Since we're pig farmers now, I decided it was time to venture into the world of charcuterie this winter. I use this word lightly since my aspirations are but few, and bacon seemed like the obvious beginners choice.
When our pig was butchered I asked for half of the belly to remain uncured knowing I would have to eventually try it. So here's my first go of things...
I cut the slab in half, creating two roughly 3 lb. squares, to try two recipes I was interested in. The first came from a book I read years ago and saved the recipe from (sadly I forget the book to credit the author). The other is from The Salt Cured Pig. The first uses a wet cure, while the second is a measured dry cure.
For bacon #1 I mixed all the ingredients together, rubbed it into the slab, sealed it in a plastic bag and put it in the fridge. I massaged and flipped it every day until the cure was finished. For Bacon #2 I measured the salts, rubbed them in and placed the slab uncovered on a rack in the fridge, simply flipping it every day.
Seriously, so easy I thought I was doing something wrong.
About a week later, viola, cured pork belly.
Next I smoked the slabs, individually since I was trying two different wood chip options, for about 4 hours each.
Finally I used our meat curing aficionado friend's meat slicer to slice up the bacon. You could also just let it firm up a little in the freezer and cut it with a nice sharp knife. As a side note, home cured bacon tends to burn more easily, so a slightly thicker slice is probably a good idea.
Bacon #1 Recipe
3lb. pork belly
1/2c. sugar (I used brown sugar)
1 Tbl. molasses
2 Tbl. sea salt
1 tsp. curing salt
1 tsp. freshly ground pepper
3-4 c. hickory wood chips
Rinse belly and pat dry. Trim belly to fit in a gallon bag. In a small bowl, combine all curing ingredients. Rub evenly into meat, giving preference to the meat side. Place in bag and lay flat in fridge. Massage and flip daily for 7 days. Bacon should be firm at this point, but if not, simply add 2 T. more salt and check in a day or two.
Rinse lightly, pat dry. Place in smoker until internal temp is 150 F (3-5 hours). Slice and freeze in single use increments or use fresh within 10 days.
Bacon #2 Recipe
Based on the weight of your pork belly and preference of saltiness. I did the 2.5% since I don't like things too salty. I smoked mine with apple wood chips for 4 hours after the cure. See blog post at The Salt Cured Pig for a detailed explanation.
We had a late night snack of the trimmings and fattiest pieces and pretty much died from how delicious both of these turned out. Honestly, we prefer it to what we got from the butcher (which was very good). Next year I'm definitely curing the whole belly myself!