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Really Nice!

Making Bacon

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Can anyone recommend a butcher who can handle an order for a pork belly? I want to try making my own bacon.

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I bet that A&J Meats on Queen Anne could hook you up. I think that Klink has ordered special stuff from them before. They are not cheap though.

Ben

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Oh yeah, and pics of the new cold smoker!!!!

Actually, I'm going to use two smokers. I'll generate smoke in my Traeger and use a clothers dryer hose to move the smoke from there to my WSM. I'm 'guessing' three days should do it if it's properly brined. (Smoke + Salt = No or little bacteria growth)

I just had a conversation with Mr. Toast and Marlarky, who is recovering from a 104.9 temperature and pneumonia so send some get well wishes her way, and AJ is selling it for $3.95 a pound. However, they just smoked everything in their inventory and they won't be getting more for at least two weeks.

I was hoping it would be cheaper than store-bought bacon.

I'll get pics of the process. Oh, and I'm still working on replying to my ultra-cool Traeger smoker, but I'm putting in a lot of hours at work... A quick summary: Get one! Great product and some of the best customer service I've had anywhere. Coming from me this is a huge compliment as people who know me know that it doesn't take much to tick me off in the customer service department. :laugh:


Edited by Really Nice! (log)

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You might check out an Asian grocery that does their own butchering. They butcher really differently then western butchers and pork belly is a pretty common cut for them. It's usually in the display counter and might be cheaper then elsewhere.

regards,

trillium

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Uwajimaya sells pork belly in smaller pieces than you want, but it's pretty cheap and they could probably do leave some whole for you.

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Just walked to Uwajimaya in Bellevue for lunch. Pork bellies are $2.89 a pound, two per package; average weight per package is about 2 pounds. I'll pick up about 4 packages and see if this works. I just don't want to burn down the house!

Edit for additional content:

For my first attempt, I'm going to try Alton Brown's Scrap Iron Chef's Bacon. Basically it's brine for three days, cold smoke for 4-6 hours.

This sounds good too: Honey Mustard Cure. This is a dry cure for three days, cold smoke for 4-6 hours.

I'll use a mixture of 25 percent Apple, 25 percent Pecan, and 50 percent Maple wood.

While I'm at it, I'll smoke some more salt. Last weekend I smoked Sea Star fleur de sel from Brittany France with hickory and mesquite wood and Maldon flaky sea salt from England in apple and cherry wood.

Very yummy!


Edited by Really Nice! (log)

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I ran a 15-minute test tonight and it looks like it's going to work. There's lots of smoke getting piped into the WSM. I'm using painters tape to secure the piping between the two units. I originally thought of duct tape, but then realized that duct tape tends to leave a lot of 'sticky stuff' behind.

I'm going to change my wood choice and go with 25 percent apple, 25 percent maple, and 50 percent hickory. This seems to be the most popular wood choice for the marketing departments to advertise their bacon product.

The pork bellies have been brining since Wednesday morning. The meat in the wet brine is getting dark, as it should due to the mollases. The dry rub brine is pulling a lot of liquid out of the meat thanks to the sugar.

[Ahh, it's 9:30 and Anthony B. is in Mexico tonight on Food TV... can't wait for his reaction to eating that reptile... [the reptile has been identified as an iguana as of 9:44 P.M. sorry I forgot...] :raz:... Hey AB! when are you coming to Seattle?!]

Back to smoking bacon...

Alton B recommeds 4 to 6 hours in his recipes. I have a feeling I'll need more like 10 hours. We shall see.

I'll take pictures and will try to post them like the honourable Sir Col. Klink. (please don't forget us!)

I'll post the results tomorrow, August 9, and hopefully there will be photos.

-lav


Edited by Really Nice! (log)

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It is Aug 10th and I see no pictures!!!  I also have not smelled bacon curing in the neighborhood.  :wink:  But perhaps, I need to peek over your fence.  :laugh:

I hope it went well!

Ben

Oh baby, let me tell you, this was the best bacon I've ever tasted. :biggrin:

In all seriousness, I'm going to be making this for now on. I don't think I'll ever purchase bacon from a store again.

My initial flavor test was the classic, bacon-lettuce-and-tomato sandwich. Homemade bread, homemade mayonnaise, homegrown tomato (from a neighbor), homemade bacon. The only thing that wasn't locally grown was the lettuce. It was the best sandwich I've ever had!

Naturally, my expectations were high so I had a bottle of wine to meet that expectation: 1976 Lafitte Rothschild. Mmmmmmm..... :cool:

I'll try and post photos as Col. Klink gave me some tips for it. It may take a couple of days to get it organized.

Oh, I also made bacon, spinach, and feta cheese pizza today. Big-time Yum!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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Sorry it has taken so long to get the photos posted. I'm using www.imagestation.com for the first time as www.pbase.com doesn't let you link to individual photos. It hasn't been a pleasant experience. Some how the interface let me post photos outside of the storage bin and I couldn't get them in. I may be a stupid user but a properly designed interface shouldn't let said stupid user do that.

It also scrambled the sequence of the photos and I can't find anywhere in the interface how to sort them. They're numbered 01, 02, 03... and I posted them in that order, but for some reason the sequence starts 06, 09, 10, 01, 02, 11... Fortunately, because they're linked, they're in order.

And finally, :angry: the size of the files are about triple what I posted from my drive.

Anywho... here's the photos and the process.

The basic summary: If you have two smokers and you love bacon, you have to try this. You'll make the best bacon you've ever had in your life.

1. Here are the packages of pork bellies. I was hoping to get larger pieces, but this is all they had. I bought it at a local Asian market for $2.89 a pound.

fb688e89.jpg

2. This is the dry brine recipe. After three days there will be about 12 ounces of liquid in the bag.

fb688e4e.jpg

3. This is both the dry and wet brine recipes after three days. The wet brine pork got a lot of dark color (and flavor) from the molasses. I started brining both on Wednesday morning.

fb688dbe.jpg

4. You want to create a light skin on the pork. Set up a fan to blow air on it for about an hour to create the 'pellicle.'

fb688c00.jpg

5. This is the wood. The original photo looks a lot better. But, that's Maple on the left, Apple on the right, and Hickory in the front. To describe them I'd say they look like rabbit droppings. I used 1.5 pounds of maple and apple each, and 3 pounds of Hickory. There was about 1/2 pound left at the end of 8 hours.

fb688d31.jpg

6. This is the operation. It ain't pretty but it works beautifully. The traeger is on the right. It's a wood pellet auger-driven smoker system. I used painter's tape because I didn't want the sticky stuff that duct tape leaves behind. Unfortunately, it rained after I set up the operation the night before and it started falling apart. I taped the sides of the lid, as well as the pipeline, and the grease drain. I'm guessing about 75 percent of the smoke made it inside the Weber Smokey Mountain (WSM) pictured on the left.

fb688cec.jpg

7. This is a closer look at the link to the WSM. It fell apart shortly after I took this photo. Painter's tape doesn't hold well on wet surfaces. I ended up using clear packing tape, but I still couldn't get a good connection as too much smoke was escaping. I decided to cut the end of the pipeline in 8 places, about 1.5 inches deep.

I then folded back each cut and applied tape to the 8 newly created 'wings.' Sorry, but I didn't take a photo of the new connection. The tape held firm and the new connection reduced the amount of escaping smoke.

Also, the WSM has three vents in the bottom, one vent on top. The vent connecting to the pipeline was wide open, the other two on the bottom were completely closed. The vent on the top was initially wide open to create a draft, and after about 30 minutes I closed it halfway.

The WSM is a water smoker, meaning it has a basin in the middle to hold the water. Remove this so it doesn't interfere with the smoke. Leave the charcoal basin in the bottom to prevent smoke from leaking out or to prevent the draft from getting too strong.

fb688bb9.jpg

8. This is the bacon as it sat in the WSM. The temperature inside never got over 100F. The day started out cloudy and cool (60F). Towards the afternoon it became sunny and warmed up to about 90F. I started the Traeger on high; about 450F for about 10 minutes. This produced a lot of smoke. I turned it down to medium (300F) for 20 minutes; then on low (150F) for 7 hours. Finally, it went back to medium for the last 30 minutes. Total smoking time: 8 hours.

fb688f84.jpg

9. This is the WSM as I opened the lid after smoking the pork bellies for 8 hours. There's a lot of smoke and the bacon looked lean. I placed it all in the freezer to harden for about an hour before slicing it on a Braun slicer.

fb688f37.jpg

10. This is the cooked bacon. I think this particular piece was originally about 12 ounces and it gave me twelve good slices and a couple not so good. The Braun slicer was on setting 2, or about 1/4 inch thick. I baked it at 425F for 15 minutes. It looked better than the photo shows.

fb688ee9.jpg

11. Time to assemble my ultimate sandwich, the Bacon, Lettuce, and Tomato. I made bread while the bacon was smoking, made homemade mayonnaise, got a tomato from a neighbor's garden, and for the first time, I'm using homemade bacon. I couldn't find any local iceberg lettuce so I had to go with store bought.

The remaining bacon was sliced and vacuumed sealed.

fb688e04.jpg

12. And here it is. The best BLT I've ever had in my life. So naturally you need one heck of a fine wine to go with it: Lafite Rothschild, 1976. You can't see it, but the wine had a beautiful red brick rim.

fb688d87.jpg

Conclusion: Okay, we know I'm not a photographer, and having gone through imagestation for this experience, I think I know how to produce better posts with photos. :wub:

I'd like to say I'll never buy store bought bacon again. If I'm in a pinch and unprepared, I'll have to buy it. But, with a little bit of planning, you too can have some fantastic bacon in just four days.


Edited by Really Nice! (log)

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you had a 27 yr old Bordeaux with a BLT? Now that's my kind of livin' LOL

Oh by the way you aren't the only one who thinks Imagestation is a POS.

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This is so aweseme. RN, why do you think your homemade bacon is better than store-bought? My guess would have been that it would be easy to outdo supermarket bacon but hard to beat the better smokehouses like Nueske.

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This is so aweseme.  RN, why do you think your homemade bacon is better than store-bought?  My guess would have been that it would be easy to outdo supermarket bacon but hard to beat the better smokehouses like Nueske.

Many thanks to you all!!!! :wub:

I'm not familiar with Nueske, so I can't comment on that.

For the most part, store bought all tastes the same. Maybe it's the preservative they use, maybe it's marketing to the masses, but the aroma, taste, and texture have a small degree of variance from one brand to the next.

The stuff made last weekend is better than store bought, at least to me, because it tastes fresher. By that I mean, this stuff smells like smoke, has the flavor of apples, molasses, mustard, and pepper, and it's not as salty. You can pick these flavors up as you eat it. It has a different kind of crunch to it too. Store bought will break into tiny pieces as you eat it; the one I made had a crunch, but it still held together for a few extra chews. This might be because I sliced it a little thicker than traditional bacon.

I'll bring some along at the next event; and we'll also have some for the next pizza party in early September. (And I'll demo the Traeger bbq with some smoked protein... ribs, brisket, salmon???)


Edited by Really Nice! (log)

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Just and FYI, Nueske's is a specialty meat processor from Wittenberg, WI that has been around forever and will ship anywhere. They smoke their cuts of meat (bacon included) using applewood and people tend to rave about it.

Of course, it seems far more rewarding to try it at home as you described. Your photos showing the smoker taped with blue masking tape really endeared me to the whole operation. Well done!


Edited by slbunge (log)

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This is it you know RN, you are taking Klink's place as the PNW smoker and all around meat man. Somebody pass the crown. Or did Klink take it with him?

hey, what about doing some bacon with maple syrup as a flavoring?? ;-) I love dunking my bacon directly into maple syrup. the two flavors were made for each other.

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This is it you know RN, you are taking Klink's place as the PNW smoker and all around meat man. Somebody pass the crown. Or did Klink take it with him?

hey, what about doing some bacon with maple syrup as a flavoring?? ;-) I love dunking my bacon directly into maple syrup. the two flavors were made for each other.

Woohoo!!!!! fb648ad3.jpg

I was describing the Traeger to Col. Klink at his going away party. He looked at me and quickly dismissed it with, "That's not smoking!" :sad:

I like that idea of using Maple Syrup, and why did I not know you'd ask! I think I'll try that next time with the dry brine instead of using honey.

Any other requests? :unsure:


Edited by Really Nice! (log)

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Daaaaaaaaaammmmnn!! Brilliant job, RN! Definitely an accomplishment worthy of that bottle of wine.

If I may jump into your thread here - I haven't had Nueske's. I haven't made my own bacon - yet. But I smoke meats of various kinds. People sometimes talk about grill magic, where meats have that extra liveliness for a few short minutes after being cooked. Well, I think there's something even more compelling for things that are smoked. Sure, there are all those variables that could or maybe even should make a commercial product better than a homemade one - technique, recipe, conditions, other choices made - but making something from scratch, especially something so fundamental and old-world as bacon... somehow, it's just better. Simpler and more complex at the same time. Someone out there can probably explain it better than I could - volatile oils, flavones, phenols, umami, complex compounds, carcinogens or whatever. But it's similar to the phenomenon of how any chicken soup made at home is better than any chicken soup made at any restaurant.

Not that this is any news to you folks. Sorry, things like this get me excited. I can't even tell you people how at home I feel on eGullet. [tear welling up]

~Tad

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I was describing the Traeger to Col. Klink at his going away party. He looked at me and quickly dismissed it with, "That's not smoking!"  :sad: 

I'm so sorry, I'm sure I was joking! I'm also pretty sure that I also went on to explain that for a long time I've been wanting to try my hand at bacon as well, but I've been waiting to set it up old-school style with firewood.

As y'all might've guessed, it's considerably more difficult to set up. But now that my new wife and I have our own house, we can totally tear up the yard! Construction will start in September (the movers still haven't arrived yet and I still need rewire a good portion of the house) and I'll be posting a lot of pictures.

Congrats on your bacon Really Nice! I whole-heartedly believe you made much better bacon than anywhere else in the city. I'm jealous! By the way, I didn't take the crown with me to Duluth -- it's actually a belt (like boxing) and the belt is a regional. Right now the belt is open to anyone who'd like to take it. All you have to do is host events with your smoked meat to be crowned. As I see it, right now Really Nice is the top contender but Schielke has expressed interest and even smoked up a couple of things. However, look out for Tad! His exurberence might overtake everyone . . .

And welcome Tad! Everyone here shares your joy of food and a number of us enjoy your zeal for smoking. :cool:

That reminds me, making your own bacon transcends just the PacNW, we need this thread moved!

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RN, what did you do with the rendered fat from the bacon?

Mmmm...rendered bacon fat.

Please tell me you saved it all and I will sleep peacefully this evening. :biggrin:

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RN, what did you do with the rendered fat from the bacon? 

Mmmm...rendered bacon fat.

Please tell me you saved it all and I will sleep peacefully this evening.  :biggrin:

Sleep well, Toliver, there's always a bowl of bacon fat in my fridge. :smile:

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Are we talking about smoking it from a raw salted pork belly, or cooking bacon from finished product?

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I was going to offer:

First you get a mama hog...

Oh well. That is probably off topic. :blush:

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In short take a cut of pork (back or belly) and cure it and then cold smoke it.

Alton Brown did a show on this a while back. check out www.goodeatsfanpage.com if you want a transcript of the show.

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