Have you ever made homemade bacon? No? I highly recommend it. Papa worked on this over the last couple of weeks, and for the past few days we have living “high on the hog” (pun intended).
The process starts by putting a rub / brine on a pork belly and letting it sit in the refrigerator for 7-10 days. We put ours in vacuum-sealed packages to make it easier to flip each day. Unfortunately, I didn’t think to get a picture of this process. I also don’t have the recipe handy – that is if Papa has found it again. He got it off the internet and I know it used Morton’s Tender Quick, brown sugar, and pepper, but I’m not sure what else.
After a significant amount of water has been pulled out, the pork belly sits for another 24 hours in the refrigerator in open-air to dry it out a little more.
Next comes the smoking process.
Papa drilled two holes in the cover of an old smoker so he could thread a rod through it and put hanging hooks/spikes for the bacon slabs. Here the bacon is ready to smoke.
See all that wonderful smoke coming out? (Yes, this is sitting on top of our septic tank. It brought the whole operation up higher so it was easier to monitor and had the added benefit of making it less likely of some little one running into it!)
Warning: Do not attempt this on an empty stomach. We were hungry for hours!
After an hour or so it already has a nice look to it.
Papa let the pork belly smoke for 2 to 3 hours (until we couldn’t stand it anymore). See Finley waiting patiently in the background?
The bottoms of a couple of sections got a little dark. Apparently, his wood chips were a bit hot and this wasn’t entirely a cold-smoking process. They aren’t ruined though. He also did some “Canadian bacon” – a pork tenderloin smoked the same way. Yum!
Next came the hardest part of all … letting it cool and solidify in the refrigerator overnight again. *sigh
Papa tried making bacon a couple of years ago … a recipe that ended up a bit too salty. What was harder on him was trying to get the slices even. The next winter, one of his Christmas presents was a meat slicer. We’ve used it several times for meat – and for cheese, but this was his first opportunity to try it with the bacon.
Doesn’t that look good?! Not all of the bacon contained that much meat. There were some end pieces that were mostly fat but we’ll find a use for them.
Once the bacon was all sliced, it was packaged into approximately 1-pound increments, vacuum-sealed, and placed in the freezer. Well, except for the odd pieces that occurred during the slicing process, which we had to fry up and taste test right away!
Homemade bacon has a much more smokey flavor than anything you’d find in the store. We’ve had three meals with it already and I love just taking it out of the package. Not to mention how wonderful the house smells after you’ve cooked it.
This was Sunday’s brunch. My plate was a little light on the bacon (I’m trying to lighten my fat intake), but baked in the oven it turned out beautifully crisp and delicious. And see those cinnamon raisin bagels? Also homemade by Papa the night before. Did I ever mention how spoiled we all are?
We estimated that with the cost of the pork belly, the Morton’s Tender Quick, and other spices (which should do multiple batches) and the wood chips, the cost of this bacon probably ended up close to $4.00 per pound. But the last time I went to purchase bacon in the store that wasn’t on sale, it was $2-3 more per pound! So this is definitely worth the effort.
What do you think? Would you be willing to try making bacon?