Do you love bacon? Have you ever had non-grocery store bacon? (If yes, then YOU KNOW.)
Home cured and smoked bacon is so good, and for someone that loves to learn the nuances of my favorite foods, making bacon from scratch was really fun. For one, it’s easy, with very small amounts of active cooking time. Most is just waiting for the cure to finish and then waiting for it to smoke. For two, it’s delicious – much less wet (for lack of a better word) than store-bought. You also have the flexibility of slicing it as thin or as thick as you want.
You will need to get pink nitrate from Amazon, but the rest of the ingredients are simple. I used a combo of the maple bacon recipe Ruhlman’s Charcuterie (pictured below) and the one from AmazingRibs.com . The linked recipe from Ruhlman has a lot more stuff than the book version, but his technique was my home base.
I combined the sugar, salt, nitrate, brown sugar, cayenne, black pepper and maple syrup, then just slather on the pork belly. Put it in a bag and wait seven days for the cure to fully penetrate the meat (flipping once a day.)
For some versions, I used sorghum syrup (similar to molasses) and varied the amount of spice via red pepper flakes and cayenne. The sorghum definitely added a deeper flavor and color, it was a nice variant, but I’m partial to the maple flavor.
In the first version I made, I just stuck the belly on the smoker after curing, but it didn’t have enough extra oomph on the outside. For subsequent versions, I sprinkled raw sugar, cayenne and black pepper on the pork belly before smoking.
So pretty, right!?!?
Then you smoke for three hours at 225 degrees or until the internal temp hits 150 degrees. (I took the skin off after smoking and froze it to use later for greens or soups.) I used applewood chunks for a mild, fruit smoke flavor.
Then slice and cook! I recommend baking the sliced bacon so the sugar doesn’t brown too fast, and if you need to crisp it up, you can throw it in a sautè pan at the end to finish it.
Tip for slicing: freeze for five or ten minutes before slicing if you would like thinner slices.
It’s so good, y’all. And honestly straight-forward to do once you have the ingredients. You should be able to get pork belly at your grocery (you may need to request it) or local butcher shop. If not, it can be ordered online.
The payoff is worth it.