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Sunday, March 30, 2014

Makin' Bacon, Part 2

     Well the week of curing is finished.  I removed the pork belly from the refrigerator,rinsed it thoroughly with cold water and dried it with paper towels.  I also spent some time putting a fine edge on my chef's knife.


     I cut the pork belly in half for three reasons; 1: each chunk was now a generous pound, 2: They fit better in standard Zip Lock bags, and 3: Uniform 12 inch slices would tax my knife skills.  Next I spritzed them lightly with the Jack Daniels and put them in the smoker at 100 degrees for four hours.  The smoker, by the way, was burning applewood pellets.  They were basted occasionally with that same spritzer.

     After four hours, I cranked it up to 180 degrees until the internal temperature reached 150.  This is what one of them looked like after six hours.  The paring knife is to provide a sense of scale.

     At this point they were wiped down again, bagged and refrigerated overnight.  The next morning, which happened to be Sunday, they were ready to slice.  This is an eight inch chef's knife.

     What you see on my homemade cutting board, in addition to my shadow, is one of the two halves, sliced.  The end slices and off-cuts I'll show you later.  In deference to the fingertips of my left hand, the last slice was less than uniform.  Next came the culmination of the entire endeavor.  I carefully fried the end pieces.  When they were almost done, I added a couple of jumbo eggs to the frying pan and called it breakfast.

     They tasted like real, old fashioned bacon.  Of course the end pieces received the benefit of a higher level of the spices, so the taste was more intense than will be the case with the later slices.  Durelle pronounced them, "Very salty".  I loved them, and I hope that the remaining slices will be closer to Durelle's preferences.  As another note, I keep a topless "tin" can in the fridge to collect grease and drippings to keep them out of the sewer.  When the can is full, it goes into the trash.  In this frying pan there was not enough bacon fat to pour off!
     One of the packages went back in the refrigerator while the other is in the freezer.  Will I do it again?  I certainly think so.  It is not that much work.  The bacon spends the time by itself...curing for a week and smoking for a half a day.  The dry rub is easy to make, and cleaning up the Jack Daniels spritzer is even easier.  Slicing is the only task that takes some care and attention.  I'll have to find a butcher that will supply the trimmed pork bellies, but I think I already know where to go.  What else can I do with all that pink curing salt at the rate of two teaspoons per pork belly?  Before I'd begin to put a dent in that supply, I'd have a years supply of bacon.  Furthermore, because of the intensity of the flavor, it will go further.  I'd probably find myself giving it away.
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