I picked up a skinless belly from my local butcher a few weeks ago for $2.24 a lb. and started my bacon adventure. The belly weighed in at just under 10 lbs and after a trim it weighed just over 9.3 lbs. I cut the belly in three pieces and used tenderquick and brown sugar for my dry cure.
Here is the belly cut into three pieces. I weighed each piece and then weighed the correct amount of Tenderquick for each piece. I apply the Tenderquick first so i can see it is applied evenly and then i apply the brown sugar at a rate of about a tablespoon a pound. These pieces are then put into separate zip-lock bags with any Tenderquick or brown sugar that fell off during bagging and applying the dry ingredients. The bags of bellies were put in the frig and flipped and massaged once a day for 7 days. These bellies were just under 2 inches thick at the thickest part and i was taught that you cure with Tenderquick at a rate of 1 day per half inch of thickness plus 2 days for safety sake. I added a extra day because my schedule didn't allow me to be home after six days. After a 7 day ride my bacon was removed from the bags...washed off...then soaked for a hour in ice cold water. Then i cut a few pieces from the bellies and did a fry test.
I'm glad i did the fry test because my wife and i both agreed the bacon was a bit salty for our taste. Back in fresh ice water for another 45 minutes...another fry test ...perfect. The bellies were then dried off...put on bakers racks and off to the frig overnight to form a good pellicle. This bacon was then true cold smoked in my MES 30 for 24 hours using hickory dust in my AMNPS. The smoker never got below 39 degrees and went to a high of 46 degrees. Cold smoking doesn't bring the deep color that smoking bacon with a bit of heat does but i can tell you the excellent smoke flavor sure is there. After the 24 hour cold smoke the bacon was wrapped and sent to the fridge for a 24 hour rest. I believe this is a important step as it lets the smoke meld with your bacon like we do with smoked cheese. It's time for the bacon to hit the slicer...
The bacon was put in the freezer for 2 hours before hitting the slicer and this really helps with making the bellies easier to slice.
And the slicing begins...it sure was a nice meaty belly. I already have a call in to the butcher for my next 2 bellies and the good news is they went down 15 cents a pound.
Start of the 9 pounds of smoked bacon...this stuff is awesome. I packaged it up with the new vacuum sealer my wife got me for Christmas and maybe it will last a few weeks around the house. I have my doubts though as my brother showed up at breakfast Saturday and made his way out of the door with 2 lbs.
Here it is all bagged up and ready for the freezer...note the 2 bags of ends and pieces on the top and top right. These are a awesome addition to Dutch's Wicked Baked Beans...potato soup...bean soup...etc. etc. etc. Thanks for sharing my bacon makin ride...it is time consuming but well worth the effort!!!