Weekend Project: Home-Cured Bacon

Cook, Weekend Project

We’re proud to work with Blackberry Farm, a family-run country retreat and producer of hand-crafted foods in Tennessee’s Great Smoky Mountains. The Beall family and their team of artisans and chefs has helped spark America’s return to the simple goodness of farm-to-table cooking, while also celebrating the rich culinary and agricultural heritage of this storied Southern region. 

 

Today we are sharing a recipe for home-cured bacon from their latest cookbook, The Foothills Cuisine of Blackberry Farm, on sale October 29th. Look for it in Williams-Sonoma stores, and scroll to the bottom of this post for information on our book signing event.

 

It is a revelation to many that making bacon at home is in fact quite simple. Like all the best things in life, it really just takes a little patience, beginning with several days of curing; the longer you leave the belly to cure, the saltier and drier it becomes. After the cure, the next most important thing is to let the meat sit exposed in the refrigerator until a slightly sticky skin forms on the surface. This is called the pellicle, and it helps the smoke adhere to the meat with­out drying it out. While the pellicle is forming you can get the smoke ready!

 

The ideal temperature for the grill or smoker is very low — 150-160°F — so that the smoking is slow and easy without any risk of flare-ups that might melt the precious layer of fat. With prac­tice (and cool outside air), you will become adept at keeping the grill in this range. If your grill is running a little hotter, keep a close eye on the belly, for it will be done sooner.

 

If you prefer not to, or cannot, smoke the meat, simply roast it in a very low oven as directed below. The bacon will not taste smoky, of course, but the cured flavor is quite excellent.

 

We use curing salt (sodium nitrite) to guarantee that the quality of the finished bacon’s color and cure is consistently high. Butcher & Packer is our favorite online source for curing salt, sausage casings, and many other materials related to the goodies we make in the Butcher Shop.

 

Home-Cured Bacon

 

1/2 skinless pork belly (about 5 pounds)

7 ounces (about 1 cup) kosher salt

3/4 ounce (about 1 tablespoon) pink curing salt

1 tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes

1 cup sorghum

 

Place a wire rack on a rimmed baking sheet or in a baking pan and set aside until needed.
Trim the edges of the pork belly to remove any loose or shaggy bits.

 

In a small bowl, whisk together the salt and the pink curing salt. Sprinkle half of it over one side of the pork belly followed by half of the red pepper flakes. Use your hands to rub in the seasonings. Turn over and repeat on the other side.

 

Drizzle half of the sorghum over one side of the pork belly. Place it on the wire rack sorghum side down and drizzle the remaining sorghum on the belly.

 

Cover the pan with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for 5 to 7 days.

 

Rinse the pork belly under cold water and pat it dry. Place it back on the cleaned rack and refrigerate, uncovered, until the surface of the meat is a little tacky, about 1 hour.

 

Meanwhile, if smoking the bacon, follow the manufacturer’s instructions and use natural wood lump charcoal to start a small fire in a charcoal grill with a lid. When the coals are covered with gray ash, rake the coals to one side of the grill, creating a cooler zone on the other side to use for indirect cooking. Let the grill cool to 150°F to 160°F. Scatter a handful of dry hickory chips over the coals. Cover the grill, positioning the lid so that its exhaust vent is opposite the chips. When the chips begin to smoke, place the pork belly fat side down (see photo 5) on the cooler side of the grate, not directly over the chips, and cover the grill, positioning the lid so that the vent is over the belly. Adjust the vents on the bottom of the grill and in the lid so that there is sufficient airflow to keep the chips smoldering, but not so much that the chips ignite or flare. Smoke until the meat reaches an internal temperature of 125°F, 1 to 2 hours, turning the belly over about halfway through.

 

If roasting, preheat the oven to 175°F. Keep the bacon on the wire rack set on the rimmed baking sheet. Cook until the meat reaches an internal temperature of 125°F.

 

Remove the bacon from the grill or oven and let it cool to room temperature. Refrigerate overnight. For longer storage, wrap the whole bacon tightly and refrigerate for up to 1 week, or freeze for up to 6 months.

 

To fry, slice the bacon with the grain of the belly and fry in a preheated cast-iron pan until crispy. Makes about 5 pounds.

 

Book Signing Event: Atlanta, GA — November 8, 2012; 11 a.m.-1 p.m.

Proprietor Sam Beall will be at the Williams-Sonoma at Lenox Square Mall in Atlanta and signing cookbooks and doing a cooking demonstration with a recipe from the new cookbook!

  • Lenox Square
  • 3393 Peachtree Road Ne Space 4003
  • Atlanta, GA, 30326
  • Phone: (404) 812-1703

2 comments about “Weekend Project: Home-Cured Bacon

  1. Fall Dinner Party from Blackberry Farm

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