Saturday, June 29, 2013

Homemade Wet Cured Pecan Bacon

Bacon is one of the oldest cuts of meat. Believed to have started as far back as the great Roman Empire bacon has satisfied its eaters for centuries. Displayed by peasants back in the day, it was token of pride if they could afford even the smallest cut. After you read this post you might be doing the same! Thanks to our friend Oscar Meyer, bacon has become commercialized and pre-sliced for the home consumer since early 1920's.  The cut of bacon is part of the belly of a pig.  More commonly referred to in the butcher world as "pork belly."

This is a pork belly. As you can see, the skin is still on the belly. This needs to be removed.  With this skin you can make chicarron or fried pig skin.  The skin can be tough sometimes to remove. Grab a corner, start cutting and as you are going keep pulling back the skin trying to stay as close to the skin as possible.

Now its time for the cure. This was our first attempt at curing meat so we will explain what we have learned so far.  Curing is different than smoking, barbecuing and other forms of cooking because no heat is actually needed.  To cure, nitrites or the store names, pruegue powder, pink salt, curing salt, are used to enter the meat and kill any bacteria that might have a chance to grow. There are several levels of pink salt that we will eventually use. For this bacon we used #1, the least aggressive of the salts because we are doing a smoked bacon.  Follow the instructions on your pink salt about how much to add per pound of meat.

 (for 2 lb pork belly)

2 Tablespoons brown sugar
4 teaspoons black pepper
2 Table spoons Maple Syrup (and don't be cheap, use the real stuff!)
Follow your directions for "curing salt"
1 cup water
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon cayenne

Combine all the ingredients into a bag big enough to hold your belly.  Add the pork belly into the bag removing as much air as possible.  Now, massage the meat pretty well to try and help the brine to enter. It will sit in the brine and cure for at least a week. We did a week and a half.

After a week or so it is time to smoke it.  We decided to go with a pecan wood this time.  For more info on smoking check out our Smoked Pulled Pork! post.  We tried our hand at charcoal smoking this time which so far has been the way of our future. Jay will be posting more technique and info on low and slow cooking with charcoal soon. 
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First you need to set up the grill.  You will need a basket, a chimney starter, and we use Kingsford charcoal and the Pecan wood chips   You will put half the basket full of charcoal in the bottom of your grill with a hand full of wood chips (we used pecan). Then start about 10 brickets in your chimney starter.

  If you are not familiar with the chimney starter it is the column on the left. Charcoal goes in the center and a flame is lit underneath to light the coals. Gets a better burn with no after taste from fire starter. We use Weber fire starter cubes to get our coals going. No clean up and gets the job done!

After a good burn on the charcoal, add it over the top of the half basket and hand full of wood chips, add another hand full of wood chips to the top.  The lit charcoal will burn, creating a smoke.  The basket of unlit charcoal in the bottom will pick up the heat.  This will make it a low and slow burn releasing smoke for hours.  

After the set up is complete close the lid.  You want to adjust your airflows so that you are maintaining a constant temperature of 250 degrees. We want our bacon to reach 150.

Now, grab your slab o' pork belly and rinse it off very well.  Pink salt is very salty. Want most of it to be off the meat. 

Pat the meat dry, insert probe thermometer and stick on the grill.  You will place the meat on the opposite side of the charcoal and wood chips, with the vent on the lid over the meat.  This will make the smoke circulate perfectly over the meat.

If you maintain your heat around 250 this will take about 2 hours.  After 2 hours or when it reaches 150-155 degrees pull from the grill.

Perfect Smoke!!!

Grab your trusty BBQ gloves and remove your bacon

 This is truly the Artisan Way!!!

Cut the bacon, fry and enjoy! If the curing salt did its job the meat should be pinkish. 



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