Some folks think of a cold remedy when they hear ‘home cure.’ Not me. I think of bacon, and there’s no better way to get some of the gateway meat than to make it yourself. To top it off, this is a case where homemade costs less than store bought. It’s easy, cheap and much better than anything off the shelf.
The only hard part is getting the two main ingredients: pork belly and curing salt. If you’re in DC, pork belly is sold at the Eastern Market, and the current price is $4.35 a pound*, and curing salt can be ordered from Amazon**.
Home Cured Bacon (6 pounds)
- 1 pork belly (6 lbs)
- 1 head garlic, peeled
- 3 tbsp peppercorns
- 10 sprigs thyme
- 4 bay leaves
- ¼ cup kosher salt
- 2 tsp curing salt
- ¼ cup honey or maple syrup
- 2 tsp liquid smoke (only if making in the oven)
If the pork belly came with skin, filet it off and save it for later. Then cut the belly into manageable pieces.
Puree the garlic, peppercorn, thyme, bay leaf, kosher salt and curing salt in a food processor. Let it run until reduced to a paste. Then mix in a bowl with the honey (or syrup) and liquid smoke. Coat the meat and place it in plastic bags.
Put the bags in the fridge for seven days. Be sure to rotate them each day to ensure that the rub will be evenly distributed.
At the end of a week, wash the meat in cold water and then pat dry (if you put damp meat in the oven it will finish at the wrong consistency). Then let it sit for a half an hour or more at room temperature.
While the pork belly’s resting preheat the oven to 200°. Then put the meat in for 90 minutes. Do not turn it, touch it, or let it go for longer than 90 minutes***.
After the pork’s out, let it rest for about half an hour. Then bag it and put it back in the fridge. I’ve heard that it can stay in the fridge for months, but have never kept it around long enough to find a time limit.
* The cheapest bacon on sale at Giant is $6.00 a pound. See what I mean? When you go shopping look for product that has the skin on, because you can cook skin separately as cracklings. And crackling is amazingly good.
** Curing salt’s important because the nitrates in the salt will keep the pork fresh and pink, and the fat firm and white. So make the effort and get the curing salt.
*** If you have a smoker, put it in for 2 hours at 250°, until the internal temperature reaches 160°.