June 15, 2011 in Features

Home-cured bacon easier than it sounds

Alison Ladman For the Associated Press
 
Associated Press photo

Home-cured bacon can be cut as you see fit.
(Full-size photo)

Home-cured bacon? Sounds like one of those things the average person wouldn’t in a million years attempt.

But what if we told you it’s so easy a child could do it? And what if we also said the results are so good the bacon you make will blow away any you’ve ever tasted before?

In fact, the hardest part about this recipe may be the shopping. Bacon typically is made from the belly of the pig. It might be a challenge to find uncured pork bellies, but start by asking at your grocer’s meat counter. If that fails, a butcher should be able to order one for you.

If the pork belly comes with the skin on, make your life easier and ask the butcher to trim it off.

After that, it’s just 30 minutes of work spread over seven days, then you’re done.

This recipe makes 2 pounds of slab bacon (uncut), which then can be cut as you see fit. But the recipe is easily doubled or tripled and the excess can be sliced, layered between sheets of parchment paper, then frozen.

The basic recipe calls for a mildly sweet-and-spicy blend of brown sugar and black pepper. To that you can add any number of seasoning variations. We’ve included a few delicious suggestions, but feel free to add whatever seasonings you prefer.

Home-Cured Bacon

2 cups kosher salt

2 cups packed brown sugar

1 tablespoon ground black pepper

2 pounds pork belly

In a medium bowl, mix together the salt, sugar and pepper. Add any additional seasonings, as desired (see suggestions below).

Find a container that will hold your pork belly comfortably with 1 to 2 inches of space on all sides. A deep baking pan or casserole dish is a good choice. Spoon about half of the salt mixture into the container, spreading it in an even layer. Set the pork belly over the salt, pressing it gently into the salt mixture. Pack the remaining salt mixture over and around the pork.

Refrigerate, uncovered, for 6 to 7 days.

Remove the slab of pork belly (now bacon) from the salt mixture. The bottom will resemble wet sand. Discard the salt mixture. Rinse the bacon under cool running water. Pat the bacon dry with a clean towel. Use a very sharp knife to cut the bacon into slices, then refrigerate up to 5 days or freeze up to 3 months.

Fry or otherwise cook the home-cured bacon as you would purchased bacon.

Flavor Variations: For maple, substitute granulated maple sugar for the brown sugar. For hunter, add 1 tablespoon dried thyme, 1 tablespoon dried savory, 1 tablespoon crushed mustard seeds, 5 crumbled bay leaves and 2 tablespoons crushed juniper berries. For smoked pepper, add 1/4 cup smoked paprika and 2 tablespoons red pepper flakes.

Yield: 2 pounds.


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