01 April, 2012

Bringing home the bacon

Well, not really. More like bringing home the pork belly, salt, sugar, maple syrup, and various spices & herbs.

A while back, I purchased a whole hog, and, as many of you know, hogs have bellies, and bellies have a magical habit of turning in to bacon.

I pulled the belly out of the freezer earlier in the week, let it thaw, and then cut it into quarters. Each quarter received its own special cure, all based on the Charcuterie recipe (since you-know-who got that particular book for me a while back). The recipe is in a 8:4:1 ratio- Salt, sugar, pink salt. I did everything by weight and used kosher salt, Japanese brown sugar, and pink salt. According to the book, I'm supposed to use 1/4c of the sugar per 5# of belly, put it in a bag in the fridge and flip it every day for a week.

In my research, I found that most people prefer twice as much cure, so I went closer to that route, as follows:

1. 1/4 cup of the cure, nothing more
2. 1/4 cup of cure, 1/4 cup of maple syrup**
3. 1/4 cup of cure, 1/4 cup of maple syrup, 1tsp of: blk pepper, sze pepper, juniper berries
4. 1/4 cup of cure, 1tsp of: paprika, granulated garlic, minced onion, pink peppercorn, cumin

** There was a bit of a disaster with this particular guy.

I put each of the 2.5# pieces of belly in to a vacuum bag and used my handy-dandy food saver to pull a vacuum on each (I thought it might help the cure penetrate the meat, plus it's geeky). Now, the first one went off without a hitch. It was wonderful. The second, however, took advantage of my lowered defenses. I basically did the same thing that I did for the first, but wanted to clean the outside so I didn't have to worry about contamination. Well, during that process, the stream of water entered the partially-unsealed top of the bag and diluted the cure in side. Sadness. I ended up mixing up another batch of cure, 1/2 cup this time, drained the water, added the cure and more maple syrup. We'll see how that works.

The plan is to flip the bellies once a day for the next week, then evaluate the firmness of the belly and go from there. I plan on letting them cure for 7-14 days and then rinsing the bellies and soaking them for 30-60 minutes, placing them on a rack, and letting it dry in the fridge for 1-2 days to form a nice pellicle. Finally, I'm going to smoke the bellies to an internal temperature of 150.

I have high hopes.