Well, I wanted to give dry curing bacon a try since I typically wet cure using Pops brine. I ran across Todd Johnson’s recipe for dry cured bacon so I thought I’d give it a try after reading the reviews.
Since I was using this recipe for the first time, I thought I’d document it in some detail for those who are new to making bacon, are in the research phase of making bacon, or are looking for a dry cure method - since there are numerous wet cure listings on the forum.
Trust me, once you’ve made your own home made bacon, you’ll have trouble eating store bought bacon again… it’s really worth the effort.
Here’s the basic recipe:
12# Pork Bellies or Pork Shoulder
4 oz. Country Brown Cure (.32 oz. Cure/lb. Meat Adjust for Amount of Meat)
1 Cup Brown Sugar
2 tsp. Allspice (Optional Ginger)
2 TBSP Cracked Black Pepper (CBP)
2 tsp. Garlic Powder
2 tsp. Onion Powder
2 tsp. Cayenne Pepper
1 TBSP Kosher or Sea Salt (Optional 2-3 TBSP Salt)
I got the Country Brown Cure from Butcher and Packer supply. It’s nothing more than sugar and cure. In retrospect, I could have just used the right amount of Cure #1 along with the ingredients listed above but the first time I try a recipe I follow it to the letter… then if I want to use the recipe again, I start tweaking it.
Todd’s entire recipe/procedure can be found here:
So we start with the pork sides (or belly). I happen to be lucky enough to have a family run butcher shop/slaughter house not far from me that processes their own hogs.
I started out with a little less than 7 pounds of sides with rind/skin on and adjusted the ingredients and cure accordingly. I did all the conversions in a spreadsheet. It is very important to use the exact amount of cure when curing any type of product. More cure is not better and can be dangerous. If you plan on using cure - any type of cure - follow the manufactures instructions exactly.
Here are the seasonings:
Weighing out the Country Brown Cure. I’m weighing in grams here, not ounces since my scale doesn’t do fractions of ounces in small enough increments for the accuracy I'm looking for.
Everything measured out:
I mixed all the seasonings and cure together in a bowl making sure to mix well to ensure the Country Brown Cure was mixed very well with the other seasonings and then rubbed all sides of the pork sides.
I tried to gather up all the cure/seasoning that had fallen off the sides and make sure it ended up either on the meat or in bags.
After the rub down, each individual side went into a freezer bag and then into the fridge for the cure. I cured these for 10 days. I flipped each bag every day and also gave each piece of meat a good massage. Once the cure starts working the meat will start to sweat (this is the cure pulling water from the meat). This is normal and you actually want to start seeing some liquid in the bags during the cure.
Here are the sides after the rub and heading to the fridge
After 10 days in the fridge I pulled them and rinsed each side thoroughly under cold running water and then patted them dry with paper towels
This is also the time to test the saltiness of the meat. This is done by doing a simple fry test. Keep in mind, the first piece cut off is going to have a little more kick to it than the next few slices. I usually keep the first slice on one side of the pan so I know which one it was. If after the fry test the salt is too strong, you can soak the sides in cold water for an hour and then re-run your fry test. This can be repeated until the saltiness is to your liking.
This is one point in the recipe that I didn’t agree with, but like I said above, the first time I try a recipe I follow it to the T. At this point, I typically re-season the sides with onion powder, garlic powder and fresh cracked black pepper. This recipe didn’t call for it, so I didn’t do it. If I run this recipe again, this will be the first tweak I make to it.
After rinsing the sides and the fry test, they go onto a rack uncovered and back in the fridge over night. Arrange them so they are not stacked on top of each other or touching. The rack allows full air circulation. This is a drying phase and the sides will form a pellicle. A pellicle is nothing more than a thin film or skin on the exposed parts of the meat caused by the drying time in the fridge.
The following day the sides get smoked. I like to hang my sides when smoking them but others like to lay them on racks. If you want to hang them for smoking but don’t want to pop for bacon hangers you can try this. The rings are nothing more than stainless steel lock out tag clips…. aka shower current rings. I cut a bit of the wire off to make them a little easier to use. They fit perfectly on my sausage sticks, which are nothing more than hardwood dowels cut to size for my smoker.
I put 2 small slits in each side and run a piece of butcher’s string to form a loop (thanks go out to Mballi3011 for the twine trick). The string loop then goes into the stainless steel clip which in turn goes over the sausage stick.
I chose to cold smoke these sides and for cold smoking there is nothing better than an AMNPS. If you’re not familiar with this little gadget… check into it… you will not regret it. Todd Johnson, the person whose recipe is used here, is the inventor and a great guy.
Here’s the AMNPS loaded with 50:50 of Apple and Maple
OK at this point the AMNPS is lit and pumping out TBS, sides are in the box… nothing to do now except wait 10 hours. I cold smoked these for 10 hours and never had to do a thing to the smoker. The AMNPS ran flawlessly the entire smoke. Couldn’t be easier….
After 10 hours of nice thin blue smoke…
Once I pulled them from the smoker, I wrapped each side in plastic wrap and back in the fridge for an over-night stay.
I didn't get a chance to slice these the next day so they sat in the fridge for an extra day... no big deal.
I semi-froze the sides for 2 hours before slicing. Here's a tray with most of the side meat sliced. I started out with the electric slicer but for what ever reason it was being cantankerous today so I finished slicing by hand. The slices on top are all hand sliced... goes to show what you can do with a good sharp knife....
And of course, you have to fry some up while you're slicing...
If you've gotten to this point, I'd like to thank you for taking the time to take a look! I know this is a bit of a long post....
Please feel free to let me know if I can answer any questions about this process.