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Pork Belly Bacon
What is Pork Belly Bacon?
The term pork belly bacon probably sounds a bit disgusting to you but it shouldnít. Itís the bacon you buy in the store and eat for breakfast, make your BLTs with, put on your salads and pizza Ė Itís Bacon!
Hereís our little piggy (I love piggies!) You can see by the picture the bacon comes from the belly section of the pig Ė hence the name Belly Bacon.
First youíve got to find a good pork belly. I finally found pork bellies at a Chinese Grocery store called Chinatown Food Center. They were having their Grand Opening and a real sweetheart of a lady I work with named Mabel† told me about the place. Woo Hoo! Thank you Maybel! I owe you big time!
Cut the bellies into nice squared off pieces that will be about what you might want to use. Some people keep them whole but I like piece that are easy to work with. This belly which was 14 pounds I cut into three pieces. Save the scraps for Baked beans, clam chowder or anything you might use salt pork for.
To making regular bacon or belly bacon you need to brine or pickle them. You can purchase curing packages from various suppliers or make you own. I choose to make my own.
gallon of ice water at 38-40 degrees
1/2† cup powdered dextrose
1/2 cup real maple syrup
1/2 cup Kosher salt or Sea Salt
*Prague powder #1
(by meat weight * NOTE:† this is what gives meat that pinkish color and prevents bacterial build up while smoking for long periods at low temperatures. If you plan to smoke you should use it!)
** If you donít have or donít wish to use nitrates† you can use Ĺ ounce of cream of tartar per Ĺ gallon of brine to help maintain that pinkish color in brined meats.†††††††††††††
∑ NOTE: You may use Instacure, Mortonís Tender Quick or Prague Powder #1 just be sure to follow the manufactures instructions on how much to use based on the weight of the meat you intend to cure!
∑ You will notice I reduced the amount of salt from 1 pound to 1/2 cup. This is up to you. I donít like things really salty and I have spent the last 6 months experimenting with the amount of salts in my recipes which has proved to work well with these brines. If you like your bacon saltier you may add up to the 1 pound of salt. We all eat to much salt anyway!
Mix all your ingredients and make sure they are dissolved well.† Place meat in the brine and pump your bellies with brine to about 8% of green weight.† After weighting and re-weighting the bacon several times this seems to come out to about the same as injecting the all over meat at intervals of about 2 inches apart.
Pumping is simply injecting the meat with the brine water.
Chill at 38-40 degrees for about 5 or 6 days. Make sure the meat is fully submerged in the water. The best way I know of to do this is to either put a plate with something heavy on the meat or use a vacuum sealer Ė which is what I do. Turn the meat every few days.
After about 5 to 7 days remove the meat and rinse it really well under luke warm water. Pat the meat dry with paper towels and start you smoker while it dries out some. Bring the smoker up to 130įF to 135įF with the dampers wide open and no wood. If your smoker doesnít have dampers prop open the lid. Place the water pan in the smoker but do not add water Ė this will just act as a heat shield for the meat.
Once temperatures are stable place the meat in the smoker and allow the surface of the meat to dry for about an hour. This is important that the surface be dry because the smoke will not penetrate wet meat evenly (if at all) and your bacon end up looking blotchy with uneven color.
After the surfaces of the meat have become dry close the dampers to 1/4 open or close the lid and add wood to smoke† the meat until internal temp hits 128įF.† Donít go beyond this or you be cooking the meat.
Iíve decided that I personally prefer to smoke my bacon using a 50-50 mix of Hickory and Apple occasionally throwing† in some Cherry or using all Cherry for the last several hours. It gives it a nice mahogany color with a slightly sweeter aroma.
Reduce temperature of your smoker and smoke your bacon until it turns a† nice reddish-brown. When the color looks right you, remove the bacon and chill at least overnight.† Donít try eating it right away or you may be disappointed. It needs to firm up and let the flavors meld.
You find it much easier to slice bacon when itís chilled almost to freezing Ė stiff but not frozen solid.
Whatever happened to that belly I showed you earlier? Here it is right out of the smoker.
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