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Making Bacon


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While it is more authentic, my problem with it was that it exposes more of the belly to the outside, meaning that you get more of the 'salty outer edge' phenomenon.  The flavor was very good, but I think next time I'd do it as a full slab because it got too salty in too many areas.

I'm pretty sure that in Ruhlman recipe (quoting from memory here), you first rinse off the cure and then rest/dry for 12-24 hours (?). Presumably this both develops the dry surface you want and also distributes the cure more evenly internally.

In my single (successful) attempt at making bacon I didn't notice that the edges were significantly more salty.

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I'm looking at the NY Times' adaptation of Ruhlman's recipe right now. It looks, well, dead easy. I think that, rather than cooking it in the oven, I can just smoke it in my Char-Griller; 200 degrees should be easy to maintain if I use only a few coals and keep the bacon far away from the smoke box.

The question I have is about the sodium nitrite, listed as optional. I figure that botulism isn't much of a concern; other than two hours or so in the smoker, the bacon will spend its life in the refrigerator. I'd just as soon skip the nitrite... but I'm also a bit of a nervous Nelly. Any recommendations?

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That's a good question. Philosophically, I'd like to keep the recipe as simple as possible, eliminating excess ingredients; but that's not a really strong opinion. And I don't really know how to balance the potential risks of nitrites against the potential risk of botulism.

When it comes right down to it, I don't know. Just looking for more information and opinions...

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Why don't you split your batch in half and do one with and one without the nitrite? There is a certain cured property you get from using the nitrite that you won't get without. It's kind of a combination of flavor and texture difference. As well as being a protection against botulism. I always use it but then again, I smoke my belly for around 10 hours and that's a long time in an anaerobic environment.

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Why don't you split your batch in half and do one with and one without the nitrite? There is a certain cured property you get from using the nitrite that you won't get without. It's kind of a combination of flavor and texture difference. As well as being a protection against botulism. I always use it but then again, I smoke my belly for around 10 hours and that's a long time in an anaerobic environment.

I'd be interested in hearing how that turns out. I've only done it with pink salt.

I've got a friend who might be able to get me some wild pig belly. Anyone have any experience with making bacon from a wild pig?

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I'm looking at the NY Times' adaptation of Ruhlman's recipe right now.  It looks, well, dead easy.  I think that, rather than cooking it in the oven, I can just smoke it in my Char-Griller; 200 degrees should be easy to maintain if I use only a few coals and keep the bacon far away from the smoke box.

The question I have is about the sodium nitrite, listed as optional.  I figure that botulism isn't much of a concern; other than two hours or so in the smoker, the bacon will spend its life in the refrigerator.  I'd just as soon skip the nitrite... but I'm also a bit of a nervous Nelly.  Any recommendations?

The amount of pink salt (not sodium nitrite) called for in the NY Times adaptation of the cure seems excessive. Looking at the master recipe for the basic dry cure in the book using sugar instead of dextrose shows 10 teaspoons pink salt for a recipe that yields circa 3.5 cups cure. One belly probably needs just 1/4 cup of the curing mixture which contains about 1.5 teaspoons pink salt. A little bit of this stuff goes a long way!

I do think the nitrite addition does have a positive effect on both color and flavor in the finished product.

Edited by 6ppc (log)

Jon

--formerly known as 6ppc--

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The amount of pink salt (not sodium nitrite) called for in the NY Times adaptation of the cure seems excessive. Looking at the master recipe for the basic dry cure in the book using sugar instead of dextrose shows 10 teaspoons pink salt for a recipe that yields circa 3.5 cups cure. One belly probably needs just 1/4 cup of the curing mixture which contains about 1.5 teaspoons pink salt. A little bit of this stuff goes a long way!

I do think the nitrite addition does have a positive effect on both color and flavor in the finished product.

That's a scary and potentially dangerous misprint, reinforced by the note that says that sodium nitrite is sold under various names, which might be true but is misleading, since pure nitrite isn't used in curing. In Charcuterie, the recipe calls for 2 teaspoons (12 grams) of pink salt, which would include 0.75 grams of nitrite. By my calculations, that's a reasonable amount for a five-pound belly, though you could probably get away with less.

Dave Scantland
Executive director
dscantland@eGstaff.org
eG Ethics signatory

Eat more chicken skin.

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I've consistently scaled the Ruhlman/Polcyn ratios for pink salt down by 25-50% without detrimental effect to meat or family. However, I've really come to appreciate the pink color, plus the flavor/texture difference Pallee mentions, so I use it consistently.

No experience with wild pigs, but I'd think that the process would basically be the same, right? You're getting porkier pig, for sure, and probably leaner meat. But as for curing and smoking, I think there aren't too many adjustments to make.

Chris Amirault

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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The amount of pink salt (not sodium nitrite) called for in the NY Times adaptation of the cure seems excessive. Looking at the master recipe for the basic dry cure in the book using sugar instead of dextrose shows 10 teaspoons pink salt for a recipe that yields circa 3.5 cups cure. One belly probably needs just 1/4 cup of the curing mixture which contains about 1.5 teaspoons pink salt. A little bit of this stuff goes a long way!

I do think the nitrite addition does have a positive effect on both color and flavor in the finished product.

That's a scary and potentially dangerous misprint, reinforced by the note that says that sodium nitrite is sold under various names, which might be true but is misleading, since pure nitrite isn't used in curing. In Charcuterie, the recipe calls for 2 teaspoons (12 grams) of pink salt, which would include 0.75 grams of nitrite. By my calculations, that's a reasonable amount for a five-pound belly, though you could probably get away with less.

Are we looking at the same recipe, found here?

It says 2 teaspoons for a 5 pound belly.

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Are we looking at the same recipe, found here?

It says 2 teaspoons for a 5 pound belly.

Yep. Problem is the way that recipe is worded one could be tempted to use pure sodium nitrite rather than pink salt (which has only a small % sodium nitrite).

Pure sodium nitrite can kill you.

Jon

--formerly known as 6ppc--

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That's a pretty awful mistake, especially considering it's made painfully clear in Charcuterie that you're not using sodium nitrite. It helps a bit though that they suggest to buy it at Butcher-Packer and tell you the product name.

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I've consistently scaled the Ruhlman/Polcyn ratios for pink salt down by 25-50% without detrimental effect to meat or family. However, I've really come to appreciate the pink color, plus the flavor/texture difference Pallee mentions, so I use it consistently.

. . . .

I use it, too, but because I brine rather than rub, I calculate the amount needed using what I call the Bertolli Displacement method. For a five-pound belly, it calls for 16.6 grams of pink salt. (Keep in mind that not all of that will migrate into the meat.)

Dave Scantland
Executive director
dscantland@eGstaff.org
eG Ethics signatory

Eat more chicken skin.

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Yep. Problem is the way that recipe is worded one could be tempted to use pure sodium nitrite rather than pink salt (which has only a small % sodium nitrite).

Pure sodium nitrite can kill you.

Eek! That is indeed a terrifying typo. Well, I've ordered pink salt (and a copy of Charcuterie), so I should be okay. Thanks for the information, folks.

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  • 2 weeks later...

gallery_58047_5582_333.jpg

We did our first batch of bacon recently, so I thought I would share some pictures. It all starts with the pork belly, of course. We got this one from our local butcher:

gallery_58047_5582_45243.jpg

We cured it based on the savory recipe from Charcuterie. Here it is at the start of curing:

gallery_58047_5582_124057.jpg

After a week, it was time to put it on the WSM:

gallery_58047_5582_128931.jpg

Smoked using apple wood to an internal temp just under 140. It took about 5 1/2 hours. Here it is hot off the smoker:

gallery_58047_5582_38925.jpg

Cutting off the skin:

gallery_58047_5582_63038.jpg

Sliced:

gallery_58047_5582_56304.jpg

And the payoff - the first BLT:

gallery_58047_5582_33051.jpg

I'm a convert. I won't be buying bacon again...

Food Blog: Menu In Progress

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I'm a convert. I won't be buying bacon again...

Liberating isn't it? We have not bought bacon since starting to cure our own.

It is also economical since bellies are around $2 / lb or less and good bacon is more like $10 / lb and up...

Jon

--formerly known as 6ppc--

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I'm a convert. I won't be buying bacon again...

Liberating isn't it? We have not bought bacon since starting to cure our own.

It is also economical since bellies are around $2 / lb or less and good bacon is more like $10 / lb and up...

Nice work. That looks really tasty. Your photos lead me to an interesting question -- does it matter which side is up when you smoke your bellies? I noticed you put yours skin-side down. When I did mine a few weeks ago, I smoked them skin side up. Is there a difference, you think?

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Your photos lead me to an interesting question -- does it matter which side is up when you smoke your bellies?  I noticed you put yours skin-side down.  When I did mine a few weeks ago, I smoked them skin side up.  Is there a difference, you think?

We wondered about that as well, but couldn't find any info suggesting one way or another. Skin side down work just fine, though.

Food Blog: Menu In Progress

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Since I'm getting five pigs' heads this weekend I'm thinking that in addition to making traditional Guanciale, I will also try to make some "Smoked Guanciale" -- any thoughts as to whether I should still hang the meat for three weeks as well? Should I do that before or after smoking? I guess after, but I haven't tried to dry cure anything before, so I'm a bit new at it...

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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  • 2 weeks later...

Another member of the bacon party here. A week or so back, I bought two cheap ($1.59/lb) pieces of pork belly, each about 3 pounds, and cured one with Ruhlman's maple cure, and the other with a mix of black pepper, garlic and juniper berries:

gallery_7432_3413_1198.jpg

(cruddy camera phone picture, I know!)

Thursday night was smokin' night! Here's the maple bacon, smoked, chilled and sliced:

gallery_7432_3413_1208.jpg

I overcooked the bacons a little bit; the texture is a little more pork-y and less bacon-y than I'd have liked. I'm not sure whether that's because my thermometer is inaccurate, or if I should heat it to less than 150 degrees, as Ruhlman recommends. I'll calibrate my thermometer this week, and figure out what the deal was. At any rate, both bacons fried up great:

gallery_7432_3413_75268.jpg

Crispy and good!

Since I'd smoked a turkey breast at the same time as the bacon, I sliced some fresh avocado and made a rockin' good club sandwich for dinner... and I just ate another for breakfast. Hurray!

As good as this bacon was, there are some things I'll do differently next time:

- It's gotta be worth it to spend the money on really good pork. I'm going to see if I can get some good local pork belly; otherwise I'll shell out for Niman or the like.

- The bacon cooked at about 200 degrees. But I'd like to try to keep it at the far end of my smoker from the firebox (where the temperature is somewhat lower). If I could keep it in there for another hour, I could really up the smokiness.

Still, all I can do is echo what others have said: making bacon is easy, not expensive, and super satisfying. I'm looking forward to my next batch!

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