The difference between homemade bacon and store bought bacon is incredible. You just have to taste it to believe it.
When you buy a pound of bacon at the store, after it's fully cooked leaves about a quarter pound of meat to eat. That means you just cooked off over three quarters of what you bought. What you are buying is water. They inject the meat with water to increase the weight per package so they get more money and you get less product. At four dollars a pound when bought, means you are eating the finished product at sixteen dollars a pound. Now that is some expensive meat. If you don't believe me look it up. It is all about marketing.
Same with the bag of chips you buy. The bag looks full at the store, but when you get it home and open it the bag is only half full of chips and the rest it air. But yet you still paid full price.
Homemade bacon is also a lot better tasting. I describe it as "Richer" in flavor than the store bought stuff. Once you bite into your bacon there is no turning back. It will ruin you and regular store bought stuff will never taste good again. Kinda like farm fresh eggs compared to those nasty store bought, runny, unflavored eggs. Once you eat them right out of your nest boxes no other egg will do.
This kind of bacon is also better for you. The feed fed to the slaughter pigs and our other meats we buy at the store has so many bad things added to it I am surprised it's not pulled off the shelves. Your own bacon can have whatever you desire in it and can have the flavor you want being fed from your own garden scraps or the plane grass fed taste. The flavor of your pork is up to you. You think I am kidding, just try it. Compare two pork chops side by side cooked the same way with one being pasture raised and the other feed lot raised and you can taste a difference. Then add in a store bought pork chop and you see and taste a really big difference.
Saying all that, I have had requests on how I did my own bacon so I thought I would post about it. This is what I did.
You need to have some pork belly to make bacon. Canadian bacon is from another part of the pig, but for this post we are talking about Real Bacon from the pigs belly. You can either raise and slaughter the pig yourself, buy a pig already processed or just buy the pork belly from the market.
My opinion is, the cost is a little more to raise one yourself, but the end results are much better and you know what's in it the meat.
Next I washed each piece and patted them dry. Then I put them in their own two gallon zip lock bags.
In a bowl I mixed up for each bag,
3/4 cup of sugar, 3/4 cup of brown sugar, 1 heaping tablespoon of pickling salt, 1 heaping tablespoon of black strap molasses 1 heaping tsp of pink curing salt and 1 heaping tsp ground black pepper.
After it was all mixed up I put this mixture into each zip lock bag with the meat and placed in the refrigerator.
Each day you have to take each bag out, flip it and massage the curing mixture into the meat, then put them back into the refrigerator. Do this for 7 to 10 days.
Being that my pork belly was a little thinner I chose to take it out on the 7th day. If your cut of meat is thicker then you might want to go the full 10 days before you take it out.
Another way to tell if your meat is cured, it should be firm to the touch. If it still feels like raw, thawed meat then you need to add a little more salt and keep it in the curing mixture a couple days longer.
When you are done curing, take each chunk of meat out and wash it, dry it and then put in back into the refrigerator uncovered for another day so it can rest.
When it comes to cold smoking there are many different ways to do it so I will only cover the way I do it.
I use Hickory, but you can use whatever you want to flavor the meat like apple, oak, maple, plum or peach. Remember that mesquite is very strong and really does not taste that good on bacon. I made my own cold smoker a while back and if you search the blog you will find a couple of posts about it. Being it is made out of wood I have to keep the temps down or the pine will bleed into the meat.
Depending on how strong you want your smoke flavor depends on how long to smoke it. Usually the rule is two to four hours so I do mine at three hours and it seems to be just right. Of course the thicker the meat the more smoke you want. If you have real thin cuts you may just want a couple hours of smoke or it will be way to smoky.
I cut the hickory into chunks and soak them in water about an hour before they go on the fire. I start my fire with oak and when I get a good bed of coals going I put on the hickory chunks. Then add the meat to the smoker. I never let the smoker get over 130 degrees with the best temperature being around 110. Remember, you don't want to cook the meat, just flavor it.
After you are satisfied your meat has received enough smoke and flavor then its time to get it off the smoker and let it cool. Some put it in the ice box for a couple of hours to firm it up even more, but I just let it sit on the counter until I get everything out and ready for the slicing and vacuuming.
After everything is set up I take my little meat slicer and get to work. This way I can make each piece the same thickness every time. I like mine a little thicker than what you buy at the store. I would guess they are about and 1/8 inch think.
If you use a slicer you will eventually get down to where you can't slice it anymore. I take that strip of meat and cut it up into chunks, vacuum those so I can add them to a pot beans later. The other night I add a few chunks to a pot of white beans and wow, you could really taste the bacon in there with each bite.