Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Bring'n Home the Bacon...

I don’t think I mentioned that I was taking an online class all about fermenting.  It has covered fermenting of all sorts, dairy, vegetables, tonics, fruits, condiments, relishes, brine pickles and curing meats as well.  The whole process of preserving food through means other than canning or freezing is fascinating to me.  This is the process our ancestors figured out to keep food edible without killing their friends and families, not to mention themselves, sans the luxury of a refrigerator…I realize there was a pretty big incentive there but it was still pretty ingenious!  And then there is the part about the beneficial bacteria that is formed during fermentation that aids us with digestion and may help our immune systems.
So I have been fermenting all sorts of things, mostly dairy, in the form of yogurt and kefir.  I did make some mead with our honey, and I’m going to start some sourdough soon.  The next thing on my list was to cure some meat…and since we have a wonderful vender at our farmers market who is a pig farmer and raises his hogs on lovely food and in a nice environment, and I have talked with him and know how his pigs are taken care of I thought that curing some bacon would be a good first step.
 I figured what could be better than some good bacon.  I mean I have a friend who claims it’s the 4th food group!  And without all the added nitrates and nitrites found in commercial bacon, well it’s practically health food!  I purchased a 2LB. piece of pork belly, the thought being that for a fairly small investment I could give it a whirl and see what I came up with…if the whole thing went bust I wouldn’t be out much…

The process is really quite simple as the main ingredient is time…

Home Cured Bacon

2LB Slab Pork Belly

2TBS Coarse Unrefined Sea Salt

2TBS Unrefined Cane Sugar, Honey, or Maple Syrup - I opted for Honey since my gals had given me a  nice supply last year and I thought it would give it that extra home made touch

3TBS Spices of Choice (Pepper, Pickling Spice, Fennel, Nutmeg, Etc.) - Thinking about flavors, I decided to go with Fennel and Black Pepper, I thought that would work well with the Honey…

 First mix the salt, sugar of choice and spices together and rub them thoroughly into the slab of pork belly.

Then tightly wrap the pork belly in 100% cotton cheesecloth and place it in a resealable plastic bag.

Place the bag into the refrigerator.  Now for the next 7 - 10 days you will need to turn the pork belly daily.  This causes the pork to cure evenly.

I waited 10 days…tap…tap..tap…

Remove the bacon from the refrigerator, unwrap it and rinse off any excess spice and pat dry.

Preheat the oven to 200D.

Place the bacon on a baking sheet and bake for 2 hours or until the internal temperature registers 150D… using my trusty meat thermometer my bacon reached the desired temp. in about 1 hour and 40 minutes.

Allow the bacon to cool to room temperature, then slice thinly.

Wrap the sliced bacon and refrigerate where it will keep for about 2 weeks or freeze where it will keep for around 6 months.
Well, having already waited 10 days, as soon as the bacon was cool and sliced I cooked up a couple pieces so that my husband and I could see what had been created…OMG!  This is bacon, the likes of which I have never had!  Now I like bacon as much as the next guy, but this stuff is off the hook!  I do need to figure out a way to slice it really thin, as my slices - try as I might - were a little thicker than I would like, but as far as flavor…guess I won’t be buy’n bacon any more!

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