If you want a fun, rewarding, (I mean bacon) food project, making bacon at home is just for you. Although it takes some time & patience, it’s not difficult.
The smell of bacon cooking can get my boys up and out of dead sleep any time of the day. What is it about that smell? It is truly intoxicating!
It seems there is no one ingredient that is so universally adored. I mean when was the last time you heard someone say they didn’t like bacon?
Making bacon at home takes a bit of time, but it is all waiting time. Not hands on time. It only takes about 5 minutes to prepare it.
Are nitrates / nitrites bad for you?
What are nitrates?
Firstly, we should answer the question; what are nitrates? Nitrates are a naturally occurring compounds that contain nitrogen and oxygen, if you remember from that Chemistry class.
Nitrates occur naturally in plants. The plants containing the largest amount of nitrates are dark leafy greens, like spinach, and kale, plus celery and beetroot.
If you have had a garden, you know that the plant fertilizers that you’ve used contain a percentage of nitrogen, to keep your plants healthy and growing.
In most peoples’ diets, the majority of nitrates/ nitrites consumed, about 80%, are from plants.
Nitrates that are used to preserve meats are chemically identical to those that are in plant sources.
The nitrates that are contained in plant sources react differently in our systems, making them less risky than their meat filled cousins. (It’s a fairly lengthy explanation of how and why they differ, that is covered more in this article from the BBC.com)
So back to our question, are they bad for you, the bottom line answer is that there are conflicting studies, some saying they are carcinogenic and others saying they are not.
So, probably the best rule of thumb, as with most things in life, is everything in moderation.
What about uncured bacon? Is that better for you?
The way that bacon is preserved without man made nitrates is by using plant based nitrates to cure the meat. Namely, celery or beet powder.
Celery and beetroot are shown to contain more nitrates than curing salts, so the bottom line is that uncured bacon is not necessarily a healthier option.
What is the difference in curing salts?
Humans have been curing meats for over 12,000 years. Many different methods have been adapted. The most common is curing salts.
Curing salts go by many, confusing names. Some of which are Prague powder, Instacure, curing salt, Tender Quick, among many others.
Have you ever thought about what the difference between them is? Here is a great article from the Barbecue Bible that sheds some light on the situation.
The bottom line is that they will require use in different amounts, depending on which product you can find. It’s always best to read the directions and follow them, so that you don’t run into food safety problems.
Never go by an individual recipe to determine the quantity of curing salt to use in your recipe, if you are using a different type curing salt. Use the instructions for the curing salt that you utilize.
What you need
- pork belly
- curing salt
- black pepper
- brown sugar
- maple syrup (optional)
How to make it
- Add dry ingredients to medium bowl.
- Mix well.
- Add maple syrup and mix again.
- Thoroughly dry pork belly with paper towels.
- Rub both sides of belly with cure.
- Place in gallon storage bag.
- Place in container, in case of leaks. Turn belly every day.
Allow the bacon to cure for about 7 days in the refrigerator. After 7 days, remove bacon from bag and rinse all of the salt off, very thoroughly. (If you neglect to do this, your bacon will be salty.)
Once bacon is washed and thoroughly dried, it’s time to smoke it. We like to use a mild wood, like apple or cherry, but you can definitely use hickory as well.
Smoke bacon at 200°F for about 4 hours, depending on the size of the belly. Internal temperature should be over 150°F.
Slice into pieces with your desired thickness. Cook bacon the way you normally cook your bacon. Pan fried, oven baked or even in your air fryer.
What’s the best way to store it?
After you slice it, or cut into lardons, place in freezer bags and freeze up to 6 months. Allow to thaw in refrigerator and cook.
What can you do with the skin that was on the belly?
We usually make homemade raw hide chews for our doggies. They love it and gobble it right up.
Cut belly into pieces. Belly can be dried in oven, on the grill, over indirect heat, in a commercial dehydrator or in the smoker.
We usually smoke it for an extra bit of flavor. They will take quite a long time, depending on how large you slice them.
Tools I use
So that is how easy it is to make your own bacon at home! Once you make it, it is hard to go back to store bought. (you were warned)
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Enjoy! And have fun cooking!
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Making bacon- curing bacon at home
- Mix dry ingredients in medium bowl.
- Add maple syrup and mix well.
- Place in large plastic bag and seal.
- Place bag in container, in case of drips.
- Turn bag once per day for 7 days.
- After 7 days, remove cured meat from bag. Rinse all of the salt off, very well. (Failure to rinse thoroughly will result in salty bacon.)
- Dry meat on both side thoroughly with paper towel. Allow to air dry for a few hours in refrigerator. Place meat on rack and suspend rack over a container to contain drips.
- Heat smoker to 200°F. Use apple, cherry or hickory wood to smoke. Smoke for about 4 hours, until internal temperature reaches 150°F.
- Slice or cut into lardons and freeze until use.
- To cook bacon, cook in your preferred method. Pan fried, oven baked or even in your air fryer.