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DanCole42
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I want to make my own bacon!

Can anyone recommend a good online resource for learning about the process and different ideas for brines/smokes?

I'll also need a place to get my pre-bacon (i.e. the pig part), preferably somewhere out in Fairfax or through the mail. Thoughts?

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I want to make my own bacon!

Can anyone recommend a good online resource for learning about the process and different ideas for brines/smokes?

I'll also need a place to get my pre-bacon (i.e. the pig part), preferably somewhere out in Fairfax or through the mail. Thoughts?

You can buy belly at the WF in Fairlakes.

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You can also get the belly at any number of asian markets. I got mine at Great Wall in Merrifield, but you have to be very specific in what you want quantity wise. I ended up with way too much and still have at least 10 pounds in my freezer. The ones in the case were already butchered up into smaller braising portions and I wanted bigger slabs to square up.

I have a pretty good recipe from the Rytek Kutas sausage and meat curing book. It involves vast amounts of salt and honey with a small amount of cure #1 (formerly known as Prague Powder #1) to act as a preservative. It sits in the fridge for about a week and is then rinsed clean, dried, and smoked. I made some but didnt' let it smoke long enough to really take on the flavor and had to cut it with knife which made for thicker slices than I would have preferred. The trick is to cook it low and slow in a pan to get a crispier slice without burning it to charcoal.

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You can also get the belly at any number of asian markets. I got mine at Great Wall in Merrifield, but you have to be very specific in what you want quantity wise. I ended up with way too much and still have at least 10 pounds in my freezer. The ones in the case were already butchered up into smaller braising portions and I wanted bigger slabs to square up.

I have a pretty good recipe from the Rytek Kutas sausage and meat curing book. It involves vast amounts of salt and honey with a small amount of cure #1 (formerly known as Prague Powder #1) to act as a preservative. It sits in the fridge for about a week and is then rinsed clean, dried, and smoked. I made some but didnt' let it smoke long enough to really take on the flavor and had to cut it with knife which made for thicker slices than I would have preferred. The trick is to cook it low and slow in a pan to get a crispier slice without burning it to charcoal.

Is cure#1 the same as pink salt? If so, I have a bunch that you can have some of if you want to arrange a pickup.

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I want to make my own bacon!

Can anyone recommend a good online resource for learning about the process and different ideas for brines/smokes?

I'll also need a place to get my pre-bacon (i.e. the pig part), preferably somewhere out in Fairfax or through the mail. Thoughts?

Grandmart in Sterling has uncured belly slabs cut in about 3 inch thicknesses in the regular meat section. Chances are good that other Grandmarts will also have them, but there's definitely some variation in stocking between locations.
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Is cure#1 the same as pink salt? If so, I have a bunch that you can have some of if you want to arrange a pickup.

Should be the same. If you bought it for smoked products like kielbasa that still need refrigeration/freezing after they are smoked, but not for hanging cured meats like salami, it's probably the same.

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Grandmart in Sterling has uncured belly slabs cut in about 3 inch thicknesses in the regular meat section. Chances are good that other Grandmarts will also have them, but there's definitely some variation in stocking between locations.

Do Grandmarts and various Asian markets sell pork that has not be loaded up with antibiotics and hormones? Fat is a great place for those to reside.

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Who's got a good online resource for how to do it?

this was helpful when I was first starting out. The distinction between hot-smoking and cold-smoking is an important one. There's some discussion of that over here on the charcuterie-making thread. Hot-smoking will be much quicker and will actually cook the bacon, whereas traditional cold-smoking takes longer and results in the familiar, uncooked, smoked bacon we buy at the supermarket.

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Anyone ever smoke with alder wood? I live on "Alder Woods Court," so I thought it would be clever. Would it be tasty?
Alder would be just fine. I have both cold and hot smoked bacon with apple and hickory with good results - I'd probably not use mesquite, as the flavor can be quite strong - best save that for brisket.

ETA: Ruhlman's book on charcuterie does have an excellent section on bacon.

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I picked up 10 lbs of fresh pork belly from the Laurel Meat Market and much of it is currently curing in the fridge. Am also getting another whole belly from Forest Fed farms (aka Babes in The Wood) this Saturday.

I'm following Ruhlman's method for making bacon. I found several good online resources using this fascinating thing called The Google. Click here. for a nice one, complete with pictures.

I plan on "warm" smoking the bacon (I'll have the smoker temp around 140F) this Sunday using apple and pecan wood chunks. Now...if only I could find some decent tomatoes to go with it!!

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I'm following Ruhlman's method for making bacon. I found several good online resources using this fascinating thing called The Google. Click here. for a nice one, complete with pictures.
Until Google develops "Taste-O-Vision" (and I'm sure they're working on it), I'd rather hear from an expert here. :mellow:

I notice in that blog that he removes the skin after all the smoking is done. Wouldn't it make more sense to remove the skin BEFORE smoking? I mean, aren't you throwing away this big hunk that's absorbed a ton of smoky flavor?

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I plan on "warm" smoking the bacon (I'll have the smoker temp around 140F) this Sunday using apple and pecan wood chunks. Now...if only I could find some decent tomatoes to go with it!!
Just out of curiosity, what made you choose to warm smoke it? I understand the different between hot and cold smoking, but why choose one over the other here?
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I picked up 10 lbs of fresh pork belly from the Laurel Meat Market and much of it is currently curing in the fridge. Am also getting another whole belly from Forest Fed farms (aka Babes in The Wood) this Saturday.

I'm following Ruhlman's method for making bacon. I found several good online resources using this fascinating thing called The Google. Click here. for a nice one, complete with pictures.

I plan on "warm" smoking the bacon (I'll have the smoker temp around 140F) this Sunday using apple and pecan wood chunks. Now...if only I could find some decent tomatoes to go with it!!

What smoker do you have?

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In addition to making a smoked pork shoulder and a pâté de campagne, I smoked my cured pork bellies yesterday meaning I'm now in the proud owner of about 8 lbs of homemade bacon.

I could post pictures of it as it went through the various stages of prepping, curing, smoking, and frying but the blog link I posted above has photos that are virtually identical to what I ended up with.

The end product? I fried up a batch and it tasted like...well...bacon. Granted, it was better than just about any kind of store bought bacon I've ever had. And I like being able to slice it to the thickness of my choosing. But I wish it had a sweeter flavour (it was cured in maple syrup and brown sugar) and more smoke on it (apple and pecan smoked for about 3.5 hrs). Next time, I'll go with more (and better) maple syrup, as well as a longer smoke time. I've still got another 10 lbs of pork belly in the freezer so there's no doubt there will be a second round. :mellow:

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In addition to making a smoked pork shoulder and a pâté de campagne, I smoked my cured pork bellies yesterday meaning I'm now in the proud owner of about 8 lbs of homemade bacon.

I could post pictures of it as it went through the various stages of prepping, curing, smoking, and frying but the blog link I posted above has photos that are virtually identical to what I ended up with.

The end product? I fried up a batch and it tasted like...well...bacon. Granted, it was better than just about any kind of store bought bacon I've ever had. And I like being able to slice it to the thickness of my choosing. But I wish it had a sweeter flavour (it was cured in maple syrup and brown sugar) and more smoke on it (apple and pecan smoked for about 3.5 hrs). Next time, I'll go with more (and better) maple syrup, as well as a longer smoke time. I've still got another 10 lbs of pork belly in the freezer so there's no doubt there will be a second round. :mellow:

My recipe calls for curing it in salt and 2 pounds of honey per 5 pounds of belly for a week. The honey actually made mine a bit sweeter than I would have preferred, and the apple wood didn't really add a lot of flavor (but I didn't give it anywhere enough time to smoke so that was part of my problem).

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In a fascinating revue in this week's New Yorker of the new book *Perfumes: The Guide* by Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez:

"The question that women casually shopping for perfume ask more than any other is this: 'What scent drives men wild?' After years of intense research, we know the definitive answer. It is bacon."

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Once I get back from Colorado and have some free time, I'll be buildin' me a cold smoker and gettin' to makin' bacon in earnest. I don't know why I'm replacin' all my ings with in's.

So let me ask... in all the bacon you've had through your lives... what were some of the standouts? Was there bacon with an interestin' spice? An unusual smoke? Was it brined in somethin' that made you go, "hmm"? Do you have a favorite classic bacon (applewood smoked, maple syrup, pepper)?

I give the crowd what it wants.

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If I have a friend who can't eat nitrates, will she also not be able to eat nitrite (pink salt)? I'm guessing that her doctor probably used "nitrate" to refer to pretty much anything commercially cured... whether with nitrate (dry cured sausage) or nitrite (bacon).

That said, I'm making a variety of bacons for my birthday, and was thinking of leaving out the pink salt from a small portion. I know it will lose some of the cured flavor and color. Should I use more regular salt, or just eliminate the pink salt and use the rest of the recipe normally?

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If I have a friend who can't eat nitrates, will she also not be able to eat nitrite (pink salt)? I'm guessing that her doctor probably used "nitrate" to refer to pretty much anything commercially cured... whether with nitrate (dry cured sausage) or nitrite (bacon).

That said, I'm making a variety of bacons for my birthday, and was thinking of leaving out the pink salt from a small portion. I know it will lose some of the cured flavor and color. Should I use more regular salt, or just eliminate the pink salt and use the rest of the recipe normally?

Eliminate and don't change anything else. Just remember that it will not last as long as those with the pink salt, but somehow I don't think that will be a problem.

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I have made it using Rulhman as a guide. It's great even without smoking. In the future I won't use the forest-fed belly though, it's kind of wasted in bacon at that price. Next up is guanciale with FF jowls.

re: nitrates--it's really quite a tiny amount. a teaspoon of pink salt mixes into enough salt for 5+ pounds of meat. And the pink salt is mostly salt, with a small percentage of nitrate. Not saying your friend should try it, but it's really not much nitrate at all.

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I have made it using Rulhman as a guide. It's great even without smoking. In the future I won't use the forest-fed belly though, it's kind of wasted in bacon at that price.
That's a shame... I was going to hit up the Alexandria Farmer's Market tomorrow for just that!
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That's a shame... I was going to hit up the Alexandria Farmer's Market tomorrow for just that!

Let me re-phrase: forest fed's belly is fantastic. I love his pork. And it makes great bacon. But I will reserve his belly for other dishes.

Anyway--I bought the last piece he had last weekend, so unless they've done some slaughtering you might be SOL anyway.

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Let me re-phrase: forest fed's belly is fantastic. I love his pork. And it makes great bacon. But I will reserve his belly for other dishes.

Anyway--I bought the last piece he had last weekend, so unless they've done some slaughtering you might be SOL anyway.

Um, EcoFriendly at the Arlington market may have some belly for you.

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Thanks for all your help so far.

If I get a pork belly... say around 13 pounds... and wanted to make several varieties of bacon (sweet, savory, pancetta, etc.)... is there any reason I couldn't cut it into sections? Would smaller sections make the cured/salty flavors overpowering because of the increased surface area?

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Thanks for all your help so far.

If I get a pork belly... say around 13 pounds... and wanted to make several varieties of bacon (sweet, savory, pancetta, etc.)... is there any reason I couldn't cut it into sections? Would smaller sections make the cured/salty flavors overpowering because of the increased surface area?

I have used smaller pieces (1 lb.) with no problem at all I just adjust the total amount of cure that I use. I believe that either Ruhlman's or another book I have gives some guidelines on the amount of salt per size of belly. I will try and dig up the info tonight.

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Thanks for all your help so far.

If I get a pork belly... say around 13 pounds... and wanted to make several varieties of bacon (sweet, savory, pancetta, etc.)... is there any reason I couldn't cut it into sections? Would smaller sections make the cured/salty flavors overpowering because of the increased surface area?

I wouldn't do tiny pieces. I have made 3 different bacons so far. I started with a piece of belly which was about 8 lbs from forestfed. I divided it into 3 equal pieces. It's been fine. I really don't think it will matter much because the vast majority of the salt penetration is going to be from above and below. The edge pieces will be a little saltier and you are basically just creating a few more edge pieces.
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I have used smaller pieces (1 lb.) with no problem at all I just adjust the total amount of cure that I use. I believe that either Ruhlman's or another book I have gives some guidelines on the amount of salt per size of belly. I will try and dig up the info tonight.
I BELIEVE it's 0.5 oz to 1lb of belly. Don't quote me on that... gonna check Charcuterie tonight.

What to do with the scraps other than make salt pork?

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I BELIEVE it's 0.5 oz to 1lb of belly. Don't quote me on that... gonna check Charcuterie tonight.

What to do with the scraps other than make salt pork?

What scraps are you talking about? Trimmings? Larger pieces can be roasted, braised, or thrown into a pot of beans.

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So this is really embarrassing. And it's not easy for me to talk about. But I have a problem.

I suck at cooking bacon.

Like, I'm really bad at it.

The edges get burnt while the inside is still raw. I take them out still soft, but carryover cooking makes them dry and overcooked. I've tried high heat, low heat, on a rack, on a sheet, in the oven, on the stovetop, in the microwave, on a grill, broiled, baked, roasted, and fried.

Bacon fail every time.

Anyone have any tips for cooking a perfect piece of bacon?

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Anyone have any tips for cooking a perfect piece of bacon?

First of all, "perfect" is in the eye (or mouth) of the beholder. My British BIL, for example, likes his bacon to be floppy. I like mine crisp, but not incinerated, obviously. My first thought is that you are probably cooking at too high a temperature, especially on the stovetop, where the heat is invariably uneven due to the discrepancy between the size of the burner and the diameter and heat conductivity of the pan. Go really slow on top of the stove, and move the bacon strips around in the pan as well as turn them over as they render their fat and begin to brown. I often use the microwave, figuring one minute per strip, on high, with the bacon on a pad of paper towels, and a paper towel covering them, adding extra 30-second intervals, if needed. I know that a lot of people swear by the oven, cooking the bacon on a rack, above a baking sheet. That's a good method, if you have a lot of bacon to make at once. Again, I would use a moderate oven, and not be in too big a hurry. Slow down, Dan...
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Slow down, Dan...

Bacon's one of those foods where I can't help but resist the temptation of instant gratification.

Which seems not to jibe with the fact that I just spent seven days curing and two hours smoking pork belly just to get some... oh well.

As always, an awed and whole-hearted thank you, Zora. :rolleyes:

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I concur that you need to cook bacon slowly. It turns out much better that way. It's not practically possible to get really meaty parts and really fatty parts cooked equally, so focus on not overcooking the meaty parts. You could always pull off excess fat should someone not want it :rolleyes: .

When making more than a few strips, I've really become enamored of baking bacon on a jelly roll pan in a 350 oven. Comes out great, but you have to be careful of the hot fat when you pull the pan out.

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I concur that you need to cook bacon slowly. It turns out much better that way. It's not practically possible to get really meaty parts and really fatty parts cooked equally, so focus on not overcooking the meaty parts. You could always pull off excess fat should someone not want it :huh: .

When making more than a few strips, I've really become enamored of baking bacon on a jelly roll pan in a 350 oven. Comes out great, but you have to be careful of the hot fat when you pull the pan out.

I discovered the jelly roll pan method from Cook's Illustrated "The Best Recipe" and agree on both points! Of course, I haven't made bacon in a few years, and health concerns will most likely keep us from making it at home again. That doesn't mean I won't eat it, but it is just too much of a temptation to make it in any quantity at home. :rolleyes:

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