.
I untied the roast and laid it open. You want to cut off any really thick pieces of fat and try and cut the roast into pieces that are between 2 and 2 1/2 inches thick. The width and length doesn’t matter. Save any trimmings for making sausage.
I was able to get 4 pieces from the roast I got. Normally I like them wider than I cut these. However, I suspect the butcher who deboned this roast and rolled it had been enjoying recreational pharmaceuticals. It was pretty hacked up. I had to cut out some loose pieces.
As I had 4 pieces and my brother had been so generous. I decided to do them 4 different ways to give him a variety. I will start with basic bacon and then show you how to do the variations.
You need to start by weighing the piece of meat you will be curing. The piece I chose for a basic cure weighed 649 grams.
For each kilogram of meat, the basic bacon cure is:
- 3 grams (2 ml) Prague Powder #1
- 40 ml brown sugar
- 15 ml kosher salt
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
Just multiply these amounts by the number of kilograms (or pounds) in the piece of meat. So, I multiplied by 0.649 and made a cure of:
- 2 grams Prague Powder #1
- 25 ml brown sugar
- 10 ml kosher salt
This is not a time to estimate amounts. Be careful and measure accurately.
Mix the cure ingredients together.
Put the meat on a tray or plate. Rub the mixture into all sides. Put the meat and any curing mix that falls onto the plate into a large resealable bag. It is important you get as much of the curing mix as possible in the bag.
The bacon needs to sit in the fridge to cure. The length of time it cures depends on the thickness of the thickest part of the meat. For every inch of meat, cure for 4 days and then add 2 days. The thickest part of the meat was 1 1/2 inches. This means the meat has to cure for 8 days (4 times 1 1/2 equals 6 plus 2 equals 8).
I left the meat in the fridge for 8 days turning it and rubbing the liquid that forms into the meat every day or so.
I took the meat out of the bag and rinsed it off under running water. Then I soaked it in cold water for 40 minutes, changing the water once.
The smoke will give a better taste if the surface of the bacon is dry. I put the meat on a rack and dried it with a paper towel. I let is sit for 15 minutes and dried it with a paper towel. I continued this until the meat stayed dry after sitting for a 15 minute period. It took about an hour in total.
I did not turn my Louisiana Grills Pellet Smoker on. I put my A-Maze-N tube smoker in with hickory pellets and lit it. I put the bacon in and let it cold smoke for 6 hours. Then I put it in the fridge, uncovered overnight.
If you are not set up for cold smoking, you can skip this step and just hot smoke it.
I fired the Louisiana Grills smoker up to 180 F and put the meat on a rack over a tray and into the pellet smoker. I smoked to an internal temperature of 140 F.
I covered the meat and put it in the fridge for 2 days to let the flavours blend.
I sliced the meat up and wrapped it for freezing.
Following are the 3 variations I did. Other than the noted changes, the other 3 pieces were processed in the same method.
Berbere Buckboard Bacon
I added 1.5 ml Berbere spices per kilogram of meat to the curing mix.
I didn’t add the brown sugar to the cure. I took the same amount of maple syrup and injected it into the piece of meat prior to rubbing the other curing ingredients into the bacon.
I rubbed 10 ml coarse ground per 1 kilogram of meat onto the surface of the piece of meat after rinsing and soaking.
Of course, I had to try the bacon, just for quality control purposes. I was giving it to a great brother. I fried some of each up and had the samples with home fries for breakfast.
I love buckboard bacon. It is coarser than back bacon and leaner than bacon. I love the chew and the fat level. If you haven’t tried it, you are missing something.
As for the variation, the berbere spice gives just a touch of heat. No burn, just a nice warmth.
The maple syrup adds a different sweetness. It will not taste like the commercial maple bacons. They inject flavourings. This just has a kiss of maple that is a nice note.
The pepper adds a touch of spice that mostly comes as an after note.
I love them all. I would say the berbere is my favourite but they all are great and you must have variety in your life!
The Old Fat Guy
- 1 kg pork butt roast trimmed between 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 inches thick
- 3 grams Prague powder #1
- 40 ml brown sugar
- 15 ml kosher salt
- Mix Prague powder, brown sugar and salt together.
- Put the pork on a plate and rub the cure mixture into all surfaces.
- Put the pork in a resealable bag and get as much of the curing mixture that fell off onto the plate into the bag.
- Put the bag in the fridge for 4 days for every inch of the thickest part and an additional two days (ie 2 inches would be 10 days)
- Turn the meat and rub any liquid in the bag in every day or so.
- Take the meat out and rinse it under cold water.
- Soak the meat in cold water for 40 minutes, changing the water once.
- Put the meat on a rack and dry it with a paper towel. Let it sit for 15 minutes and dry with a paper towel again.
- Continue drying until the surface feels dry and tacky, about 1 hour.
- Cold smoke the bacon for 6 hours with hickory smoke.
- Let the bacon sit in the fridge uncovered overnight.
- Hot smoke the bacon at 180 F to an internal temperature of 140 F.
- Let the bacon sit in the fridge, covered, for 2 days.
- Slice and serve or freeze.