Bacon day looks like love....
All four of those pieces (in the picture above) were ONE side of bacon - and not even the whole thing! Can you believe it? Those porkers earned their every dime when we saw how big the bacons were......so my pig hatin' has come to an end and now I have nothing but love for them hogs.
Look at all that fresh pork just waiting to become bacony goodness....
Can you make bacon at home? Sure you can! It's easy and fun. You can check out this post for everything you need to make bacon - except a fresh pork belly. You can either run right out and get your own or order one from the butcher.
The first step to making bacon is to go and get your copy of Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curingby Ruhlman. Then just follow the steps.
Our bacons (that's the side and belly of the hog) were so huge I had to cut them down to manageable pieces before I could put them in the "salt box" to be covered in a mixture of "pink salt" (Instacure #2 for Drying Meats 1 Pound), sugar, and kosher salt. The "pink salt" has nitrates in it and it makes bacon "bacony" and stops the formation of bacteria - but if you are concerned about nitrates then don't use it. (If you don't use the nitrates then mind how you make and smoke your bacon.)
No, that is not a kitty litter box - it's a small wash tub from the Dollar Store. It cost one dollar.
Once coated with the basic cure I put each of the bacon pieces into a plastic bag and then added other spices or just left it plain. These are a few of a varieties I made:
Black pepper maple bacon
Garlic super savory bacon
Black pepper bacon
Mildly savory bacon
White and black pepper and thyme and red pepper bacon
The Black Pepper Bacon is especially peppery.
We were thrilled to use some of our very own maple syrup for some of the flavors - how fun is that?
I also started to cure some pancetta - some stunning pieces. Those pieces are flavored differently - much more savory and with a little brown sugar. They will be hung in the basement instead of being smoked - that's basically the difference between pancetta and bacon. You can read about making pancetta in this post.
But my day wasn't over yet - that's right, I started brining a ham! You'll remember I did this project a few months ago and it was fabulous. However I didn't take any pictures of the "how to" because I didn't think it would work. It totally worked.
Come to think of it - it's really not a very photogenic process. I mean... it's just a picture of a hunk of meat submerged in some brine. Gosh - I think I need to be more arty about it. I'll work on that. In the meantime, I made a brine, put it in a food grade bucket, submerged the hunk of meat, and got you this picture:
I told you - not very interesting. Next time I'll include Nicholas and that will be more amusing - it's always something with that guy. See that I weighted the ham with a non-reactive dish (glass bread pan) and a jar filled with water sealed in a plastic bag (so it didn't leak.). Yes, my kitchen floor is probably dirty.
The next step in bacon, pancetta, and ham making is..... waiting. The bacons/pancettas will cure for about a week or 10 days and the ham will brine for 3 or 4 days. I'll flip and flop the bacons and pancetta so the cure is evenly distributed just about everyday. Then they will be smoked or hung to dry. That's it - can you believe it?!? How easy and fun is that?
This really is a great project. It just goes to show that making your own food is easy and approachable. You don't need a ton of special equipment or secret powers - just you and some know how.
What do you think - are you ready to make some bacon? Happy Tuesday everyone!
ps If you need a copy of Ruhlman's book you can get it - or anything else you need from Amazon by clicking on the link below, using the search box on the right of this page, or checking out my Store. I get a little bit of each sale and it doesn't cost you a dime more. Thanks for your support!