Pork Belly + Whiskey + Honey + Curing and Smoking = Bacon Fantasia. Seriously, could life get any better? We butchered a pig recently, a Duroc barrow (Cookie Dough’s bro) and we decided to keep the pork belly intact and cure and smoke this ourselves. Did we ever. I’m pretty sure we had bacon for breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert for about 3 days. Yep.
Spicy Apple Candied Bacon
Pork Breakfast Burger (pork, egg, cheese, BACON)
Ultimate Pork Breakfast Burger (with roasted veggies)
South of the Border Burger
Beef Sliders with Merlot Candied Bacon, Arugula and Maytag White Cheddar
Cattlemen’s Sliders (a darn good burger dressed just like Dad likes!)
All American Burgers (also a guide to grilling w/ gas)
For heaven’s sakes. We’re pig farmers. We should make our own dang bacon. So we did, and it was much easier than I ever dreamt. Honestly, I thought you had to be some alchemist to turn a pork belly into bacon. (Much like 5 years ago when I thought women who could bake beautiful loaves of yeast bread must’ve been sorcerers and witches… or maybe we are?) Truth is: bacon is easy to create. (So is bread, but that’s another post all together.) The bonus of curing and smoking your OWN bacon? You can work with different flavorings and treatments in the rub to make your bacon have different flavors. You can slice the whole belly in different thicknesses. Sometimes we enjoy thin bacon (breakfast) and sometimes we prefer thicker slices of bacon (BLT’s, burgers).
On our pigs:
I may sound cavalier when talking about the pig that we raised to market weight that we are eating this meat from. “Cookie Dough’s bro…” Well here’s the thing, we care for every animal we raise. Regardless of whether they reside in our Modern Pig Barns or they are the show animals that end up hanging out in my garage *by accident* from time to time. When they (pigs) are raised up right and well managed, it is not only the right thing to do, but it makes our livelihood profitable. Well cared for animals create a quality, safe and delicious product for us to eat. We are grateful to do what we do and thankful to them for the food we raise that feeds our family and others.
So, you want to make some bacon? Here’s what you need to do:
Buy pork belly. This recipe is suitable for 1/2 of a standard sized pork belly.
You may not have these three items:
Purchase PINK curing salt. Any-ol-salt won’t do, this must be ‘curing’ salt, it is essential.
Buy a few 2 gallon zip topped bags for the curing process. (We use non scented 13 gallon garbage bags)
Buy real liquid smoke (not the fake-y stuff). This will boost the smoke flavor of the bacon. I like it.
Don’t forget the rest of the ingredients and wood chips for your smoker.
By: Cristen www.foodandswine.com
Makes 7-8 lbs. of bacon
7-8 pounds (roughly half) of a whole pork belly, not sliced and skinless
1 TBSP Lawry’s Seasoned Salt
1 C sugar (I’ve used white sugar and dark brown, either works well)
3 TBSP honey
3 TBSP whiskey or bourbon of choice (or apple juice)
1/4 C coarse salt
2 1/2 tsp Curing Salt (this is a specialty product, it is pink. I purchased mine in-store at Williams Sonoma)
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp Cayenne Pepper
If desired for extra ‘smoke’ flavor enhancement:
2 tsp of real liquid hickory smoke (be sure this isn’t cheap-o fake stuff, I ordered the real thing on Amazon.)
1/2-1 C brown sugar (for rubbing on the cured pre-smoked pork belly).
Rinse and Prep:
Rinse the belly and thoroughly pat it dry until the surface is tacky. Trim accordingly. (If you want even slices you can shore up the edges of your belly, but am I the only person that really doesn’t like pork belly other than when cured and smoked into bacon?) Sprinkle belly with Lawry’s Seasoned Salt and rub in well. (I didn’t do this in the picture but did it on a different slab of bacon… yes, it is a step worth repeating.)
Rub and Cure:
In a large mixing bowl, mix together brown sugar, maple syrup, whiskey/bourbon/apple juice, salt, curing salt and peppers. Rub over pork belly evenly, massaging well. Place belly in a 2 gallon zip topped bag. Each day, massage the rub and juices that will develop around in the bag. Do this for 7 days. Flip the bag daily, this will insure that your belly is curing well. (Place the bag on a sheet pan in case there is a small hole or tear. You don’t want pre-bacon juice in your ‘fridge!) After 7 days, remove bacon from refrigerator and check to see that it is firm to the touch. This means the curing process has taken place. If it is still soft in spots, sprinkle additional curing salt (1 tsp) in those areas, massage and return to the refrigerator.
Clean and Smoke:
Once the bacon is cured, remove it from the bag, and rinse it very well. You must rinse well otherwise it will be too darn salty after smoking. Pat the meat dry with a tea towel or sturdy paper towels. If using, brush lightly with real liquid smoke. At this point we rubbed the meat with 1/2 C of brown sugar. Smoke in your grill or smoker using your favorite wood (mine is apple or hickory) until the meat reaches 150°F (you must check with a meat thermometer). Remove from the smoker and let the bacon cool a bit. From there, you can slice it and fry it up, or slice it and vacuum seal it for freezing. Will keep in the refrigerator for 1 week (I’m sure more but who lets bacon stay in the fridge for that long?) and in the freezer for 6 months.
*Alternatively, you may oven roast the pork belly in a 200 degree preheated oven. Brush with twice the amount of liquid smoke, evenly. Bake until meat registers 150 degrees throughout.
When ready to cook the bacon you’ve so beautifully made. Place bacon on a cookie cooling rack over top of a sheet pan. Cook bacon in a cold oven set to 375 degrees (for thick strips) and a cold oven set to 400 degrees for thin strips. The bacon will cook slowly as the oven heats up and be ready in 15-20 minutes. Ovens vary on their heating times, keep an eye on your bacon!
To amplify the “Honey” flavor of the bacon, remove bacon a couple of minutes prior to finishing cooking, brush with additional honey and return to the oven to set the honey to a nice glaze.