You want the long version or short version?
The whole curing at home thing had me concerned, just because it wasn't something I could look at and say "that's done". Just the idea of the meat being firmer is a huge gray area... I like black and white the first time or two I do something.
Anyway, I gave it a shot, leaned on Bearcarver for advice and encouragment, and sliced/fried/ate a bit of the finished product this morning. And I'm still alive and kicking, so the cure process must've worked.
Here's the rig--4.3 cu.ft. mini fridge (non-working) with an AMZS in the bottom:
Because it's 100 degrees out hee, I added 1-inch foil-backed styrofoam insulation, with the foil out to reflect sunlight/heat.
Here's the belly in the hickory:
Smoked about 4 hours the first day before I ran out of ice to keep the temp below 100. Put the bellies in the fridge overnight, then put about 3 more hours of smoke on the next morning.
I'm using 1/2 gallon milk cartons full of water frozen, to keep the temps down. Next time I will rotate frozen bricks in and out of the smoker. I have 4 of them in the freezer. I figure they won't add moisture to process, and the greater mass means the cold will last longer, if that makes sense.
Here's the bacon fresh out of the smoke. I have 1" intake and exhaust, which isn't enough to keep the smoke moving. I put a box fan next to the intake to pump extra air in. I have a computer fan that will be set up for the next time, and I'll be pulling air from under one of the frozen bricks, so it's pulling pre-cooled air into the smoker. I hope.
Here's one chunk mostly sliced, after being in the freezer for about 40 minutes to firm up.
The test fry:
One fell off the griddle somehow--but I caught it in my belly!
The aroma put off is surpassed only by the taste of this stuff!! I'm so impressed it's hard to believe I did it myself!
I think maybe a slicer of some sort is on the "need" list once I get back to work.
Oh yeah--I did do a test fry prior to smoking to check for saltiness. I thought it might be just a bit salty, but, hey--it's bacon, right?
And the idea of that meat sitting in a sink full of cold water just bugged me. Sure enough, the finished product is a bit salty, but not objectionably so. I'm curing another chunk of this belly that I'll soak tomorrow and get in the smoker Friday. Apple this time, I think.
Todd--your AMZS is awesome! I can hardly wait for cooler weather to try some cheese.
BC--thanks for all your help! I appreciate the thoughtful replies and advice.
Hmmm... preview shows no pics. Let me figure this out here... Got it! I didn't have PB set up to give me a direct link URL. All fixed now!