After seeing all of the wonderful bacon projects on the forum lately, I decided to attempt a bacon project, as well. Once completed, and after tasting the fruits of my labor, I'm so glad that I did!
A few weeks ago, I mentioned to my father and uncle what I was planning on doing and, to my complete surprise, they showed up with a 7.51 pound package of the main ingredient - PORK BELLY! After opening the package, I cut the belly in half. I took both of the slabs and properly proportioned the right amount of Morton Tenderquick cure onto each one. After, I coated one of the slabs with turbinado brown sugar and the other slab with pure grade "B" maple. I placed each slab into a plastic bag and into the refrigerator they went. Each day, I'd open the bag and flip each slab. After 10 days, I pulled the slabs out, thoroughly rinsed them, dried them with paper towels and put them back into the refrigerator (uncovered) to form the pellicle. The next day, the slabs went into the smoker for 12 hours. I smoked the first nine hours at 100 degrees and the last three hours at 200 degrees. The internal temperature ended up at 143 degrees. I used a mix of apple and cherry chips.
Side note: One day, I'll purchase an AMNPS and make my life easier, but in this case, I didn't have one and I had to resort to charcoal in my chip tray for the first nine hours, in order to keep the wood chips smoking, because wood chips will not smoke when the temperature of the MES is set too low.
After the smoke, I foiled the slabs and placed them both into the freezer. The next morning, I brought out each slab, set each on my counter, lifted the corner of the skin with a knife and proceeded to peel the skin completely off. To my surprise, it peeled off rather easily and cleanly. This sure beats the hell out of cutting off the wavy skin with a knife before smoking! Once left with the skinless slabs of pork belly, I sliced them both up in the slicer and placed each sliced slab into zip-loc bags.
Another side note: After frying up a bunch of strips for breakfast, my wife noted a slight salty taste. My kids and I were okay with the taste, but I guess my wife has more sensitive taste buds, so the next time I attempt to make bacon, I will soak the slabs in cold water for an hour and see if the slight salty taste that my wife noted goes away. As I've read, this salty taste issue is different with different people, but it's something to consider if you're going to try this for yourself.
Anyhow, I'm really happy with how things turned out and I hope to never have to buy bacon at the store ever again! After hearing my wife, kids and friends rave about the taste, I'm looking forward to attempting not only the pork belly bacon again, but giving the buckboard bacon a try, too.
Here's the Q-View I promised...
The package of pork belly, as brought to me by my father and uncle. It was purchased at Publix for $3.19 a pound and weighed in at 7.51 pounds.
Here's what the pork belly looks like after I cut it into two slabs. Can you see the bacon strips staring back at you already?
This is what the slabs look like after being coated with the Morton Tenderquick cure.
These are the slabs in the smoker, ready to be smoked. They were rinsed the day before and left in the refrigerator (uncovered) for a day, in order to form a pellicle. The top slab is the maple slab and the bottom is the turbinado.
After 12 hours of apple and cherry smoke, this is what the slabs look like.
Here's a close-up of the maple slab after smoking and just before going into the freezer.
This is what the maple slab looks like the next morning after I peeled off the skin. Notice how cleanly it peeled away.
Here's a close-up of the peeled skin.
Here's a shot of a few slices coming off of the slicer.
A beautiful pile-o-bacon!
Here's a shot of both slabs in zip-loc bags, sliced and ready to refrigerate.
I hope you enjoyed the pics! Thank you for looking.