Saturday, December 29, 2012

DIY Homemade Bacon

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.

After you get your pork belly you need to trim it into more manageable rectangles. I ended up with four pieces about five pounds each.
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.

    After all four pieces of cured and smoked pork belly was sliced up into bacon I weighed out the pieces into one pound piles and then vacuumed each one.



  1. Pickling salt? Never would have guessed. The pink curing salt, where do you get that?
    Guess I need to look into this cold smoker stuff because I want to make our own bacon eventually, too!
    Thank you for the instructions!

    1. LindaG, Thanks for the comment.
      Yes, pickling salt, there is no iodine in it. Some say to use Kosher salt but I don't need my salt blessed. The pink curing salt is called Prague Powder No. 1 and I get it from Some don't like using it but I do for the color and safety.
      There are other ways to smoke it with a regular smoker and even in the oven using liquid smoke but being I do most of the cooking outside and the in pioneer way I choose to do it outside and in a real cold smoker.
      Thanks again for the comment.

  2. OMG, now I want bacon. We haven't been buying it anymore because it is to expensive for nothing. I am sure I can find some pork belly around here somewhere. I have resisted raising pigs because we have so many wild hogs around here. I guess that may be an project for this or next year. First of all I got lots of catch up to do still. - Genevieve

    1. Thanks G, good to hear from you.
      I don't like wild pork that much. If I had the choice I would trap a couple and feed them for a couple of months to get some of that wild taste out. Some like it a lot but I don't.

    2. It is good to be back. I got a bit overwhelmed this past year but things are looking up. Nothing bad, just busy.

      I don't like male wild pork. It has a nasty flavor and stinks. Female is fine. We have a good meat market at our local Mom & Pop store. I figure we might be able to get pork belly there. - G

    3. G- A body in motion stays in motion and it is better than sitting around twiddling your thumbs. I hope you got most of your list taken care of.

  3. Wow, I need an IV, since I drooled so much. Thanks for all your blog posting last year.

    1. Thanks for hanging around Rob. It's good to hear from you.

  4. Sounds yummy. Would love some real bacon but afraid raising a pig here would bring down hell from the neighbors. (That might be fun though) however I never liked pigs. Guess I will stick with the meat goat I am buying. Happy New Year to you and yours.

  5. Sista to be honest, the only time I like a pig is when the grease is popping off it in the frying pan. Other than that I would not have one.
    Meat goats are good too. It has been a while since I had me some of that.

  6. Can't believe you're canceling out wild pigs! I have never tasted better pork than the wild hogs I shoot visiting family in FL every year. Maybe growing up eating wild game 7 days a week plays a part. And yes, they do have pork belly like any store bought swine that can easily be made into your own homemade bacon!
    Great recipe though, looking forward to trying it!
    NY huntress

    1. NY Huntress, Thanks for the comment.
      If wild hog is your fancy then go for it. I personally like feeding mine up. I did trap some hogs once and fed them out for a month or so on corn to get the fat where I wanted it. It did make some good meat.
      Good luck with it.

  7. MDR...recipe looks good and i'm getting ready to try it out. never heard of "black strap molasses" tho.

    1. Thanks Anony, I have used other kinds molasses but the Black Strap seams to be the tastiest.
      Good luck on yours.

  8. I'm doing this. Thanks man.

    1. Good luck with it, let me know how it turns out.

  9. Mine are going in the smoker today. Was salt other than the curing salt omitted from this recipe? seems like most other recipes use a healthy dose.

    1. Good luck LD,
      This one has salt in it.
      Let me know how it tuns out.