Our smoky bacon is made just like our homemade hams
– same brine, same techniques and we even put them in the smoker at the same time. The only difference is that bacons require less time in the brine or in the smoker than do thicker, heavier hams.
These bacons are far more smoky, flavorful and aromatic than any you'll find in the store. Your house or your tailgate will smell incredible when making this stuff. You can also slice them to a thickness of your liking. Let's face it: store-bought bacon is too thin to be fulfilling.
As we do with our hams, we break out a slab of our own bacon everytime we're making a stew, jambalaya
that calls for some crispy, flavorful bacon.
The biggest problem you'll have is hunting down fresh, uncured bacon slabs. Most meat wholesalers or retailers can help you out. Don't be shy about asking the butcher at your local specialty meat shop or your neighborhood supermarket. Chances are, they can get bacon slabs pretty easily. Befriend your local butcher. It could be the start of a beautiful relationship.
Of course, the most cost-effective and most fun thing to do is to butcher your own hog
. A 200-pound pig will give you two big belly slabs of fresh bacon.
- 2 to 4 fresh bacon slabs (up to 15 pounds each)
- 5 gallons of water
- 5 pounds kosher salt
- 3 pounds brown sugar
- 15 oz. of Insta Cure No. 1 (3 oz. per gallon)
Mix water and dry ingredients very well in a very large crock. The cure is ready when a small potato will just begin to float. If potato quickly sinks to the bottom, add some more salt.
When ready, place your bacons in the crock so that they are completely covered with the cure. Store in a cool, dark place for two weeks and inspect every four or five days, skimming off any fat that rises to the top.
After two weeks, remove the bacons, scrub the skin and meat gently with a clean, plastic scrub brush and then soak in plain water for 24 hours. Remove from the water and, using a large needle, thread a piece of high-quality butcher's string through one end of the bacon slab. Use this string to hang the bacon and let it dry in a cool, dark place for 24 hours (a big, heavy nail stuck into a beam in your cellar is a perfectly good place to hang your bacon). This string can also be used to hang your bacons in a smokehouse.
The next day, build a fire in a smokehouse or very large smoker, making sure to have plenty of wet wood available (either freshly cut wood, or wood that's been soaked for about an hour in water). Wet wood will create plenty of smoke. You'll need dozens of logs to complete the job. Place bacons in the smoker, as far from the fire as possible.
You want a fairly steady stream of smoke at a very low temperature, no more than 110 degrees or so. It's important to remember that you are cold-smoking the bacons. You are not trying to cook them. (It's hard to keep such a low temperature in a small smoker, which is why it's helpful to have your own smokehouse or a very large smoker.) Smoke for 24 to 36 hours, or until smoked to your liking.
When smoked, slice the large slabs into 1 to 2 pound portions and wrap each in freezer paper with the date written on it. You can also slice the slabs before freezing them. Bacons can be frozen for a year or more and defrosted as needed.