Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Taking the Cure: Home-Smoked Bacon

There are very few things that draw me like a moth to a flame like the smell of smoked meat. I've been known to wander around the neighborhood, my nose in the air, tracking the smell of cooking meat as it wafts on the breeze until I locate the source of the intoxicating aroma. Even my dogs start looking at me askance as we cross streets willy-nilly, though their puzzlement is likely a fraction of the muttering from other pedestrians I'd occasionally (and even literally) run into.

Fresh pork belly.

Bacon was high on the list of favorite smoked meats, and I'd sampled all kinds from Trader Joe's to Gartner's, and quizzed friends on their favorite sources. Then Dave found a smoker on Craigslist and got a yen to try making it himself, with, yes, lots of encouragement from me. That first batch, one slab weighing five pounds, was a smashing success, earning accolades from family and friends alike. Which, of course, encouraged him to make more, increasing the amount each time.

The experience of working with the smoker, and the resulting briskets, ribs (flat and rolled) and smoked albacore has begun pulling him away from briquets and into the realm of wood. He's now got sources for cherry, apple, hickory, oak and maple, with bags of same stashed alongside the smoker in the garage.

Cured belly ready for the smoker.

Today's batch of bacon—briquets providing the primary heat source, with chunks of dry apple wood soaked in water providing the smoke—was the biggest yet. Two full bellies weighing just shy of twenty pounds total, cured for a week in the fridge (details here) then smoked for a little over three hours. Which resulted in around 16 1/2 lbs. of finished bacon. Once they cool down, we'll slice them into one-pound chunks, then throw them in zip-lock freezer bags, except for a bit we may need for a completely homemade BLT or perhaps some carbonara.

Seriously, if you've been thinking about making your own bacon and you can get your hands on a smoker (I repeat: Craigslist), this is so easy to do and, as long as you follow the directions for the curing, a complete cakewalk. Your family and friends will thank you!

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