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August 23, 2013

Makin’ Bacon (Home Made Smoked Bacon In A Weber Kettle)

by Carazy
We all know bacon is awesome. I’ve always wanted to cure my own bacon and came across some organic pork belly on special and thought it an opportune time to make my own from scratch. Well almost, as raising pigs in the city isn’t going to happen in a hurry!
** I chose not to use sodium nitrite. Seriously, humans have been curing meats without it for centuries. Sure botulism can occur but that’s more from poor food handling and I’m extremely confident with natural food preservation methods and common sense. If they can make cured smallgoods without refrigeration in bygone eras we should be able to do it nowadays with no issues. So…. Make your cure and have it ready. Pull pork out of fridge. Rub it thoroughly.  Put it straight back in fridge. Do not let it sit uncured on the bench for extended periods of time. (You can do that after it’s cured!)
I recommend Googling a few recipes for cures. There’s thousands of variations and after all that I ended up making my own recipe. Make more cure as you want to pack it on and the ingredients are cheap. Or simply make a bit more as you need it over the week of curing.
1 Large Pork Belly
2:1 by weight salt to sugar.
So 200g sea salt to 100g brown sugar.
NOTE: Weight is the key word here. Not volume. As grain size can differ greatly.
Optional: (These are not necessary to cure bacon but you can add them for a hint of flavour.)
Black Peppercorns crushed
Coriander Seeds crushed
Red Chilli flakes
Bay leaf powder
Dried Oregano
Dried Fennel Seeds
As some of you may know most of the pork sold to you comes from sows. Apparently the meat is just more delicious from the female pig.
I cut the whole pork belly into two to make it more manageable. Pat/wipe it dry with paper towels.
I premixed the curing ingredients together into a bowl. Note the scales to weigh the salt and sugar. Also the mortar and pestle to grind the spices and herbs and to mix everything together.
Cure powder thoroughly rubbed all over the pork belly.I left this in the fridge in a sealed container for about a week. Draining any liquid off each day and applying more cure to the outer flesh.
There is something very strange about rubbing pig nipples. Especially as they get harder and harder each day due to the curing process!
I took the bellies out and wiped them with paper towels to dry them then let them sit in front of a fan to dry out while I began prep on the weber kettle bbq. No idea what the bottle of Wipeout is doing there. Someone brought that to my house more than a decade ago and it remains unopened to this day! (For good reason) One day I might use it in a dessert or in cooking.
I decided to use two cans for this smoke. One large 800gram tomato tin to hold the heat beads and keep them together in a confined area. Also to allow me to minimise direct heat to the bacon.
I used a can opener to punch a whole heap of holes in the bottom of the smaller can  to allow heat to travel up and get the wood chips to smoulder.
The pork belly was then placed on one side of the weber’s top grate. You can see the charcoal beads in the large tin on the lower grate directly under the can holding the wood chips. I also made a heat shield using foil to reduce the direct heat transferring to the pork.
I would check the pork bellies every hour or so to ensure
1) There was enough heat in the charcoals to ensure continual cooking.
2) Top up the wood chips if required.
3) Ensure the pork belly wasn’t getting burnt or over cooked.
After about 8 hours of I decided I was happy enough with the smokiness. I also checked the internal temp of the bacon to ensure it had reached 65°C (150°F)
After it cooled I sliced it up for packaging.
It was definitely bacon overload in the freezer. Not a bad thing though. A lot of the packages were going to close friends who were lucky enough to sample some of the delicious smokey porcine goodness.
After all that  hard (***COUGH*** it was easy!) work I decided that bacon and eggs for dinner was in order to celebrate. I had all the outer edges and offcuts including the ribs left over. Essentially the prime bits of the whole bacon cut. They sizzled away perfectly in the cast iron skillet.
Lastly the eggs were dropped in for the perfect one dish meal. Needless to say it tasted sen-fricken-sational.
I highly recommend you attempt this at least once. It really isn’t that hard and although it may seem time consuming,  actual attention time is minimal and the results are amazing.
You could easily do this in a hooded bbq as well.
 For those wondering what’s with all the plastic in the curing photos. No it isn’t a kill room. I was doing some painting to my kitchen as I’d just spent a couple of months renovating it myself. It did come in handy with cleaning up after. Just wrap up the plastic sheet and throw away!
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