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Monday, March 11, 2013

BACON... Everyone's favorite

So everyone loves bacon right?  Sadly, the possibility that you can't run down to the store and get a pound may one day happen.  Then what?  Suffer in a baconless world?  I think not!  Make your own!

Now, the hardest part is getting the pork belly.  If you live in any state in the southeast, you have feral pigs to hunt.  If you live other places, you may be able to get them by purchase or trade from a farmer.  Many places actually have Russian boar that you could also hunt.  You can otherwise just buy it at the meat market.  Once you get your uncured and uncut pork belly (in modern times have the butcher cut the skin off... it's a real pain otherwise.) you will need to prepare your ingredients for making it into bacon.

I like a sweet and smokey, black pepper bacon so that will be the recipe I will give here.  It is a recipe for two pounds, but you can easily half or double it for whatever amount of pork belly you can acquire.  You will need a pan or container large enough to hold the pork belly with a couple inches all around the sides and a couple inches deeper than the belly is thick.  I think the disposable aluminum roasting pans work great.  You will also need coarse ground... Haahaa hahaha... recipe calls for Kosher salt... think about it for  a second.  Yeah....  Anyway, two pounds of pork belly, two cups coarse salt of your choice, two cups of packed DARK brown sugar, two tablespoons of fresh coarsely ground black pepper (and if you are a bit pressed for time, two teaspoons of Liquid Smoke, otherwise see the second step below).  The recipe of twos... should be easy enough to remember right?

Okay, so now you have all your stuff you can get started.  Right off the bat you need to take the Liquid Smoke and without diluting it rub the pork belly down with it.  Really massage it in there... and wear gloves unless you want to have hands that smell like a campfire for the rest of the week.  Do this IF and ONLY if you plan to take the easy way out and not smoke it yourself.

Now, mix all the dry stuff together and divide it into two parts.  Use one half to lay a good bed down in the pan.  Place your pork belly in the pan and cover with the other half of the mixture.  Refrigerate at about 38 degrees uncovered for seven days then flip it and back in the fridge for another seven days... two weeks.  Coincidence? (If you like less flavor from your bacon stop the cure after the first week.

Next weekend rolls around... remove the BACON from the curing mix.  Yep, it's now bacon and ready to eat at this point in time.  Rinse it WELL with cool water and then pat dry.  Nahh... rinse it again... unless you like it salty.  (Hint: cut a small piece and cook it... still too salty?  Soak the bacon for two hours in cold water.)  Usually simply washing it really well will make it suit most peoples tastes.

So now you can slice it and cook it up, or you can go advanced bacon master maker on it and smoke it... if you didn't use the Liquid Smoke up above.  From there, just seal it in a Ziplok bag and use it as needed.  It will keep for a week or two in the refrigerator or several months in the freezer... make sure you get all the air out or you'll have freezer burnt bacon.

Other things you can try are using maple sugar instead of brown sugar, or adding a fat pinch of chipotle or red pepper for some jazz!  

Now for you adventurous types!  Break out the grill or smoker!  I'll go with a grill since most people have that and many fewer have a smoker.  Whichever you have, just remember LOW and INDIRECT heat.  If you are using a grill that means a pile of charcoals on one side and the bacon as far away as possible.  We are shooting for no more than 160 degrees in the center, but at least 150 degrees!  More than 160 and we are actually cooking the bacon and not smoking.  Looking for a grill/smoker temp around 175 degrees.  More on why we use these temps in a minute.  Now, I like to use a bed of dying coals to get my wet wood chips smoking, but you do it how you like.  Another thing to remember is wood type is important here.  With a sweet, sugar cured bacon (like this recipe) you want to use a sweet wood like maple.  With a salty cure, use something like hickory.  Now, get that grill going!

Once your are ready to make smoke, toss the bacon on there and let it have it!  Add your smoking chips and it will gradually bring the temp up.  When you hit 175 in the grill, let it roll for about 45 minutes keeping check on the 160 core temperature.  As soon as you hit it, kill the heat and let it smoke down for another hour or two.  You absolutely MUST hit 150 degrees!  At 150 degrees for five minutes it will be safe to eat as soon as you can handle it.  Too, it is going to look like a beautifully smoked ham and you are gonna want to try it NOW.  Go ahead!  If for some reason you didn't make it to 150, enjoy it anyway... just remember to cook it first!

Now, enjoy your apocalypse with BACON!

Anyone else have ideas for "survival" foods?


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