If you missed part one, head over here to see what’s going on…Making Bacon – Step One – Curing
Just like we experimented with two cures – one with maple syrup added, one without – we also experimented with two smoking methods – hot and cold.
Hot smoke is faster, cold smoke…isn’t. But cold smoke seems more authentic, somehow. You know, like people would have done it back in the olden days.
Anyway, John was at our house not only for the smoking of the bacon but also for the brewing of the beer. John and Bill have been brewing beer together for years – longer than I’ve known Bill, for example – so something like nearly fifteen years. So all this bacon-making had been coordinated with a session of beer brewing.
But back to the pork…the first step was to unwrap the pieces of pork belly that had been curing for the past week.
Here’s one of ‘em:
Curing changes the texture of the meat. It firms it up and gives it a glistening, jewel-like appearance.
After rinsing the cure off of the meat, John took charge of prepping each piece for the hot or cold smoke. For the cold, he punched a hole in one end of each piece of cured belly and ran a bit of rope through it.
He’d rigged some sort of hanger for our electric smoker. John likes to rig stuff.
The pieces for the hot smoke didn’t need as much attention – they were just going to lie there on the rack.
Oh, and remember those ribs that we removed in the last post? Here they are again – covered in a dry rub and ready for some smoke.
Here’s the bacon, after about an hour and a half of hot smoke. That little bit over on the side is part of the trimmings. Waste nothing!
The ribs will take several hours, but the bacon will reach an internal temperature of 150 degrees F in another hour or so. We kept the smoker temperature around 200 while the bacon was in there, and let it creep up closer to 235 or so to finish the ribs.
Now, if you don’t have a smoker, you can do this in your oven, too. The directions in the book, in fact, are for the oven. You want to set it at 200 and just roast the bacon, uncovered, at that temperature until you get the desired internal temp. Very simple, though you won’t get the smoky element.
Once you’ve reached the desired temperature, you should let it cool, but it’s really hard to resist a little taste.
We also trimmed off the skin. It gets very tough – not so pleasant to chew. But you don’t have to toss it out. You can freeze it and add bits of it to other dishes for flavor. Waste nothing!
The interesting thing about making your own bacon is that when you fry it up (and ohhhhhhhhhhhh, isn’t bacon one of the 7 Natural Wonderful Smells of the World or something?), you’ll notice it doesn’t shrink and release a ton of fat like most of the store-bought bacon you buy. It’s meatier. And it’s very, very tasty. Oh, and the maple cured version – definitely the way to go. At least, if you like maple syrup. And I happen to think maple + smoked meat = perfection. (I don’t like syrup on my pancakes, but I do like syrup on sausage. Is that weird? Does it matter?)
Okay, now here are the cold smoke pork bellies, hanging from their little contraption.
These took something like 7 hours or more to get up to temperature, and unfortunately I wasn’t home when it was finished. I had been working on a couple of cakes that day, and I left to deliver them and to see my sister promoted to 2nd degree black belt. So I missed the first tasting of the cold-smoked.
Personally, I liked the cold-smoked version better, but there wasn’t an enormous difference between them.
Something else I just discovered…this WASN’T the first time we’d made bacon. I’d forgotten – we dipped our toes in the smoky waters back in February of that same year.
Only, we didn’t know as much about what we were supposed to be doing.
For one thing, we didn’t remove the ribs first.
With all that extra thickness in there, the meat under the ribs sort of steamed. Not exactly the texture we wanted.
So we threw both ribs and belly back on the grill to give them some more smoke.
And, later, Bill gave the ribs some barbecue sauce.
And, finally, five and a half hours after the meat went into the smoker, we ate.
Well, we ate the ribs.
I’ve only got one picture from dinner – or from just before dinner. And, frankly, it’s a terrible picture – blurry, in-a-hurry…I was probably overcome with hunger. But I’m glad I took it, just because I know what we ate for dinner besides the ribs.
(Yes, this is the House of Chaos here – a cannister of flour sharing the table with our meal. And see right near it? Right behind Bill’s arm? Those are containers of cookie cutters. It’s February here – two months after Christmas, and I still haven’t put everything away yet. Sigh.)
So apart from all the things that DON’T belong, we’ve got, on the table, the ribs…rice…it sort of looks I combined lentils with the rice, but it’s hard to tell…anyway, there’s also…some brown stuff in a bowl near the flour cannister…and a dish of something yellowish..and – just beyond the platter of ribs, there appear to be slices of the meat from our bacon. Only, they’re not sliced like bacon. They’re sliced like…slices.
As I remember, Bill sliced layers of meat from beneath the ribs like this – simple slices of smoked pork – until he got closer to the fat/meat/fat layers where the actual bacon is. We ate THAT in slices as bacon. Probably the next morning.
We also used the skin. Yep. I made fried pork rinds. Never even had them before, but I made them.
I’ll talk about that tomorrow. Stay tuned!