There are few things in life as splendid as bacon. If your diet allows pork, eating bacon is one of the most primal, aboriginal pleasures a human can enjoy, right up there with sneezing, sex, and laying on the beach, listening to the waves crash.
If you don’t eat pork, I apologize for this post. As a person of faith, I respect your resolve. With all due respect to my church and faith, I also believe in the pure pleasure of eating bacon. Every now and again, I feel the urge to bear witness unto the salty, crispy twigs of mouthwatering, carefully cured pork fat that descend from Heaven and appear on my plate. When I count my blessings, bacon is on the short list.
How lovely that I married a guy that feels the same way about bacon as I do. As we mature and move forward in life, both of us have found that when you love someone or something, it is bountifully rewarding to tweak and improve your relationship with that person or thing. Like bacon, for instance. He now cures his own bacon. Let me tell you, now I love bacon even more. And him too.
Do I love him more because of the home cured bacon? Absolutely.
Home Cured Bacon is Easy to Make
And from what he tells me, it couldn’t be easier. Every month or so he will cure a couple of belly slabs, and stock pile them in the freezer. The slabs don’t last too long. With my homemade bread, homemade mayonnaise (I’m a fervent disciple of bread and mayo too) and his ranch-raised fresh eggs, we feast like a royal couple on the weekends. Although it would mean a smaller portion of bacon, only the presence of our kids at the table can tweak the glory of this breakfast a little higher.
You need to purchase Prague Powder for the cure, which you can find here. And a non-reactive tub or pan for storage during the curing period. Read more about meat curing safety here. You could simply place the pork belly slab in a very large plastic storage bag, but a plastic dish pan or stainless steel tray will be helpful, as bags can puncture, or accidentally leak. Once the pork belly is cured, the slab can be frozen in the same bag.
A helpful hint: the pork belly slab will slice more easily if the slab is still half frozen. I have found by taking the slab out of the freezer and allowing it to thaw for 1 hour will give it the perfect texture for even slicing with a good, sharp knife. I use a very sharp serrated bread knife. If you a home version of a deli-style meat slicers, by all means, put it to work to slice bacon. Much safer by far, and the slices will be more uniform. Or, if you have a butcher friend, maybe they would have a slicer at their shop (Doesn’t everyone have a butcher friend? Pity if you don’t. Get out there and network more.)
Try making home cured bacon. It’s an easy, fun project that will quickly become part of your domestic routine. For as spectacular as bacon can be, home cured is just a little better. Wait a minute: Home cured bacon is a lot better. Imagine if you could improve a day at the beach. Or sneezing? It’s worth your time.
Home Cured Pork Belly for Amazing Bacon
Making home cured pork belly takes a week’s time, but is worth every minute once you take that first bite!
- Prep Time: 1 Week
- Cook Time: 8 mins
- Total Time: 168 hours 8 minutes
- Yield: Makes 5 lbs.
- For every 5lbs pork belly, you will need the following:
- ¼ cup coarse kosher salt
- 2 tsp. Insta-Cure or Prague Powder*
- 4 tbsp. coarsely ground black pepper
- 4 bay leaves, crumbled
- 1 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
- 1/4 cup brown sugar, honey, or maple syrup
- 5 cloves of garlic, crushed
- 2 tbsp. juniper berries, lightly crushed
- 10 sprigs fresh thyme
- Combine the curing ingredients in a bowl, stirring well for even distribution. Place the pork belly in a large non-reactive tub (stainless steel, glass, enamel or plastic – we use a plastic dishpan) Massage the curing ingredients well over both sides of the pork belly. Place the pork belly in a large zipper plastic bag, leaving it well crusted with the curing ingredients. Seal, and place in the refrigerator. Turn the bag over every 48 hours, and leave in the refrigerator for 1 week.
- After 1 week, remove the pork belly from the bag, and rinse away the spices on both sides. Your bacon is ready for slicing.
- A ¼” thick slice should take about 7-8 minutes of cooking time, either under a hot broiler or in a skillet on the stove.