Flip, flip, flip, flip, flip, flip. 1,2,3…yup that’s 6 flips. It was a belly flipping week. Every day I flipped the belly to ensure all sides are evenly cured. By day seven, the meat was nice and firm and almost ready for smokin’.
I removed the belly from the storage bag and rinsed off the brine well to reduce the saltiness of the bacon. Commercially, I buy reduced sodium bacon. I did not want this bacon to be any saltier than that.
Following rinsing, I patted the belly dry and placed it uncovered on a rack in the refrigerator for another 24 hours. This step forms the pellicle. What’s a pellicle, you ask? The pellicle is a tacky coating of proteins on the surface of the meat which allow smoke to better adhere to the surface during the smoking process.
I use a Weber Smoky Mountain smoker. Being charcoal based, it is somewhat difficult to maintain a temperature as low as 200 degrees F, but doing it in the winter helped. It’s easier to keep the smoker cooler when it is below freezing outdoors. I also use the Minion method for fueling and starting the smoker. This allowed me to control the temperature better: thanks Jim.
Once the charcoal was lit and the temp stable, I threw on several chunks of Apple wood and the belly. I used apple because it give off a lighter smoke than something like hickory. I was looking for an internal temperature of 150 degrees. Any higher and the fat would start rendering out.
I did have some difficulty keeping the temperature at 200 degrees and after 1 1/2 hours the internal temp of the meat was nearing 150. I wanted to keep the meat on the smoke as long as possible. With some judicious opening of the lid to let some heat escape, I was able to hold the internal temp of the belly at 145 for another hour. After 2 1/2 hours, the smokin’ was complete.
Out of the smoker, the bacon went into the frig for the night. In the morning, I sliced in. As I mentioned in the last post, wild boar is extremely lean. This bacon had almost no fat.
I did a thick slice and fried some up with eggs. The bacon was so lean that I actually needed to add some fat to the pan in order to cook the eggs.
In the spirit of full disclosure, the bacon was way too salty. Next time, I will probably cut back on the amount of salt and possibly the number of days I let the belly cure. But all was not lost. I simply blanched the bacon for 60 seconds and the saltiness was reduced significantly.
I then vacuum sealed individual meal portions and a couple of packages of lardons and threw them into the freezer.
It was an interesting adventure and I have several weeks of nice lean bacon. I will do a few things differently next time including maybe doing savory bacon instead of the sweet breakfast variety; because, why not? Overall, I would say it was a success and I had some fun with it. You cannot ask for much more than that.
As Chef John at Food Wishes says, Enjoy.