There are few better values than making your own bacon. A 4-1/2-pound pork belly cost us about $15, while a pound of premium, thick-cut bacon from the grocery store can run as much as $9 per pound or online for as much as $13.
As author Michael Ruhlman notes in his excellent book “Charcuterie,” “What you make at home will be superior to just about anything you can buy at supermarkets.”
Plus, there’s just the thrill of creating a giant slab of deliciousness.
Here is his method:
1. Create a cure. Mix together 1 pound (450 grams) kosher salt, 8 ounces (235 grams) sugar and 2 ounces (50 grams) curing salt, also called pink salt. To make this a little sweeter, add 1/2 cup (125 grams) packed dark brown sugar. (Curing salt has sodium nitrite added: It’s 93.75 percent salt and 6.25 percent sodium nitrite. The pink color is an additive to prevent its confusion with regular salt.
2. Trim the belly. Ask your butcher for a half pork belly (you may have to order it), 3 to 5 pounds. Trim off the odd angles. What you are looking for is a rectangular shape that will make good bacon slices when finished.
3. Apply the cure. Rub the cure into the belly, making sure there is a uniform coating.
4. Cover and refrigerate. Place the belly in a 2-gallon resealable bag or a container just large enough to hold it. Flip it every other day. As it cures, the pork will release a lot of liquid, so be careful as you turn it over. After a week, check the belly for firmness at its thickest point. A thicker belly may require a little more time.
5. Smoke or roast. If you have a smoker, set it up for 200 to 225 degrees and use a mild wood such as pecan or apple to flavor the meat. If you don’t have a smoker, roast the belly in a 200-degree oven on a rack in a roasting pan. For either method, remove the belly when its internal temperature reaches 150 degrees.
While the belly is hot, remove the rind. Let the belly cool to room temperature. Now you can cut into slices or wrap and refrigerate. It will keep for one to two weeks.
For longer storage, cut into slices, chunks or lardons, wrap well and place in freezer for up to three months. If you find the bacon too salty, blanch slices in boiling water for one minute before cooking.
Adapted from “Charcuterie” by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn