When I first told Nick that I planned on making bacon, he was baffled. “You can’t make it. It already exists. You just take it off the pig and put it in the pan.” While I’d like to mock my darling husband for his precious naivete, frankly, I thought exactly the same thing before I discovered that one could actually cure ones bacon by ones self in ones home, if one so desired.
Recently, I had the excellent good fortune of chewing the fat with a Famous Food Writer (more on that in future posts), and I was warbling on endlessly about my fondness for all things pig, especially bacon. FFW suggested I cure my own bacon, explaining that not only was it a cinch, but the bacon would be far superior to anything I could buy. FFW explained that I didn’t need a smoker, smoke is sort of a secondary flavor to the fatty, porky goodness; basically, all you really need are some easily accessible ingredients: a chunky piece of fresh pork belly, a bunch of salt, some sugar, and a week.
FFW suggested I start by making pancetta, but once cured, it needs to be rolled and hung it in a cool, humid, sunless place to dry for two weeks. Unfortunately, while we have more than our fair share of humidity, our apartment in June tends less towards the cool and sunless and more to the hot and sweaty, so the Pancetta Project will have to wait until the fall. No biggie, though. I’m happy to start with bacon and work my way through the profusion of international pork curing techniques.
For the bacon, I’d also need a special kind of pink curing salt, which I ordered from Butcher & Packer, and a few extras if I wanted to give my home-cured bacon a nice, savory flavor: a few bay leaves, black peppercorns, and garlic cloves. I finally had my Bacon Makin’ mise-en-place assembled, so I dredged two 1 1/2 lb. pieces of fresh-from-the-pig pork belly in the dry cure and left it the fridge to become bacon. Easy as pork pie.
Now, to wait.
The waiting part takes a long time. I keep peeking in the fridge and poking the pork belly to see if it’s bacon yet. It’s not. It’s barely been 24 hours. It’s exuded a little bit of liquid, which it’s supposed to, but it won’t be bacon for at least another six days. I do have a secret fear that it's not going to turn into bacon at all, that I've somehow bungled the whole thing and it's just going to get all moldy and fuzzy and science experiment-y and I'll have to post a confession here about my ineptitude as a bacon maker. Jees, I hope that doesn't happen. In the meantime, I’ll just keep fantasizing about the carbonaras and lardons and quiche Lorraines my future holds. And poking the pork belly.
P.S. I’m not posting the recipe because I’m sure that would violate some heavy-duty copyright laws and, just as my pork belly baconifies, I’d be hauled off by the FBI (Federal Bacon Investigators) for questioning in a humid, sunless room (ironic in that it would be so very perfect for drying pancetta) and never get to try my own bacon. But, if you’re interested, the recipe can be found here.