“You have made bacon. You are like unto God,” said my friend, Chris.
“Oh my God, this bacon is obscene,” said another.
I even received the offer of being my cabana boy in exchange for a hookup of cured pork belly.
I think Kelis got it wrong: it ain’t milkshakes that bring the boys to the yard.
There’s something so primal about seeing those thick ribbons of fat and the lip-smacking expectation of smoky, savory meat. There’s nothing quite like the flavor profile that bacon adds to a recipe, turning greens into a sturdy side dish, intensifying sweets with its saltiness, and making a Sunday brunch dish memorable.
It is no secret that I love bacon, and learning how to make my own is one of the greatest pieces of knowledge I now have in my repertoire. To be fair, this is not the first time I’ve made bacon–when Michael Ruhlman posted his instructions on how to home-cure bacon, I absolutely had to do it. How could I not? Still, even though I may have had a head start on some other Charcutepaloozers, I found myself making some rookie mistakes. The first batch I made, I forgot to rinse off the cure before putting it in the smoker leaving the bacon overseasoned. It was still good, but I was ready to try it again. With the maple bacon I have pictured, my timing was all wrong. The day I had planned on smoking my bacon it rained–and foolishly, I didn’t take it out of the cure, but left it in there for a few days longer, until I was ready to fire up the smoker. Another rookie mistake: not letting the bacon dry out and form a pellicle (a tacky ‘skin’ that forms on the meat which helps provide a surface that will hold on to the smoke flavor and also helps seal the meat to keep it from drying out) before smoking. The bacon is fine enough, but I think the third time will be a charm: no overcuring, rinsing off the cure, and giving the bacon a day to form a pellicle–got it.
But, if we’re really going to talk about something awesome, let’s talk about the pancetta. If I got anything right this time around, it was the pancetta. I followed the instructions to the letter, poking the curing belly every other day, and laughing with Choo as we struggled to tie the roll properly. I have been so thrilled with how it turned out that I’ve been sharing the goodness with everyone to the point where I now only have a few ounces left. This past Saturday, I found myself cutting pieces out to all my dinner guests to take home–because cured pork belly is pretty darn close to love under this roof. I have been using it in bits and pieces with my CSA greens–chard, collards and kale have all got the pancetta treatment, and Kiddo approves heartily.
I didn’t come up with a special recipe this time around, as I wanted to pull up some of my favorite bacon recipes I’ve posted before:
I’m pretty sure I’m never going to buy bacon again.