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Hide yo' wives, hide yo' daughters...IT'S ANOTHER FIRST BACON THREAD!!!!!!

post #1 of 7
Thread Starter 

  Hello folks! It's been almost an hour since anyone has posted a first BB thread, so I thought I'd pick up the slack. I consider myself pretty capable when it comes to my smoker, I've already prepared many examples of beef, pork and poultry, including a signature 5 rib standing beef roast (see profile pic), but I have yet to brave curing anything at home. I've always wanted to do a bacon so I spent a few days scouring this forum then decided now was the time. As a first-timer I figured the smart thing to do was to go the foolproof route and mix up a gallon of Pop's brine. I have a jar of #1 Prague Powder I ordered some time ago to make some Hawaiian Portuguese sausage, which I have yet to tackle but I'll put it to good use on a couple of pork belly sections from my local meat market. They sell perfectly trimmed vacuum-bagged slabs for under $4 a pound, not a bad deal considering they look much meatier than sliced commercial bacon.

 

ON TO THE INGREDIENTS!

 

As you can see all the major players are there. I used 3/4 cup of salt and the sugars, halfway between the regular and low-sodium recipes. I went with pickling salt because I had a whole box of it and it dissolves well in cold water. They recently had to bump up the chlorine level in my tap water, so I thought a jug of the bottled stuff would be a wise investment. I also threw in an airline-sized bottle of whiskey just because, probably not enough to make a damn, but can't hurt. The beer is for me, there's some kind of law in Texas that requires it (GO SPURS!).

 

I'm a stickler for cooking by weight, so I thought I'd see how close a heaping tablespoon of pink salt came to one ounce:

 

Close enough for me. Everything went into a big pitcher and mixed up nicely. I'd like to put the bellies on end in a bucket which allows for the best brine exposure, but that won't fit in my fridge. I found some plastic slotted spacers in a couple of salad storage containers, a respectable cause but they will now be utilized for a more noble purpose. I layered them between the slabs in a big flat container, this should allow for plenty of contact with the precious fluid:

 

I collapsed an old Gatorade bottle and filled it water to hold the meat under the liquid when the lid is on, love the color of that brine:

 

All closed up and ready a couple of weeks in the refrigerator. Longest half month of my life:

 

To be continued...

post #2 of 7

Good start. Pops Brine does a great job. Don't be disappointed when your Bacon does not taste like store bought...You made REAL BACON and what you will be tasting is what Brined Bacon is supposed to taste like. Good Luck...JJ

post #3 of 7

DB, Looks great so far keep us posted !:popcorn

post #4 of 7
Should be tasty! Pop's brine is a good way to go.

Just sliced into my last batch of bacon, so good!
post #5 of 7
Thread Starter 

Another must-have. That's another great reason for making food rather than just buying it...NEW TOYS!!!

 

Actually, I've been wanting a decent slicer for some time now. I considered finding usable commercial unit through Craigslist and restaurant supply stores, but I couldn't justify the cost and space requirements. The next best thing is a home-grade slicer which is more practical for my needs. After extensive research I decided on the Nesco FS-200. I wish I had kept looking because the FS-250 was not that much more expensive and would have been a better fit with belly bacon. The size limit per slice on the 200 is about 6.5", not bad but I'd have liked a little more, especially for brisket. Oh well, we'll see how it works.

The bellies are cooling their heels nicely in the fridge.  I give the container a wiggle each day to keep the brine distributed and let the slabs know I haven't forgotten about them.  ARRRRGGGGHHHH!!!!...Still another week and a half!!!!

post #6 of 7
Thread Starter 

Oh, I almost forgot.  Thanks for the encouraging replies, this has been a lot of fun so far, can't wait to share the results!

post #7 of 7
Thread Starter 

Sorry for the delay, been busy with work and the holidays and such. Anyway, after almost two weeks in the fridge I pulled the bellies from the brine and gave them a quick rinse and soak in fresh water. After about 15 minutes soaking I cut off a slice to fry up for a salt check. Seemed good to me so I drained off the water and dried the meat with paper towels, then I sprinkled one slab with CBP, garlic and onion powder and the other got brushed with some reduced maple syrup (the REAL stuff). 

 

You gotta love my high-tech drying rig:

 

Hey, it worked. In no time I had nice, dry meat with a sticky pellicle already formed. It was late so I wrapped everything up and put them back in the fridge for the night. The next day I let them rise to room temp and made sure all was still dry before I put them in the MES. I followed the advice of of another member (Foamy I think) and did an hour of dewatering at max temp with the door cracked:

 

 

The door is hooked but not latched. An hour like this, at the highest temp, hopefully removed the excess surface moisture. Golly, I need lots of smoke at a rather low temperature (using Bearcarver's warm-smoking technique) for a very long time.

Let's fire up the AMPS!

 

Pitmaster's choice, because that's the pellets that came with the tray. I kept the temperature low, but not cold-smoking low. The AMPS gave me some perfect blue smoke for almost 10 hours, but stalled and burned out before the third row started. Not a problem, I knew the meat got plenty of flavor so I pulled it out after about 11 hours.

 

Looks good to me:

 

After cooling, I wrapped everything up and let it rest in the fridge overnight. The next morning I put both slabs in the freezer for about an hour to prepare for slicing. I probably should have added 30 minutes because my new slicer still struggled cutting through the meat. I wish I spent more on a bigger slicer because the largest rasher I could cut was barely 7 inches. Not bad but I'd like them to be a little longer. I like thick-cut bacon so I set the slicer accordingly, I found out later that wasn't such a good idea. 

I prefer the oven over the frying pan when it comes time to prepare bacon, so I laid out my fresh rashers on my usual cooking rig:

 

Notice something different? This is far leaner than any commercial bacon I've ever made. Normally that would be a good thing, but as it turns out I think bacon needs that extra fat. Truth be told, after a good, proper bake I was a little disappointed at the results. Don't get me wrong, it was good, but didn't come off as what I consider typical bacon. The sweetness I was expecting was almost totally absent, and the smoke had a strange, almost vinegar-like tang. Also, the texture was more chewy than crispy, I blame that on the thicker slices that I made. I brushed a little more maple syrup on the next batch which helped a little, but I still need to try something different for my next batch. I think I'll spend more time finding thicker, fattier bellies and maybe a dry cure for the next attempt. Maybe straight hickory or maple pellets will make a difference, regardless I will certainly give this another try.

I'd like to thank everyone for all the support and good advice, all I can say is I'm just getting warmed up!

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