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Making Bacon


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Chris, since you add water to your cure, do you change the cure ingredient quantities? 

Nope. I'm going for "easiest brine method," and since I now go entirely by feel & sight to determine whether the meat is cured, I don't care about whether the brine is diluted. It's the ratios of the ingredients to each other in the dredging cure that concern me (salt to sweet to pepper to herb). Given that it's the only water I add, I think that the brine solution is very strong for a wet cure anyway.

Chris Amirault

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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Okay, I'm going to just add a couple of cubes and forget about the extra salt. I took the skin off one slab before adding the cure so I may as well do it to that one and make it a total experiment. I'll likely be smoking it on Friday so that will tell the tale...........

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There's been a big debate about the "dry" vs wet cure here, Marlene, and a lot of us have come to the conclusion that Ruhlman's "dry" cure doesn't distribute the cure evenly enough. I have done his method many times using my FoodSaver machine, and the bellies don't release enough liquid to allow for complete overhauls of the meat in the cure. That results in lots of intense edge curing, with exteriors more salty and sweet than interiors. I've served lots of pieces of bacon that are extra dark on the ends from having too much sugar there.

So, this time around, I used a modified-Ruhlman approach, dredging the bellies in his cure, sticking them in pretty tight-fitting pans, and then barely covering them with water. This is very imprecise -- there are a lot of people who have strict notions about brine percentages that may find this heresy -- but it resulted in a very strong curing liquid, easy overhauling (moving the meat around in the cure), and a even distribution.

Perhaps this would only work once you've done it a few times another way. I've done enough bellies that I'm now going by feel; I can tell when it's cured enough. However, the ease is very attractive, and the results excellent. Next time -- I'm eager to do another rosemary cure soon -- I'll document the entire process.

In Kutas book he describes a box cure method where the bellies are dry cured for a couple of days to release liquid, and then a brine is added to submerse the bellies for the remainder of the curing process. The brine ingredients are the same as the dry cure ingredients except they are dissolved in water.

I did not add liquid to mine, but did overhaul and redistribute the cure every 2 days. I actually dumped out the liquid as it accumulated so it would not overcure the submerged piece on the bottom. A true dry cure if you will. I made sure the pieces were pressed together very tightly and rotated them as I overhauled. Also did a nine day cure.

I'm interested in seeing the results of your experiment Elsie

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I will post when I am finished. My initial reaction is that the piece that has the water in it seems slower to firm up, but then it's only been a day. Mine will be an 8 day cure as I want to smoke them Friday as I'm giving away a slab on Saturday.

What proportions of what did Kutas use? (I'm not familiar with him.)

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We did a taste test of the bacon yesterday. I thought the flavour of the one cured without the rind was slightly better than the one cured with the rind. My husband thought the opposite. Given that the two opinions cancel each other out, I guess it makes no difference. Neither could I tell any difference in the taste between the one that had ice cubes added to the cure and the one that didn't. The moisture content and flavour seemed to be the same as the one without. It sure is good stuff, though. The maple sugar and maple syrup really adds to the flavour of the bacon.

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  • 1 month later...

Is it possible to overcure a belly?

I've just purchased a 5lb, skin on pork belly. I have to smoke it either next Saturday or Sunday. I'm trying to ensure it is fully cured by that time, but also do not want to "overcure" it (if that is possible).

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Whether it's cured by then depends on the method you're using to cure it, but yes, it is possible to over-cure. If the belly has firmed up before the day you want to cure, I'd rinse the cure off, then dry the belly and either wrap it up or leave out to develop the pellicle.

On a separate note, though, I'm sort of dubious of the effectiveness of a pellicle. I've never really done one, and I've always had success getting my bacon smoky. Anyone done side-by-sides?

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I'm using a dry cure:

2 oz Kosher salt

2 tsp pink salt

1 1/2 oz coarse ground pepper

1 oz sugar

I went ahead and started the cure last night. I figured I'd do what you already suggested - that is, if it feels ready before I am, to rinse the cure and leave it in the fridge until I can smoke it. Given the size of the belly, I don't think it will be ready until at least Friday, so that should work out perfectly.

Also, as I am sure is evident from the recipe, I'm making a pepper bacon. Originally, I was going to put another coating of pepper on the belly before I smoked it, but I seemed to have forgotten about the skin when I decided to do this. It appears I have three choice here: (1) remove the skin before smoking so I can put on a coating of pepper, (2) put the coating of pepper on the bottom of the belly, or (3) skip the pepper coating altogether.

Removing the skin seems to defeat the point of buying a skin-on belly. Coating the bottom seems counterintuitive. But skipping the pepper outright still seems like the worst choice.

Any suggestions?

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  • 2 months later...

I'm sure you can find some online, but I'd suggest to get the charcuterie book by Ruhlman, it'll be nice to have anyway. I don't have it handy right now, but I also think it's not ok to post recipes from books here (copyright and all that)

You also need the right curing salt, I'd suggest butcherpacker.com to buy that (and a ton of other things you will probably want soon). Great prices, fast service. Lost of good info on their site too.

You can make the bacon sweet or savory, which ever you prefer, I usually add garlic, bay leaf, pepper and sometimes rosemary.

Happy smoking!

"And don't forget music - music in the kitchen is an essential ingredient!"

- Thomas Keller

Diablo Kitchen, my food blog

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The easiest and perhaps most informative thing to do is start at this very topic from the beginning (here's a link to take you to the start: click!

Then post a plan here. We've got plenty of bacon experience, and we'll be happy to help (or second-guess, as the case may be)!

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

Eat more chicken skin.

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  • 4 weeks later...

My Bacon has been coming out a little too salty for my taste. I have read from some of you guys that you have soaked the bacon in cold water for an hour or two to take some of the salt out. I am just wondering; will this soaking make the water reabsorb back into the bacon, something I don't really want.

Are there any alternatives ways of reducing the saltiness but still retain the firmness of the bacon?

Sodium Nitrite

I live in Japan and I only have access to Sodium Nitrite (unless I spend a fortune and buy it from the UK or USA.

I just wanted to check what Ruhlman and Polcyn have written about pink salt quantities in their Charcuterie book page 38ish. Are they describing the Pink Salt mixture as 93.75% Salt and 6.25% nitirite? So if I measure this out, perhaps 6% nitrite to be safe, to 94% salt and use that as my pink salt I should be okay, right?

Cheers,

Scott

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I'm curing two bacons right now, both are somewhere around 3.5 lb. One is cured with the Charcuterie recipe for savory bacon (bayleaf, garlic, etc) and seems to come along fine, getting a bit harder. The other is cured with a mix from butcher/packer (cure with maple sugar) and if I calculated things correctly I should have used plenty enough cure. that one is softer still, though. I did add a bit of maple syrup to get even more sweetness. The meaty side is hardening up, the fat side is still pretty soft though. Should I be worried? The meat is w/o skin, it's from a Berkshire pig and they don't have the facility to take all the hair off (yet). Once smoked half of these will go to a friend.

I've only done this a couple times and have no idea what might indicate a bad/imperfect curing process. I sure don't want to poison anyone, should I add some more curing mix? Should I just see what happens? Throw it out if it stays soft? I really have no clue on how to be sure that this will not be a botulism bomb...

Edit to add: I cured them on Monday, so they have an other two + days to go

Grateful for any pointers...

Edited by OliverB (log)

"And don't forget music - music in the kitchen is an essential ingredient!"

- Thomas Keller

Diablo Kitchen, my food blog

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I'm turning them over every day. Might just be that the fat of the Berkshire doesn't harden as much as what ever breed it is they sell at the Asian market? Skin is off, since these are extremely hairy pigs (as the 4 feet in the freezer can attest to) and they don't have a way to scald it on the ranch.

I guess since I'm not curing this for weeks or months I'll probably be fine any way. If I get around to it, and if they have it in stock, I'm probably gonna get the big green egg XL this weekend and smoke them on there :-)

Thanks Chris!

"And don't forget music - music in the kitchen is an essential ingredient!"

- Thomas Keller

Diablo Kitchen, my food blog

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Hi all,

Thanks for the double check ElsieD. I have using Hugh Fearnly-Whittingsall's "Meat" recipe to cure bacon. But the next bacon I will try is the Charcuterie book. When I compare Hugh's and Ruhlman's recipes I think I see why my bacon is coming out too salty. In Hugh's recipe, he calls for a paper towel pat down and a re-rub from a cure batch ever day, while Ruhlman (from memory, at work and don't have access to the book) just requires an initial cure rub, chuck in a ziplock bag and then each day rub around the cure while in the bag.

Oh and one thing on soaking out the salt in cold water that was recommended a while ago. I conducted an experiment last night and weighed my bacon before soaking to remove salt and it was 1142grams; after soaking and a pat down by bacon gained 37grams making it 1179grams. I let it hang over night in the hope to dry it out a bit before smoking.

Thanks again guys you are great.

Cheers,

Scott

Scott Donald

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Scott, for what it's worth, I never soak my bacon. I use the Ruhlman method, and just rinse off the cure, pat it dry and put it in the fridge for 24 hours so the pellicule can form. After that, I smoke it until the temp hits about 150. I used to buy "reduced salt" bacon as I found the regular bacon too salty but I find Ruhlman's cure to be just right. Good luck.

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Thanks ElsieD I will be using the Ruhlman recipe this weekend. I have a feeling that the once only application of salt is going to make all the difference as opposed to Hugh F-W's daily application.

Oh and thankyou for the link.

Now I am off to find a meat grinder and sausage maker on Japanese Ebay. This Charcuterie is addictive.

Cheers,

Scott

Edited by yagisanatode (log)
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Let us know how you get on...I have a "salt plus sugar plus this and that in a ziploc bag" cure going right now.

I don't find that method too salty. Maybe the size of the belly pieces is smaller than those used in the US? I know mine are only about a pound each at the most...the salt probably penetrates faster than with a larger piece. Also, since we are often buying imported pork here, our meat may be frozen and then thawed...that might affect salt uptake too.

I don't use nitrite either...read somewhere that it makes little difference to spoilage, and figured that I was happy enough with the texture and taste as it is.

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On bacon recipes:

I did an English style bacon a bit ago from a recipe I got from a friend. We were actually trying to make gammon steaks, but as near as I can tell its the same cure. We sliced some paper thin and they were very nice. These were unsmoked the first time but we tried smoking later batches and that helped the flavor a lot. I haven't tried American style bacon, but based on this thread I need to. I get my pork belly at either Whole Foods/Central Market or from a Korean butcher shop. For the below, I used center cut pork roasts.

1/2 cup salt

3/4 cup molasses

3 TBS Cure #1

20 Juniper Berries

4 Bay leaves crushed

3 TBS Black Pepper (cracked)

1/4 tsp sodium erythorbate (iso-ascorbate)

1 tsp Mace

1 tsp liquid smoke

3 quarts water

Heat the mess until boiling and let cool. We went and lifted while it can to room temperature. We injected the center of each roast with a spray injector, stuck it into a vacuum container and drowned the meat in the solution. After about 10 days, remove, dry and smoke between 130-145 F over mesquite and cedar for 90 minutes. Slice thin like lunch meat...

Kevin

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Hi Helen,

Thanks for the tips. I have been getting my bacon from a Chinese butcher/ grocer here in Numazu. I can get the pork belly in 1kg slabs. I have also found a good butcher (who can get me cheap himalayan truffles btw :)) who can get me local pork belly that hasn't been frozen for a little bit more. I was also thinking of getting a slab of pork belly from "The Meat Gut" too.

The bacon I made seemed to work out well but and the pancetta I have hanging in the hallway is smelling really good.

Let me know how your bacon turns out.

Cheers,

Scott

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