#1 Post: MAKIN’ BACON – TAKING IT TO AN ALL NEW LEVEL {A RECIPE REVIEW}

So if you couldn’t tell already, my family likes bacon. A lot. Sometimes we go through periods of eating at least a pound of it a week. So I finally decided that maybe it would be in my best interest to learn to make this myself. This was a long process, as far as making stuff goes. Keep in mind I am a baker at heart so I am used to instant gratification. This was not necessarily hard, but certainly time consuming. I had something to do with the bacon every day for at least a week. One day someone asked if I had time to grab a coffee and I told them I had to get home to my bacon! The first challenge I had was getting a sizeable piece of pork belly. I have a couple of butchers that I see regularly, but neither of them keeps a 7-9 pound piece of belly lying around for retail sale. So a week after I placed my order, I had my 7 pound piece of belly. Sadly, it came on Easter weekend and I had so much else to do that it had to sit in the fridge for 3 days before I could get to it. Once I was ready to start curing, I decided to cut the slab into 2 (ultimately into 4 pieces), because I actually had 2 recipes that I wanted to try. The first one was from Ethan Stowell’s book New Italian Kitchen. The other was from The River Cottage Series The Meat Book. This particular book is serious about meat. I also made some duck confit from it, but I will get to that in another post. Needless to say, my house doesn’t look very “meatless Monday” right about now! So I will start with the Stowell version. I had to send my husband on the hunt into Pike’s Market to hit the spice seller to find me some Allepo pepper. This stuff reminded me a bit of harrissa in that it was sort of oily. When rubbing it on, my hands turned orange – blah! I was worried that this recipe would turn out sweet since it used equal parts sugar and salt. I am not a fan of sweet bacon. My family isn’t either. The pepper component was encouraging though, so I plowed ahead. The other upside to this recipe was that the cure was simply packed on from the beginning and left to sit for 2 days in the fridge before rinsing. After rinsing, it sat for another couple days in the fridge. Overall, I thought this was pretty easy to do. The tough part for me came when it was time to smoke it. I don’t have any experience smoking meat. My husband bought a smoker 2-3 years ago, but only used it a couple of times to smoke salmon. So anyway, I had him pull this thing out and help me figure out how to use it. Ultimately, he ended up doing all of it after downloading some instructions. He was so excited! It turned out that we left it on too long, but it was still good. When we took it off, it basically looked cooked, but then when you cut it open, it still looked pink. So my husband thickly sliced it and then fried it up. It was AWESOME! In my pictures below, I have basically shown you what this looked like as it proceeded (same for the other batch). The River Cottage version was far more time intensive. You had to babysit this one a lot. So the cure used very little sugar, but had some bay and juniper berries in it. This looked fantastic and I was so excited about the flavors. The way they did it was to rub the cure on daily. You had to drain off any liquid and rub on a fresh handul of the salt rub every 24 hours. After 5 days, the meat was rinsed, dried and left to sit in the fridge for another 3 days. Not like this was killer work or anything, but it was just a bit of a pain. Then I again ran into the smoking issue. This went on the smoker at the same time as my other batch. We had the same issues with overcooking. My husband said that we should have just done one piece, rather than all 4 at the same time – hindsight is great. When we had finished frying up all the slices, it was immediately clear that this batch was WAY too salty. Maybe I was supposed to seriously soak this instead of rinsing, but I simply ran it under the water and scrubbed at it. Guess I will need to pull out the brush and use a full sink of water next time. We are now trying to figure out in what way to use this. I likely will throw it back onto the BBQ and serve it up with some great cheese and crackers. I am certain it won’t go to waste. I think I will make bacon again, but next time play with my own spice mix and watch the smoker more closely. I think I may also tackle sausage making in the near future. I have big plans for fall and winter cooking already!

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