What’s the point in making your own bacon? well to be honest if its to save some cash then this is not the way to go as the full process involved works out much the same price wise as buying it in the store or at the butchers.
Its not about the money its about taking a lowly piece of pork belly and transforming it yourself into some of the tastiest bacon you will ever taste.
Making anything yourself is about the journey as much as the end result and this is a pretty sweet journey!
So after a visit to my local butchers I picked up a 6 pound pork belly with the skin removed took it to my commercial kitchen and proceeded to work the magic.
Brine or dry cure? well I prefer dry cure bacon personally so this narrowed down my choice.
I looked online for basic recipes and techniques for making bacon and read lots of sites and lots of tips to ensure my first attempt would have a reasonable chance of success and a number of factors seemed to have a common theme.

Salt
Sugar/syrup
Spice
Nitrates
Molasses

Firstly lets look at salt, salt is used as a preservative and will remove moisture and most recipes used kosher salt so Kosher it was. I also wanted a recipe that wouldn’t end in salty bacon.
Sweeten it up with brown sugar or if you have it handy some Maple syrup, I didn’t have Maple so this will be the next flavour I’m going to try.
Spice! Endless options but I went with a classic, fresh black pepper to give a little kick
Molasses will give you a dark rich colour to your bacon which as you can see works a treat.
Now the last item is again personal choice but using nitrates is a common way of curing bacon and its up to you if you use them, I did for my bacon.
Nitrates occur naturally in food from the ground and are used to prevent food spoilage, nitrates are particularly good at preventing the growth of Clostridium botulinum which produces botulism.
Check out this link to more information on nitrates http://culinaryarts.about.com/od/seasoningflavoring/a/nitrates.htm
I washed the pork belly and patted it dry, then rubbed the nitrate and molasses all over the pork belly rubbing in well, followed by the sugar, salt and black pepper again rubbing in well.
Once the belly was smothered I placed it in a large zip lock and into the cooler, so begins a 7 day ritual of turning the bacon over to allow the naturally made brine to reach all sides and massage into the meat to ensure its reach into the thickest parts of the meat.

After 7 days of curing my next decision was going to be smoking, should I do a hot smoke or a cold smoke? well I’ve done a small amount of smoking in my time in the kitchen but again back to the web to do some research.
Hot smoking would result in losing the fat and cooking the bacon which wasn’t what I wanted so cold smoking was my direction.
The trick with cold smoking is just that, smoking at a cold temperature, somewhere between 35f and 100f(no higher than 120f)
My plan involved a smoker, 1 clean can with a hole poked through, hickory wood chips and a brand new soldering iron.
I washed the pork belly and patted dry then placed it onto a rack uncovered back into the fridge for an overnight of drying out to create the most important smoking factor the “Pellicule”
The creation of the Pellicule (tacky flesh) allows the smoke to penetrate deep into the meat.
The following day I set up the smoker by placing the hickory chips into the can, closing the lid and sticking the iron through the hole in the top and plugging in, you can wet the chips too which I will try next time to produce more smoke.
I placed the pork belly or bacon as it is now onto the racks and waited for the smoke to arrive, in a matter of minutes this little device started spewing out hickory smoke!
The bacon was left in for 3 hours and smelt really good at this point so I removed it but I’ll try 4 hours next time and see the difference.
I placed it in the fridge again overnight to set up and sliced it into thick strips the next day which of course you can do as its in a piece,
Once I got the prime cut bacon I took some of the trim and cut into “lardons” and the really scrappy pieces became cubes for soups and stews to give a smoky goodness, all went into the freezer until required.
I cooked up some of the slices and as you can see in the photo I only had one piece left for a photo shoot.
Taste test!!!
Here we are 8 and a bit days later homemade hickory bacon, it tasted caramelized because of the brown sugar with a really smooth after taste of smokey hickory goodness and a melt in the mouth texture……..EUREKA!!!
Bacon is a cornerstone of most Chefs cuisine and now I’ve added homemade bacon to my skill set and you know what…you should try it.
BLT for lunch tomorrow.

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