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January 14, 2008 / Tony

Homemade Bacon Experiment

I have been reading a very excellent book: Charcuterie by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn.  It is essentially a guidebook to curing and smoking your own meats at home.  Imagine making your own Pancetta, Proscuitto, sausages, pate, salami, etc.  And mostly, that’s what I’ve been doing.  However, I did want to try to do something like this.  I wanted to know how well I could make it and if I could really improve on the commercial varieties of meat available to me.  (I did an earlier post on this topic.)  And if it was terrible. . . well, at least I tried and learned something. 

Now, this post is not a how-to on bacon making.  There’s quite a bit to go into and it would just be best to buy the book instead of me trying to give my imperfect explanation of what’s going on.  Instead, here’s a few pictures of the process.  First, is the pork belly after I had cured it in a salt and sugar mixture:

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Next, is a picture of my sliced bacon:

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Of course, the question is was this worth it?  I have to say it most unquestionably was.  Even without the benefit of cold smoking, this is some very fine bacon.  It is salty, a bit sweet, and had just the right amount of smokiness (about which more later).  And, it is cut the way I like it: very, very thick.  Almost all, pre-sliced commercial bacon is just sliced too thin for my taste; when cooked, all you taste is crisp.  With a nice thick slices like this, however, there is an other-worldly meatiness to the bacon in addition to the crispy outside.  It was really, really good. 

Now, about smoke.  Traditional American bacon is smoked and no question, it’s good that way.  Applewood has come into vogue lately and I completely agree with it.  It’s a great flavoring to pork as are apples normally to pork.  However, to do that right, one should really use a cold smoker.  But, I don’t have one of those.  So I improvised and used an idea from a rib recipe I recently made.  Yes, I used Lapsang Souchong tea to “smoke” my bacon.  I simply put some tea under the bacon as I parcooked for a few hours in the oven at a low temperature.  It really worked and added a really nice but not deep smoky flavor.  I’m exceedingly pleased with the results.  This is definitely something I’ll do again.  I am now in control of my bacon and that’s a very good thing.

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