Bacon and BBQ were made for each other!
I’m not a fan of most manufactured bacon, most of the supermarket we can get here is tasteless and pumped with that much water it sticks to the pan when you cook it!
Bacon isn’t hard to make yourself and it gives you a real sense of achievement to make your own.
Bacon is cured pork loin (Australia, Britain Canada) and/or belly (USA) that has then been cured, then cooked either with or without smoke. The “cure” can be achieved a number of ways, most manufacturers will use a commercial cure containing sodium nitrate, it’s dangerous stuff and you need to adhere strictly to the recipe or instructions that you have. The nitrate acts as a preservative and it fixes the myoglobin to create a pink colour that we recognise nowadays as Ham or Bacon. If you get the quantities wrong, you can make a product that is poisonous, so be extremely careful. Sodium nitrate is found as a mineral or can be synthesised for use in food preservation, solid rocket fuel, fertiliser, smoke bombs and a heap of other pursuits.
There is a lot of debate on Nitrate and if it is harmful or not, you’ll just have to do the research and make up your own mind. We don’t get Pink Salt in Australia, but the tub of kwikurit that I have here has a large red label that says Poison! Suffice to say you need to be exact when measuring out the recommended quantities of this stuff!
Before the widespread commercial use of nitrate cures, bacon was simply cured with salt, or salt and sugar, the result was grey when cooked, more like cooked pork, I don’t mind that at all. It also won’t last as long in the fridge as nitrate cured, but that’s not a problem for me as bacon only sits in my fridge for a day or two before it is used anyway! You can add whatever you like to this basic cure to infuse extra flavour into the bacon, we all know maple cured bacon, but think about other flavours, I like juniper, thyme and oregano work well and I’ve played with curry paste in my salt/sugar cure before and that is interesting. If you want that pink colour and a bit more longevity in the fridge then try this idea! Bacon can also be brine cured, so you could make almost any flavour you want. I found a Bourbon and Vanilla cured Bacon recipe while writing this article, and that is next on my “to do” list!
A number of vegetables contain nitrate, one of the richest is celery. So lately I’ve been adding celery juice to my bacon salt/sugar cure to increase shelf life a little and bring some of that characteristic pink colour into the game, why not!
“Green cured” Bacon
Allow a week to make this (and two days to eat it) I use pork Belly because I prefer the “Streaky” bacon.
- 2 cups salt
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 Tablespoon of Juniper Berries
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- Lemon rind
- 1 teaspoon mustard seed
- Handful of fresh parsley
- 1 cup celery Juice
Blend all the ingredients in a blender to form a wet texture
Cover the pork belly in the salt/sugar mix and refrigerate for5-7 days, turn the pork once a day. Quite a bit of liquid is extracted from the pork during the curing, this is exactly what you want to happen, this makes the bacon firm and it fries better, too much moisture steams the bacon as it fries, anything that helps make bacon crisp is a good thing!
Rinse the pork belly thoroughly to remove the cure. Cut and fry a small piece, this is to test for saltiness, if it is too salty, soak in clean water for a few hours to leech some of the salt out. Test it again! If need be you can soak the cured belly in clean water for a day or two. After this I will run a little Gin or Scotch onto the surface to dry off the water, use whatever alcohol you prefer.
Allow the pork to air dry in the fridge overnight, this forms a pellicle which helps the smoke stick.
Smoke and cook the pork belly gently till the bacon is 60°C, I’m using my Gas smoker box, but a small pile of charcoal in a kettle with a couple of chunks of hickory or some other flavour wood would do the job as well.
Once the bacon has cooked, let it rest in the fridge for a day before enjoying.
If a little black seed like Chia and be a superfood then Bacon is surely a super-superfood, a food of the Gods if you like!
Making Bacon is a great thing to do, the results are spectacular! What could be better than feeding a bunch of mates a hangover curing breakfast and being able to say “I made that bacon!”