With the Split Pea Soup and the Quiche using up the last of my previous bacon supply, it was high time to get another belly curing. Forgive me for not taking any pictures of the process, but it was very similar to last time. I started with the same recipe using pink salt as before, but I made some changes based on my what I had tasted before. I added a bit of Kosher because the felt the first batches weren’t salty enough, and I doubled the cayenne and paprika and added a little bit of cumin to see if I could bring out some of the flavors from the cure.
I was a bit busy at work this week, and so there were some things I let slip. The daily flipping of the bag o’ belly became a ‘when I actually remember’ affair. And Saturday morning in the shower I had the realization that I didn’t pull it out of the brine for its pellicle formation. I did get it out and chilling for about 3 or 4 hours between getting out of the shower, heading to the local Japanese Grocery Store, eating some delicious baked items from said store, and getting the smoker fired up and ready to go.
That’s right, I said smoker. We are out of the trial stage, and now on to the full fledged bacon making stage. Not that the oven bacon wasn’t good. It was. But it wasn’t bacony (one n in there or two. . . baconny. . . I don’t know) enough for my needs and wants as a true bacon lover. So out comes my well used, though rather small and cheap, Brinkmann smoker.
Firing up the smoker I used a mixture of the very high quality, but low on flavor, Japanese style charcoal, incidentally left over from the Oyster Festival grill, mixed with some of my brought-over-in-the-move-and-hoarded American purchased lump charcoal, which has a lot of variability quality and size wise, but a ton of good flavor. I also about 5 big handfuls of hickory chips from Kingsford that somehow the commissary had a few weeks back and I purchased with no plan. I soaked the chips in water to start with, and it worked like a charm to get a ton of smoke out of them.
It was a little difficult to get the smoker to 200 degrees initially, but after about an hour of playing around with the vents I got it so that it just sat at 200 for the remaining time. A few hours later, as the coals were just about dead, and new wood chips weren’t burning all the way down, I called it done. When I pulled it out it was much more red in color than the oven batches had been, which makes sense given the smoking. It was also very sticky since it seemed to seriously caramelize the residual sugars.
I let it cool while I made dinner, and then went about the skin removal. This time the skin came off much easier. I started with a knife, creating a little pocket for my finger, and then just used my finger to separate the skin from the meat, well fat actually. Back into a Ziploc and into the fridge overnight.
We had it with breakfast Sunday morning with some delicious Dutch Bunnies (or Dutch Babies, or Dutch Baby Bunnies), and I can tell you that this batch was absolutely perfect. It smelled like bacon, it tasted like bacon, and had the right amount of tooth, the perfect amount of smoke in the meat, and the right amount of sweetness. If anything it is a touch on the salty side, but that is what I was going for, so maybe the smoking leads to a saltier product. I’m not sure, but you can be sure I will keep experimenting.
Smoked Home Cured Bacon
- 1 – 3 lb Pork Belly, Skin On
- 1/3 c Diamond Crystals Kosher
- 1 c. Golden Brown Sugar
- 1 t. Pink Salt
- 1 t. Paprika
- 1 t. Ground Cayenne
- 1/2 t. Ground Cumin
Rinse and dry pork belly. Trim ends so that the belly will fit in your bag, if necessary. Make the cure by combining all dry ingredients and mix thoroughly, breaking up any clumps of sugar or paprika. Place a layer of the cure in a 1 gallon size Ziploc bag laid flat. Place the belly on this layer, and then add more cure on and around the belly to make sure it is completely covered. There will likely be some cure left over, this is fine.
Remove as much air as possible from the bag, and seal. Place this inside another bag for fridge protection. Place the belly in the fridge, skin side down for the first 24 hours, and flip every day for a week. Remove the belly from the cure, rinse and pat dry with a paper towel. Place on a rack and return to the fridge for anywhere from a few hours to overnight to form the pellicle.
Start your charcoal, and spread your coals on one side of the smoker, or in the firebox if you are using an offset. Let the coals get white and stop their initial burn of acrid smoke before you put your belly on. Place your belly on the other side of the smoker from the coals, in order to minimize the direct heat cooking the belly. Keep the cooking area around 200 degrees, and add a handful soaked wood chips every 15-30 minutes, or when you no longer see white smoke coming from the vents.
Smoke until the internal temp is around 150. For a less smoky flavor, smoke the meat for an hour, and then finish up in a 200 degree oven. Remove the skin from the bacon when it is cool enough to work with and place it back in the fridge. Let the bacon sit in the fridge overnight, slice, fry, and enjoy.