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1st go - don't want to screw it up!

corvettecory

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So I just got home with my almost 13lb pork belly.  This my first go at it and I thought this was a little pricey, so I'm looking for a little guidance so I don't screw it up too bad.




I've gone through the forum and most of the threads and have decided on using pops brine (14 days in the brine) and hot smoke since I don't have a cold smoke attachment. So here's my few questions:

I have 2 smokers - a MES 30 and a OK Joe Highland offset.  I plan on using hot smoke until IT is 150.  Sound about right?  Which smoker would produce a better end product or would the difference be minimal?

As you can see, it came with the skin on.  Should I remove it before brining or wait until after it's smoked?

I plan on cutting the belly into 3rds.  Will the gallon brine be enough to divide equally between them or should I double it?

I plan on putting the belly pieces and brine in large Ziploc bags with as much air removed as possible then placing the bags in a tray in case of leaks.  Would I be better of vac sealing them?  I didn't think it would matter as long as I flipped them everyday.

Lasty, I have access to an 8 prong hanger if I use my MES, but is there noticeable difference between hanging and laying flat on the racks?

Thanks for any input and hopefully it turns out delish!  I'll post more pics as I begin tomorrow.
 
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pc farmer

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Pops brine is great and easy to use.    I would use a food safe bucket, Lowes has them.   

I would skin before curing.

I would also use the MES and if you have a dust or pellet tray, do a warm smoke.  Not a hot smoke..
 

corvettecory

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So I went and got a bucket like you suggested. Had to adjusting to do in the beer fridge, but we're good to go. I had to wait until tonight though because of a delay on my pink salt shipment. Finally got it and starting it tonight. I'll post pics as I progress. Thinking about adding some pure maple syrup to pops brine recipe. Will there be maple flavor at the end or hardly noticeable? How much is suggested to use? Thanks!!
 

murraysmokin

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I personally use a dry rub cure honey or maple sugar, pink curing salt, kosher salt brown sugar & black pepper. I also cut into smaller pieces & cure in zip lock bags. Then cold smoke to add a touch of smoke.
 

smokeymose

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Yes, that is very pricey for belly! Oh well, you use what you can get, right? Definitely take the skin off.
I use Maple flavoring in those tiny bottles, about a half bottle for a gallon of brine. The taste is minimal after cooking but the smell is devine while frying!
If you can't cold smoke it, at least try to keep the heat at a minimum. Leave the cooking for the frying pan...
I doubt if it makes a difference whether you use the hooks or lay them on the grates as long as smoke gets around it.
Good luck, and welcome to home made bacon!
Dan
 

corvettecory

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I went looking for some maple extract, but couldnt find it anywhere - 3 stores were out of it. Ended up with some pure maple syrup and was planning on adding a cup or so. Just curious if it was even worth the effort.
 

smokeymose

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What can it hurt? You've already spent time looking for it. The cure in the brine will still do its thing regardless of whatever else you add to it. It'll be better than store bought, whether there's Maple or not...
 

corvettecory

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So here goes nothing! Cut belly into 3 pieces and wrestled with the skin for about 10 minutes. Finally said screw it and tossed it in. I read in this forum that it's easier to remove after smoking anyway - we'll see. Mixed up pops wet brine recipe (had to add another 1/2 recipe in order to fully cover) with a cup of pure maple syrup then tossed in a ziploc 3/4 full of water to weigh it down. Into the fridge we go - see ya in 2 weeks...
 

pc farmer

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Gonna be good.    I recommend after the cure, dry in the fridge for 3-5 days before smoking.   Lets some of the moisture dry out of it.
 

corvettecory

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So it's officially been 2 weeks that the belly has been curing and, unfortunately, I won't be able to smoke it during he week since I have to work. Will it be ok to pull out of the wet cure and let sit in the fridge for that long (7 days) or should I keep it in the wet cure for another couple days, then pull it out?
 

smokeymose

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I would leave it in the brine for a few more days. I've done it myself for the same reason (some of us still have to work) and three to five extra days won't hurt with a brine. Letting it dry in the fridge for two or three days is fine, too, but I don't know about seven days....

Dan
 

corvettecory

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So it's been a week and 3 days since I portioned the belly and put in in the wet cure. Took it out today and here's what I've got.


I plan on leaving it in the fridge skin side down (since I didn't remove it beforehand) until Saturday when I'll skin it and smoke it. This look ok so far? Just curious - this is a first time for me. Thanks!!
 

corvettecory

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Couldn't wait. Decided to remove the skin (I definitely need work on the knife skills) and toss em in the fridge. Doesn't look to bad I guess. Time for the salt/fry test...

 
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SmokinAl

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It looks good so far.

Here is a great video on skinning a belly.


Hope this will help next time!

Al
 

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