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.
This is my first time out of the gate with making bacon. I ordered a whole, skinless wild boar belly from Marx Foods. Broken Arrow Ranch, my usual game supplier, was out of stock. As it turned out, they had it back in stock the following day, but by then Marx had already shipped. Wild Boar is significantly leaner than pork. As a result, the belly had very little fat and will produce a nice meaty bacon. Took a nice 3 lb piece and started the process.
I used the basic dry cure recipe from Michael Ruhlman’s book “Charcuterie.” In this case, I used 1 pound of kosher salt (Morton’s), 2 ounces of pink salt (Insta Cure #1), 1/4 cup of maple sugar and 1/4 maple syrup.
Yes, I know all the arguments against nitrites, but I also know all the arguments against botulism. The bacon will be smoked at a low temperature for a long period of time. Avoiding botulism just seemed like a sensible step.
The Sausage Maker happens to have a store about 15 minutes from my house. A quick trip secured a one pound box of Insta Cure that should last awhile.
The maple sugar and syrup will add sweetness and this will be breakfast bacon. I was stuck using Grade A dark amber syrup. I would have much preferred Grade B, but the stores don’t sell it.
I used the salt box method from appyling the dry ingredients of the cure. This entails placing the cure on the bottom of a pan and simply pressing the meat into the cure and shaking off any excess.
Once the dry ingredients were in place, I placed the belly into a large storage bag and then drizzled the maple syrup onto the meat. This went into the refrigerature for seven days and will be flipped daily.
Late next week, it will be smokin’ time.