We felt much more successful after completing our bacon from this pig. This bacon was good flavored and didn’t end up too salty.
A few factors:
Our first try at bacon I used this recipe. I rubbed 3 times, and believe we let it sit for 3 days after the last rub- 6 days total. Then we soaked it to remove excess salt for 2 days? It was okay, but not very good. I still have to decide what to do with it all.
The belly itself seemed to be better flavor. The first belly had a distinct “pig” odor to me, and mostly noticeable only to me. Maybe it was the pig, maybe it was warmer vs. colder weather, maybe it was the male (although castrated) vs. female pig and the pee just contributes a “flavor” to the meat? I don’t know. I’m just glad it tasted a lot better to me this time!
The “cure” time was shorter on the dry rubbed version, and we tried a few more recipes to get better flavor(s).
The slicing process was easier; the cooking and chilling made a HUGE difference in how easily these sliced compared to my first try at bacon. The details are below.
Note: in both our first and second pig we processed at home, we did NOT have skin on our pork belly, since we skin rather than scalding and scraping our pigs. I don’t think the process is really affected by not having the skin on.
My first recipe was based on a post here at Craftzine, and another here at iamafoodblog. The final directions I followed the first time (I would NOT repeat this! see below for better options!): 1-5lb pork belly, 3/4 c salt, 3/8 c brown sugar, and 1 t pepper. Dry rub once and put on racks over a sheet to drain of moisture as it’s drawn out. Flip and repeat the rub 1-2 times and make up more rub in the listed proportion as needed, cure 3-5 days more. This was WAY too salty. We soaked, re-dried, and sliced for the freezer. We tried the same recipe as from our first bacon again, but with some changes, and it was better. I only rubbed once and it didn’t sit as long, only 3-4 days total? We still soaked off extra salt, but only for a few hours and it was tolerable before the soaking.
We tried some ziploc recipes this time as well. I really liked the ziploc cured bacon better- less mess, easier to store in the fridge in less space, fewer pans to clean up or deal with the salt and metal corrosion, etc. The only thing you need to be careful of is getting sugar and salt in the channels of the zippers. It’s about impossible to get it out and have the zippers work again! The dry rub also had a much higher proportion of salt that was impacting flavor. I had no problems with anything spoiling with less salt. These cured for 4 days and we checked them, they seemed to be “cured” at this point, but they sat for a few more days since they weren’t too salty, would gain additional flavor as they continued to “marinate” and I had other things to take care of first.
Recipe links and modifications: I used canning and pickling salt for all recipes below, and each recipe I used on a 3-5 pound chunk of pork belly. None of these had sodium nitrate, see my notes about that here.
Brown sugar and pepper- I used 1/4 c brown instead of turbindo sugar, 1/4 c salt, and I only added 1/2 T, not 1/4 CUP(?!) of black pepper.
Molasses, white sugar, and pepper- I used 1/2 c sugar, 1 T molasses, 2 T salt, 1/2 t pepper.
Maple/faux maple , and a Honey version- 1/4 c salt, generous 1/2 c maple syrup or honey. I tried one of each. I didn’t have “real” maple syrup, so I used the fake stuff and added a teaspoon of maple flavoring as well.
The honey and maple mixes didn’t “rub”- I just couldn’t get it to stick to the meat, maybe it was too wet? I did combine them before applying to the meat- maybe if I had rubbed with salt first and then put on the liquid it would have worked better. I ended up just putting it into the bag and I squished it around to help get all surfaces somewhat “covered”. I put all the bags in a tub in the fridge. They got flipped over once a day and “cured” for 4 days to a week. I was pleased with all 4 versions. I think I’ll definitely stick with this route next time rather than the dry rub. It was easier all around.
This time I put these in the oven to “smoke”- see notes on smoking in the oven at the end of my ham posting. The smoke didn’t happen, but I think this step helps to “set” the meat and the fat to make it easier to slice. You just put it in the oven at about 200 until the internal temp of the bacon reaches 150. Then cool and slice. Another thing that helped a lot for slicing this time was to put the belly pieces in the freezer for about an hour to firm up. They were easier to handle when manipulating them in my slicer and more of it was fully cut, so less was dragged back onto the working side. Also, rather than crumpling and blocking up the food exit, more came out in perfect slices. Some is still smaller or falls apart, but there was a higher quantity of the typical bacon slices you’d get at the store. Then just package, label, and put in the freezer to enjoy later.
Check my “index” post for more on how we’ve been raising and home processing our pigs.