Basic Dry Cured and Smoked Canadian Bacon: 

The purpose of this thread is to provide those new to curing Canadian bacon with a basic procedure that they can follow with confidence and safety.  The information below while a good starting place, is not the only technique available.  It is one of the simplest techniques to use in my opinion.  Basic meat curing does not need be difficult as long as you follow some guidelines. Canadian bacon is among the easiest and is a great way to introduce you to the curing process. 

Guideline one:  Measure with care and accuracy.  You must know the weight of the cut of meat you will be curing.  For Canadian bacon the pork loin is used.  Prior to weighing the meat it should be trimmed of any unwanted fat and silver skin.  While fat can be left on, it will extend the cure times as cures do not penetrate fat as readily as muscle fiber.  The formula I provide below is for a cut of loin with most fat removed.  The cure must be measured meticulously.  You can make a mistake with any spices you choose to use but the cure must be accurate.  This is so important that many curing enthusiasts only measure by weight and forgo the use of teaspoon, tablespoon measurements.  While weighting in grams is the most accurate method of measuring cures and spices it is not necessary for this application if care is taken.  This is a safety issue and I cannot emphasize this enough! 

Guideline two:  Follow procedures.  The procedures I will outline have produced many pounds of Canadian bacon with excellent results for me.  If you follow the procedures I am confidant you will be successful.  Once you gain confidence you may wish to branch out into hams, belly bacon, and sausage, but I would recommend developing your cure and recipe for CB as a starting point.

The pork loin trimmed of excess fat:  This is a 2 pound cut after trimming.  In the beginning try and keep the dry measuring simple. Trim very close to whole pound weights.  The extra loin I trimmed off is being pounded thin and breaded to fry for supper tonight!

Careful measurement of the cure:  For this CB I am using Morton’s Tender Quick.  It is one of the oldest and most available commercial cures out there.  Other fine cures are now available such as Prague #1 and Instacure # 1.  These are sometimes called pink salts or pink cures because of their color.   Brines made with all these cures are used for wet curing.  We are using a dry cure method.

The loin should be rubbed well on all surfaces, with the entire measured cure.  As per Morton’s recommendations I have added 1Tbs of cure and 1Tbs of sugar to the mix per trimmed pound of meat to be cured.  I used raw sugar but any sugar will do.  You can vary the amount of sugar to your taste but not the cure.

After the cure is rubbed in well, the loin is placed in a gallon zip lock bag and any remaining cure in the pan is added back to the bag.  Try and get as much of the remaining cure as you can into the bag.

 Squeeze as much air out of the bag as possible and seal.  Place the bag in a pan just in case there is a leak.  Place the pan with the curing loin in the fridge.  The fridge must be between 33 and 40 degrees F.  Colder than 33 degrees F and the cure will be inhibited and warmer than 40 degrees F risks the loin spoiling before it is cured.  Turn the loinover daily during the curing process.  This will insure the cure is distributing evenly through and around the loin.

The formula below is minimum cure times for Canadian bacon.  If you measured correctly you cannot over cure.  You can under cure which is a safety issue!  

For this reason I always add 2 days to the formula cure time just to be sure.  You can notspeed the cure by increasing the cure measurement!  All cures have nitrites and nitrates in them.  The prescribed measurements are within safe limits and should not be altered.

Curing times: You should figure 1 day cure time per ¼ inch from center of meat out.  In other words measure the total thickness of the meat and divide by 2.  Divide this result by 0.25.  The result of this is the minimum number of days suggested to cure.  I always add 2 days for safety and to insure cure is complete.  You cannot over cure but you can under cure. The total thickness of this loin as it sets is 2 inches.  So the cure time by this formula would be 1 inch (the radius) divided by .25 = 4 days minimum cure.  Remember for safety reasons I am adding 2 days so we will cure 6 days.  During the cure process you will notice that the meat is firming up and moisture is being accumulated.  This is normal. 

The Fry Test and Smoke

Rinse the cured loin well in cold water to remove any remaining cure.  Slice a thin piece of loin and fry in a pat of butter or tsp of oil until browned.  Taste for saltiness.  If it is too salty soak the loin in cold water for 30 minutes and try again.  Raw potatoes quartered, will draw salt out quickly if placed in the water with the loin.  While I have never needed to soak my CB prior to smoking it is good to know information.

If satisfied with the fry test you can enhance the flavor of your CB with cracked black pepper or other spices such as Hungarian Paprika.  I think I will use a bit of EVOO and cracked black pepper on this one. 

With your smoker stabilized, at a low 180-200 degrees, smoke your CB with a wood of your choice.  I like Pecan or any fruit wood for CB but use what you like.  You have a couple of choices as to the internal temp you will finish at.  If you plan on slicing and freezing the CB, I suggest stopping it at 140 degrees F internal temp.  If you do this it will preserve some moisture but you must cook before eating.  Alternately you can smoke to 160 degrees F internal temp and your CB will be ready to eat as is.  Lots of folks do this and keep it in the fridge ready to slice for sandwiches when wanted.   

Twists and Turns

Now that you have made some basic Canadian bacon you may want to try a few things to change it up now and then.  Most of us that make CB mix the measured cure in with our favorite bacon rubs and allow the spices to flavor the loins during the curing process.  My favorite bacon rub is below.

Shooters Canadian Bacon
1 TBS Morton’s Tender Quick per pound of trimmed meat

1 tsp Raw Sugar per pound of meat 

Mix and combine well with the above cure.  Remember that all must be used on each cut to ensure the proper and safe amount of cure. If multiple meat cuts are used it must be mixed for each individual cut.

Mix the following per pound of trimmed meat.

1/4 tsp Cayenne Pepper

1 tsp Basil dried

1 tsp Onion Powder

1 tsp Garlic Powder

1 tsp Hungarian Paprika

1 tsp Course Black Pepper

Follow proper cure times before smoking.

Other Resources and Links to Further Your Appetites

Rytek Kutas “Great Sausage Recipes and Meat curing”
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