Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Cure for Homemade Bacon

My friend Nathan invited me over to give him a hand curing some bacon. He found a great deal on pork belly from a Korean restaurant supply store, ~$1.75/lb, so he bought a full 12 lb cryovaced slab. 2 lbs of it was added to a batch of sausages we made to increase the fat/meat ratio.

We split the remaining 10 lbs into three slabs so we could make three different flavors. Each slab was first dredged in a basic dry cure of kosher salt (1 lb), dextrose (13 oz), and pink salt (3 oz) (recipe from Charcuterie by Ruhlman and Polcyn).

The first slab got some extra turbinado sugar for a standard sweet bacon that should be perfect with breakfast. The second slab was coated with a great pastrami spice mixture from Schwartz's in Montreal. The third slab got a savory paste of garlic, fresh rosemary, and black pepper.

Each slab was then transferred into its own 1 gallon ziploc bag with as much of the air squeezed out as possible. They will sit in the refrigerator for 1 week, I will flip each one once a day. During this time the salt will help to pull moisture out of the meat while seasoning the meat and drawing the added flavors in. The pink salt (sodium nitrate) helps to defend the cure from botulism (a bad fermentation) and will keep the meat a pretty pink color.

Next weekend I will clean off the cure and dry the meat overnight in the refrigerator. Once it is dry I'll either hot smoke it or cook it in a 200 degree oven for about 3 hours. It will then be ready to slice, fry/bake, and eat. Most of the bacon will be kept in the freezer where it will last well for at least 6 months.


Josh said...

What is "Pink Salt"?

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Pink salt also called Insta-cure, or DC/DQ Curing Salt (and not the same as the pink coral sea salt the lady at Sur le Table tried to sell me) is table salt with 6.25% sodium nitrate which is dyed pink so it won’t be confused with pure sodium chloride. Nitrates help to fend off dangerous bacterial infections that you risk while you are curing meat for a long time or smoking something at a low temperature.

There are some questions about how much nitrite/nitrate is healthy to eat, but avoiding it completely leaves you with the much greater risks of either death from botulism or lack of delicious cured meat. Like most thing consumption in moderation is probably the best idea.

Anonymous said...

Where did you get the "Pink Salt?" I hear it's hard to find because it's use in making gun powder and in the wring hands can cause some damage.


The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

My friend Nathan bought it, although I have no idea when or where. It seems to be easy enough to buy on the internet if you can't find it locally, that’s my plan for when I start curing stuff on my own. For example

Chris & Tae Calentine said...

The cure you are looking for is called prague powder or cure #1 (cure #2 is for dry curing). It is available at many web sites that sell meat processing equipment and supplies. You do have to watch how much you use, as it is toxic when you use too much. Most smoked sausages will take 2 tsp. for 10 lbs of meat, bacon will take 2oz mixed with the rest of the day rub and applied at two different times during the 7-10 day cureing process.
Also, bacon it typically smoked in a preheated smokehouse (135 degrees) with dampers open wide until the surface of the bacon is dry. The smoke will not adhere to wet meat or casings. when dry close the dampers to about 1/4 and smoke until an internal temp of 125-128 degrees in achieved. 200 degrees is a cooking temp, not a smoking temp. You can reduce the heat to 120 or so if the color is not dark enough and continue to smoke until you get the color where you want it. This is not a complete recipe, there are some things you deed to do during the curing process, but this is a general guide.

Stevie Tea said...

You can get “pink salt” or Prague powder #1/instacure #1 from eBay, Amazon or butchers suppliers.
The stuff they used to put in gunpowder and for meat curing was Saltpetre, and is not the same thing.....