{Real Food, Pure and Simple} | Bacon

{Written with Jack, our eldest son and charcutier}

Yes bacon.  Home cured, home smoked bacon from pastured pigs.  You can do this.  It takes some space, but it is really simpler than you’d think.  You don’t need one of those expensive smoker contraptions for Christmas.  The curing was done in a roaster in our spare fridge, and Jack built the dry brick smoker in about an hour.

Curing and smoking your own meats allows you to control ingredients and flavour.  It can also save you $1 or more per pound, than if you get it from your farmer already smoked.

{Real Food, Pure and Simple} | Bacon

Smoker in Wonderland

 

{Real Food, Pure and Simple} | Bacon

Jack’s smoker is a 36″ cube, give or take.  It has an old grill rack inside it that rests on a ledge inside the smoker, made from scrap wood.  The rack sits about 2/3 way up the smoker.

 

What you need:

15 lb fresh slab bacon, right from the farm or butcher (make sure you specify that you want it uncured, unsmoked)

Maple wood for fire

Maple wood splits  (1-2″ thick by 20″ or so), or chips for smoke, green.

Brine:

  • 1lb salt (we used Kosher)
  • 3 qt very hot water
  • 1- 2/3 c. maple syrup

Dissolve the salt in the water, add syrup.  Cool the brine before adding the meat. Place a clean stone on top of the meat to hold it under the brine liquid. Do NOT use anything metal. Cure in the fridge for 2 weeks.

Remove bacon from the brine, and drain.  Build a small, slow fire in the smoker.  Let it burn until you have a bed of coals in the bottom of the smoker.  On top of the coals, place a few small, green maple splits.  When the splits start smoking, place the bacon on the smoker rack.  Add logs as needed to keep the smoke going.  You can smoke the meat from 2-6 hours, depending upon how much smoky flavour you want.  Keep your smoker temperature below 120° F.  Flip your bacon over halfway through smoking for even flavour.  Bacon is NOT cooked at this point.

Bring that slab indoors.  Slice and fry up as normal.  You can also freeze or fridge your meat.  What we’ve read says that you can keep it for up to a year, even in a pantry.  I doubt it will hang around that long.  You’re going to eat it right up, aren’t you?  This amount will last our family 6-8 weeks.

There are loads of curing options, and several smoking options.  We have just given you what we used for our bacon.  We are experimenting with dry and wet cures, and with various smoking woods.  We chose a hot smoke method to improve storage time.  It’s what we would recommend to you, particularly if you are making sausages.

We choose not to use ‘pink salt’.  There is a lot of controversy about the safety of sodium nitrite and sodium nitrite.  If you have enough salt in your liquid to float a potato, you should have the right amount of salt.  If you don’t use ‘pink salt’, the meat portion of your bacon will not be red.  It will be gray.  But awesomely delicious.  Yum, yum. yum.

We used slab bacon that was not aged.  Aged slabs are supposed to taste even better.

Bricks were reclaimed from an unused chimney in the farmhouse.  Our spare fridge was picked up on FreeCycle.  You could probably pick up used bricks on FreeCycle, or from a architectural salvage company.  The corrugated top on the smoker is a piece of sheathing that had fallen off of our barn.  The steam pan was purchased, used,  from a local restaurant supplier.

Next up… rosemary ham for Christmas Dinner