Oh-So Delicious Home Cured Bacon

Still curing

Truly, truly I say unto you… go forth and cure yourself some bacon right now. This instant. Print this recipe and go. It’s that delicious.

The CureI have been wanting to try my hand at curing bacon for quite some time. I had a vague idea that it would need to hang in a cheese cloth in a cool place for a while, maybe two weeks… but I put off investigating for far too long because if I’d known what I was missing out on or how easy it actually is, I would have never delayed.

I purchased an entire half a pork belly a while back, and after making a few delicious roasts, I was down to my last, fattiest piece. Inspired at last by my inability to find commercial bacon cured without nitrates, I moseyed onto all-knowledgeable Google, and settled on Michael Ruhlman’s recipe, for the most part.

Ruhlman uses nitrates but notes that you can choose to avoid them. Nitrates, known as pink curing salt, keeps meat bright pink during the curing process, and adds that “bacony flavor” we’re all used to. My nitrate-free bacon turned out much like he predicted: porky and spare rib-like.

I vastly prefer the deeper and more complex flavor of home-cured, nitrate-free bacon, at once salty, smokey, sweet and porky, as opposed to nitrate-cured bacon, which I now find overly salty and harsh.

CuringIngredients

· 5 lb (2.5 kg) pork belly section, skin on
· 3 ounces iodine-free salt (I used Celtic Sea Salt, you could also use plain kosher)
· 4 tablespoons coarsely ground black pepper
· 4 bay leaves, crumbled
· 1 teaspoon nutmeg
· 1/4 cup brown sugar
· 5 cloves of garlic, smashed
· 2 tablespoons juniper berries, lightly crushed
· 5 to 10 sprigs fresh thyme
· 2 teaspoons liquid smoke

I added the liquid smoke simply because I did not smoke my resulting bacon, but please omit it if you’re able and willing to get out your smoker.

I generally do not use sugar in my recipes, but I decided to with this one simply because I had never before cured bacon. However, on my next go ’round I’ll either cut the amount in half or omit it completely, since I thought it was a little on the sweet side and not necessary for preservation purposes because of the amount of salt already in use.

Post BakingLightly pound the ingredients together with a mortar and pestle, then generously coat the slab of belly on all sides with the cure. Slide it into a sealable plastic bag and stick it in your refrigerator for 7 days.

If you think of it, give it at little massage and empty out the moisture drawn out by the salt, but don’t stress if you forget. It’s all good.

On game day, rinse the cure off the belly and pat dry. Place it on a baking sheet (or on a rack on top of the baking sheet) and lightly cook it at 200F (93C) until its internal temperature reaches 150F (65C). My cooking time varied a bit from Ruhlman’s recipe — it took about 3 hours for my bacon to reach 150F. If you have a heat tolerant thermometer which can be left in the bacon, your life will be easier.

Ready for FryingIf you choose to smoke, I’d recommend hickory chips. Follow a similar procedure — get a good smoke going, not too hot, then smoke until the belly reaches 150F.

Don’t worry when it shows signs of being cooked — that’s what you’re going for. When you’ve reached the magic internal temperature, take it out and delicately slice the skin off the top, preserving that precious fatty layer. Save the skin for soups or chilis, or do what I did and chop it into small squares, stick it in a hot oven (about 400F, 200C) and watch it bubble into some instant, delicious, bacony crackling. Mmmm, Mmmm!

Once you’ve licked your fingers of all that crackling goodness, thinly slice the bacon and voilà! You’ve got flavorful, porky, nitrate-free bacon ready for frying. Lasts for about a week in the refrigerator.

Repeat the process as often as possible.

Mmmmm Bacon

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33 thoughts on “Oh-So Delicious Home Cured Bacon

    • Simply a taste preference. Iodine can be an overwhelming flavor, and it’s likely to intensify during the curing process. Most curing salts (nitrates) are iodine free, so in lieu of using them, I translated this detail into the salt preference.

  1. Oh, Marisa, you truly are a pork-lovin’ twin separated at birth! Must … make … this … now! I have been wanting to make my own bacon for what seems like forever now … thanks to you, now I can =) I don’t have a smoker so it’s wonderful that I can make it in my own humble little oven; awesome blossom!

    I have this great recipe for — of all things — duck prosciutto — let me know if you’d like it; I’ll send over a copy =) Thanks for sharing, Marisa, you rock!

    • Oh I would LOVE a duck prosciutto recipe! 🙂 Thanks! Glad you enjoyed the post! I too was excited to find that one could cure bacon without a smoker. I’m planning to purchase a smoker this summer so I’ll try my hand at it soon, but for every bacon lover out there without the space or means for a smoker, it’s comforting to know that your little oven will do you right. 🙂

  2. Why do you do this?!? Ooooh, and there I am posting about using streaky! The shame…
    And I have to admit that I really don’t care for the smell of shop bought bacon as it’s cooking – smells like a farm yard.
    Only once I’ve had home cured ham cut off the bone in the Basque country. Wow, that was amazing. I bet your home cured bacon was/is even better!

    • Oh man, Basque-country cured ham on the bone… I can’t think of anything quite so luxurious. I freely admit that now that I’ve got the hang of home curing, store-bought bacon just doesn’t quite cut it for me. And yes, it’s far more fragrant when it’s frying than store-bought: smokey juniper and bay. Delish! 🙂

  3. Marisa, your meat recipe always blew me away! ALWAYS!!! I was just telling my wife about your amazing meat recipes this morning. I am starving after reading this post.

  4. I made bacon once but I have to admit I haven’t done it since. I smoked mine in a makeshift smoker in our oven and it worked but was quite a lot of work. I like the idea of liquid smoke. I’ll have to see where I can obtain some from.

    • Yeah, give the liquid smoke a try! I’ve read on other bacon making blogs that some folks found that smoking created too overwhelming a flavor, and preferred liquid smoke, or just a simple cure by itself. Most grocery stores sell liquid smoke with the ketchup and barbecue sauce. Good luck!

  5. Ruhlman uses curing salt #1, which contains 6.25% sodium nitrite, for curing bacon. Curing salt #2 contains sodium nitrite and 1% sodium nitrate and is used for dry curing meats that take considerably longer to cure. Confusing the two could be dangerous.

    Liquid smoke is made by forcing smoke through water, capturing the smoke flavor in liquid form. It works ok in a pinch, but really no replacement for actual smoke.

    Sugar does absolutely nothing as far as curing goes, its in the recipies simply as a counterpoint to the salt. If you omit the sugar and find your bacon too salty, try blanching the slab before slicing and frying.

    Finally, doing a web search for “homemade smokers” reveals a plethora of ideas for making your own smoker out of anything from flower pots to filing cabinets. Save yourself hundreds of dollars. Something as simple as a galvanized garbage can and a hotplate will do the trick for less than 50 bucks and last forever.

  6. Pingback: Mussels with Cider, Leeks and Bacon | Picture Real Food

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