Fall Project: Bacon!

Bacon. Homemade!

Hello my little jellybeans…I have missed you so. It has been crazy around here! Since we have spoken last, the following things have happened:

I have been to CT for a baby shower during a hurricane.

I have started class every Monday night with some colleagues.

I have been to Virginia for a wedding.

I have been to NY for a surprise party.

I ate pig eyeball. I also ate pig brain on a cracker.

I have been hanging out with my new best friend Baby L.

I rediscovered my love for cereal. I know this doesn’t sound like a big deal? But trust me, it’s huge, and kind of problematic. I am now remembering why I don’t keep cereal and milk around all the time. I could eat cereal three meals a day and not get tired of it. Rice Krispies with banana? Raisin Bran? (Kellogg’s. Obv.) Fruity Pebbles? Cap’n Crunch? Kix? I LOVE it. Love. It tends to limit the amount of cooking I do. It also does not include vegetables, so there are serious nutritional holes in the all cereal diet. But so good!

I have been doing new fun stuff at work.

Another baby was born into the family! Welcome Baby Dubs!

I joined the gym again! (Incidentally, took a class this weekend that has rendered me practically immobile. So. Much. Pain. Good pain?)

I finished watching “Friday Night Lights.” That show is AMAZING. I want to go back to the beginning and watch again. Seriously. Amazing.

The following things DID NOT happen:

Much cooking of any kind. A little bit here and there, I guess, but not much. I made some classics and repeats, and supplemented with much takeout, no real adventures.

But it’s fall! Football season! The perfect time for cooking! I feel my groove coming back. Yesterday I made ricotta, and might make some gnocchi later. I also made some tomato soup. I am excited about trying puff pastry, because all butter puff pastry is expensive, and the ingredients for all butter puff pastry are not, so I figured I might as well give it a try. I have a bunch of chicken in the freezer and a bunch of weeknight chicken recipes to try. I have some more projects for these upcoming months…bread, noodles, sausage, duck confit. Lots of plans.

But now, to what you are here for. If you recall, I made bacon awhile back. Every time I have mentioned that, some smart ass has asked if I slaughtered a pig. I did not. I am not allowed to raise pigs in my apartment, my landlord has allergies.

Lucky for me, Whole Foods sells lovely, large pork bellies for just such a purpose, so I got one there and we were off.

Making bacon is perhaps the easiest project ever. It requires almost no work. It takes a little bit of effort to track down the required ingredients, and then it takes about 10 minutes to put together. That’s it. You let it sit for a week in the fridge, and every night when you get home from work, you try to remember to flip the belly over. Literally, that is pretty much all there is to it. Once it has cured for a week you cook it in a low oven or smoke it until the internal temperature is 150 degrees, and voila…bacon! Delicious, porky, flavorful homemade bacon. So fun!

You need pink salt for making bacon. It contains nitrates, which kill bacteria and keep bacon that charming reddish/pink color instead of turning gray like most pork that you cook until well done. They have been vilified, but for no real reason, it seems, since they are not bad for you in the doses you find in cured meats. Plus, though curing bacon to bacteria free levels can be done without it, the risk of poorly cured meats is not something I like to mess with, so I am decidedly pro-nitrate. Gimme an N! Gimme an I! To give credit to the anti-nitrates out there, they ARE poisonous if you ingest too much. And a teaspoon on its own is too much, so keep away from the kids. Also any adults that confuse tablespoons and teaspoons. No one said curing meat wasn’t a job for a responsible adult. As with all things bacteria, you must be careful.

A good basic dry cure is salt, sugar and pink salt. The rest is just gravy. I followed the instructions of Michael Ruhlman, because his post on the subject was what got me wanting to do this in the first place. But I like the idea of including mustard, because I bet that’d be good. I will be doing this again, and stat. Seriously, do it with me. It is so easy. And very impressive. I made bacon!

As it was in the beginning…

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 6

Day 8 - looks like the real thing!

To keep you updated on things around here…

What I am currently reading: A Man in Full by Tom Wolfe. It is about Commercial Real Estate, and set in Atlanta. Both of these things are wildly relevant to my current job, so I am very much enjoying it.

What I am currently listening to: A lot of playlists. I’ve got a good mellow one, a good regular one, and a good upbeat one for the gym. And A LOT of cheesy pop (see: gym.) Also Otis Redding. There is nothing better than Otis Redding. Except for when I am listening to it through my iTunes and my Otis Redding is followed by Phoebe Snow. Phoebe Snow! SO good.

Home Cured Bacon

1 5lb piece of pork belly, skin removed.

2 ounces (1/4 cup Morton or Diamond Crystal coarse kosher) salt

2 tsp pink curing salt #1

4 tbl coarsely ground black pepper

4 bay leaves, crumbled

1 tsp freshly grated nutmeg

1/4 cup brown sugar or honey or maple syrup (I used brown sugar)

5 cloves of garlic, smashed with the flat side of a chef’s knife

5 to 10 sprigs fresh thyme (optional)

Find a large bag that will hold a 5lb pork belly flat. The 2 gallon Ziploc bags are perfect for this. Mix all of the ingredients for the rub together in a bowl (that would be everything but the belly.) Stick the belly in the bag, and then rub well with the dry cure. Make sure you get it all on there and press it into the meat as best you can. Seal the bag and put in on a baking sheet and stick it in the fridge. Flip the bag every 24 hours or so.

After a week, preheat the oven to 200 degrees (or better yet, get your charcoal grill fired up to smoke it.) Remove the belly from the bag, rinse it under cold water and pat dry. Place on a rack on a cookie sheet and roast in the oven or smoke on the grill for an hour and a half, or until the internal temperature of the belly is 150 degrees. Remove from the oven, marvel at your creation and give yourself a big old pat on the back. You made bacon! You are like a straight up pioneer or something!