Samantha, welcome to SMF! Glad you're here and excited about using your MES amongst all your hobbies. The MES is a very popular smoker around here.
Use the Search feature for some great tips on curing bacon. I cure pork loins to make Canadian bacon using a recipe I found at Amazing Ribs website. The same recipe can be used for curing pork bellies but the information below is for Canadian bacon. Pork loins are about 1/3rd the price of pork bellies in my neck of the woods and WAY more available.
Looking forward to seeing you around the Forum!
Canadian Bacon with Prague powder #1
Time. 1 hours prep, seven days of curing, 2-4 hours of smoking.
Multiply ingredients by the weight per pound for the meat you are using. If using a pork loin, to cut down on the curing time, cut the loin in half length wise so no piece of meat is more than 1 1/2" thick. It can be cured in seven days then. A 3" thick pork loin will require 3 weeks to cure.
Not all salts are the same: 1 tsp table salt = 1 1/4 tsp Morton's Kosher Salt = 1 3/4 tsp Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt
Ingredients per Pound of Pork
1 lb Pork loin or tenderloin
1 1/2 tsp Morton's kosher salt ..... OR
1 3/4 tsp Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt
1/4 tsp Prague powder #1
1 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1 Tbs dark brown sugar
1/4 cup water
Ingredients for 2 Pounds of Pork
2 lb Pork loin or tenderloin
3 tsp Morton's kosher salt ..... OR
3 1/2 tsp Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt
1/2 tsp Prague powder #1
1 Tbs ground black pepper
2 Tbs dark brown sugar
1/2 cup water
Ingredients for 5 Pounds of Pork
5 lb Pork loin or tenderloin
7 1/2 tsp Morton's Kosher Salt ........ OR
3 Tbs Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt
1 1/8 tsp Prague powder #1
7 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
5 Tbs dark brown sugar
1 1/4 cups water
1. If using a pork loin cut the loin in half, then cut it in half lengthwise so no piece of meat is thicker than 1 1/2". Tenderloins are fine the way they are.
2. Put the meat in a ZipLock bag large enough to hold the meat. A 1 gallon bag is fine for a 5 pound loin cut in quarters. Add the curing ingredients and water. Zip the bag and squish everything around until well mixed. Squeeze out the air as much as possible and squish some more, aggressively rubbing the cure into the meat coating all sides. Put the bag in a pan to catch any leaks and place in the fridge at 34 to 38°F for at least 6-7 days. If the meat is a little thicker than 1.5" add another couple of days. More time won't hurt it. The meat will release liquid so every day or two you want to gently massage the bag so the liquid and spices are well distributed, and flip the bag over. Do not stack the meat while it is curing if curing more than one bag.
3. Remove the meat from the bag, discard the liquid, rinse the loin cuts with cool water removing most of the cure from the surface or it will be too salty. Pat dry. Most recipes tell you to let the slab dry for 24 hours so the smoke will stick better, but, as the Amazingribs.com science advisor Dr. Greg Blonder has proven, smoke sticks better to wet surfaces, this extra step isn't necessary.
4. Hot smoke over indirect heat at 225°F until the internal temp is 150°F, about 2-4 hours. You can use any wood you like. Hickory is the tried and true. Cherry and applewood work too. You should slice off the ends which may be very dark and more heavily seasoned, and taste them right away.
5. If serving right away let it cool on a plate in the fridge. Cold bacon is easier to slice. Slice on a slicer if you have one, or use a long thin knife to slice it. Try some thin and some thick slices. If freezing, do not slice. Just vacuum seal the sections and place in the freezer. When ready to use they easily thaw in the refrigerator in 24 hours.
6. Vacuum seal or wrap it tightly with several layers of plastic wrap, not foil, and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks or freeze for up to 3 months. Do not wrap in foil because it can react with the salt. When you are hungry, cook it just like you do store bought bacon.
Edit: corrected the Prague #1 amounts per Dave's wisdom. Thanks Dave, and I mean that!
Edited by Noboundaries - 5/1/15 at 7:27pm