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1st Pork Belly Bacon, LEMs Jalapeno Bacon Seasoning, Some Bacon Mysteries Solved? - QView Included!!

tallbm

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So I did my first pork belly bacon this weekend. I made two 8 pound bellies worth of bacon and will describe what I did, what I used, and show pics at the end. I hope people can learn from my smoke and have my info help them with what they want to do and help them pull be successful! If you want skip to the pics then come back and read this encyclopedia-like post of info


My Goals:
  • Begin figuring out which wood or wood blends I like for bacon
  • Figure out the reality of skin on vs off bacon and what my preference is between the two
  • Try out the LEM's Jalapeno Bacon cure seasoning and see if it is as good as Jalapeno bacon I've had locally
  • Figure out Smoker Temp, Smoker Cooking Time, and Smoke Time combo
  • See what bacon is like cooking/smoking to a safe to eat IT of 145F
  • Have some good bacon to eat
Lessons Learned:
  • LEM's Backwoods Jalapeno Cure seasoning is WAY WAY WAY salty. I followed the directions for seasoning my 16 pounds of meat and during my fry test it was overwhelmingly salty.
    • If using this seasoning and following the directions to the letter, you will want to soak in ice water for 6 hours after curing time and rinsing steps are performed
    • Soaking (De-salinating) for 6 hours made the salt content perfect! Desalinating is probably a good step no matter what.
    • [UPDATE:] - So I figured out the perfect measurement for using this seasoning. Take the weight of the pork belly you will dry cure in ounces or grams (not pounds) and multiply that weight by .0325 (3.25%). The number you get is the weight of the LEM's Jalapeno Cure seasoning to use. This number does not include the measurement of cure#1 to use. Measure that separately and add to the seasoning. Doing this leads to pork belly that needs no ice water soaking after you rinse off the belly!!!
      If using this seasoning again I might go with half the seasoning amounts the instructions call for BUT the same amount of cure #1 salt. I'm just trying to reduce the salt not make things dangerous by eliminating the cure #1 salt.
    • The LEM's Jalapeno seasoning is great for Jalapeno flavor, but the belly must be soaked to cut the excessive salt content/flavor. The Jalapeno flavor still remains great after soaking.
    • BEWARE inhaling the Jalapeno seasoning as you are distributing it into the bags with the pork belly. Ugh my sinuses and eyes were burning and I was being careful and not making any clouds or stirring things up. The stuff is just strong with Jalapeno. Next time I WILL wear a mask and maybe some glasses. I was not in a windy area and did not have a fan on. Also watch out getting it on your hands if your skin is sensitive to peppers.
  • A smoker temp of 165F takes roughly 12 hours to make two 4 pound slabs of belly reach an IT of 145F
  • There is some rendering of bacon fat with a smoker at 165F but it was not enough to affect the bacon. I don't know that I lost more than 2 floz (2 shot glasses worth) of rendered fat per each 4 pound section of belly. It was not noticibly drinking or anything at like that just a little greesy looking.
  • I can go either way with skin on or skin off for my bacon
    • Skin ON Pros:
      • You don't have to fool with the skin at all
      • Rendering seems to be less prevelent with skin on
      • You end up with more product in the end
      • I didn't really notice a difference in texture of the skin vs a straight fat rind on my bacon and it had great flavor
    • Skin ON Cons:
      • You have more product but it is A LOT more fat as there seems to be more likelyhood of fat under the skin than
        meat
    • Skin OFF Pros:
      • A better meat to fat ratio as fat is removed when with the skin (skinned more before cooking)
    • Skin OFF Cons
      • You have to take the time to fight with the skin
      • You lose product weight overall
      • More waste
    • Skin off/on flavor of seasoning seemed the same. I seasoned and cured with skin on both slabs and removed skin on slab 2 AFTER curing and seasoning. Seasoning flavor did not seem affected or different between the two bellies.
    • I smoked the skin off slabs with skin removed so smoke flavor was not affected by removal of skin. Skin on and skin off both had great smoke flavors imparted so no difference in smoke absorption if you remove skin prior to smoking
    • I think I will go skin on when I have less time and skin off when I want a better meat to fat ratio
  • I applied smoke for about 5 hours and that seemed to be fine
  • I am torn between my 50/50 Cherry and Pecan blend smoked bacon and my 70/30 Apple and Hickory blend
    • The Cherry and Pecan blend gives the bacon what I feel to be a great almost beefy flavor
    • The Apple (70%) to Hickory (30%) blend gives the bacon what I feel to be a great almost chicken flavor
    • I would do both again in a heartbeat!
  • The skin on these pork bellies was almost discernible from pork fat to the naked eye. The true test was to cut into it with a knife. Pork fat is very soft and will give almost no resistance like it is a firmer butter, while pork skin will give you enough to where you have to press into it firmly enough to cut it
The Smoke/Cook:
  • two 8 pound slabs of pork belly from Costco, they come with skin on
  • LEM's Backwoods Jalapeno Cure seasoning (comes with seasoning and cure #1)
  • MES using a PID Controller, Mailbox Mod, and the AMNPS for smoke
  • One 8 pound belly done with 70/30 Apple to Hickory (More apple than hickory) SKIN ON
  • One 8 pound belly done with 50/50 Cherry to Pecan, SKIN OFF
  • I cut bellies into four 4 pound slabs and added the appropriate amount of cure and seasoning (following seasoning ratio from LEM's directions)
  • Cured for 8 days (1 day more than LEM's instructions)
  • Rinsed the bellies and did a fry test, WAY to salty
  • Soaked/De-salinated pork bellies for 6 hours in ice water, did 2nd fry test and all was perfect! Lem should add this step to their instructions.
  • Put bellies in fridge overnight to form pelicle
  • Belly 1:
    • Started at 10am, After overnight rest I put in top rack of smoker at 100F for an hour to dry
    • On hour #2 (11am) I bumped up temp to 130F and let go for an hour and a half
      • I also started applying the 70/30 Apple and Hickory blend of smoke which ran for about 4.5 hours
    • At 12:30pm I then bumped up to 165F for about 3 hours, bellies seemed to stall at 126-127F this whole time
    • At 3:30pm I bumped up temp to 180F for 1 hour because I still had another 8 pounds of belly to do after this one :(
    • At 4:30 Temps hit about 133F so I bumped up temp to 200F to finish to an IT of 145 over the next 1.5 hours
    • I went way above the 165F temp but saw many use a temp of 185F and 200F so figured what the hell, plus I had to get the 2nd batch of belly going for overnight or else I would be out of time!
    • Ended at 6pm
  • Belly 2:
    • At 1pm While waiting on belly 1, I made the decision to remove skin on belly 2 so I did and put back in fridge
    • At 6:15pm I set smoker back to 100F and two 4 pound sections of belly 2 went in to dry for an hour
    • At 7:15pm I applied 50/50 Cherry and Pecan blend of smoke that ran for about 5 hours
    • Also 7:15pm I set temp to 165F on smoker
    • From 9pm-11pm the temp was stalling at 126-127F again, I went to bed and set alarm on Maverick
    • At 5:30am the next day the Maverick alarm went off and IT of 145F was met while the smoker was still steady on 165F (I love this PID controller!)
  • Both bellys went into fridge and rested until about 3pm today
Slicing and Sealing:

At about 3pm today I sliced and vacuum sealed the bacon. Dinner will be BLT's!

Conclusion and QView:

This was a great experience and I will likely do this once a year.

Honestly I'm not much of a bacon guy. I really like bacon but I don't eat a lot of breakfast food and the #1 cause of any heartburn I may ever get is grease/oil/fat so I simply don't eat a lot of it. Bacon fried on a skillet often falls in this category.

With all of that said, this bacon is OUTSTANDING!!!! I will be using it for stuffed jalapenos (ABT's), for grilled burgers with bacon and cheese, all kinds of other dishes, and the occasional breakfast meal.

Here is the Jalapeno Bacon Qview!!!

Applewood and hickory blend before smoking and after


Applewood and hickory blend being carved up after being pulled off and with skin on:


Close up of applewood and hickory blend slice for tasting, lots of fat there:


Cherrywood and Pecan blend off the smoker and a slice cut off:


Applewood and hickory all sliced up, can u seen the skin on the right hand side pic:


Cherrywood and Pecan sliced on left with no skin, and both types of bacon all vacuum sealed:

 
Last edited:

johnh12

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Thanks for the great write-up with detailed info.

I've only done bacon twice. First time I left the skin on but took it off after smoking at 200* until IT was 150. Second time I took the skin off before curing and smoking. I think there was better smoke flavor with the skin off but the bacon cure flavor was the same.

I think I'll follow your example and leave the skin on the whole time but smoke a bit longer.

I've never eaten skin on bacon but will try it for the next batch. I have a commercial grade 12" slicer so the skin shouldn't be a problem. I guess it can always be torn off if it's too chewy.
 

SmokinAl

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Great thread & your bacon looks fantastic!

Nice job!

Point!

Al
 
Last edited:

crazymoon

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TBM, Nice post and excellent looking bacon! 
 

tallbm

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Thanks for the great write-up with detailed info.

I've only done bacon twice. First time I left the skin on but took it off after smoking at 200* until IT was 150. Second time I took the skin off before curing and smoking. I think there was better smoke flavor with the skin off but the bacon cure flavor was the same.

I think I'll follow your example and leave the skin on the whole time but smoke a bit longer.

I've never eaten skin on bacon but will try it for the next batch. I have a commercial grade 12" slicer so the skin shouldn't be a problem. I guess it can always be torn off if it's too chewy.
No problem.  I have read where someone can get a really chewy rind from the skin but that was not my case at all. The skin on my bacon was not chewy at all, not one bit.  The skin was not noticeable at all to me or a friend of mine as we ate plenty of both the skin on and the skin off bacon I made.  

I also read where people remove the skin after smoking because it is super easy to do so.  In this case you can smoke it and if it comes out a non issue like mine then u keep it, if you don't like it you supposedly get an easier task of skinning.  Win, win!
 
Great thread & your bacon looks fantastic!

Nice job!

Point!

Al
Thanks Al!
 
TBM, Nice post and excellent looking bacon! 
Thanks CrazyMoon, I'm glad you managed to make it all the way through the post.  It was one giant glob of info.  I hope people find it helpful because I think it provides info on a lot of areas that were unclear to me even though my google-fu is strong :)
 

tallbm

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Last edited:

tallbm

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Oh man I forgot I took a pic of my BLT. 

I made the sandwich, cut it in half,  and then realized I should take a pic so I pulled the bread off and snapped the shot.  If I had been thinking I would have taken a much better looking shot with more of the ingredients visible and no cream cheese getting in the way.  The white stuff you are seeing on the bacon is Garden Vegetable Cream Cheese that was spread on the bread and transferred to the bacon when I put the bread on the sandwich and cut in half.

Sandwich Ingredients:

-Toasted 100% Whole Grain Whole Wheat Bread (Orowheat brand)

-Green Leaf Lettuce

-Red onion (hardly visible)

-Yellow and Red Heirloom Tomatoes (not visible)

-Avocado (not Visible)

-Garden Vegetable Cream Cheese

I've never been much of a BLT guy because they have never impressed me before. 

I decided to google what the best tomatoes are for a BLT and got the first tomatoes I could find that were on the list.  My friend I was having lunch with likes avocado so that made it on the sandwich.  I like Green leaf lettuce and red onion on sandwiches, so no brainer there.  Good bread can't be skipped for a superb sandwich.  Finally, I didn't know if it would be dry and I kind of wanted cheese so a garden vegetable cream cheese seemed like the best of both worlds when it came to cheese that would double as a condiment.

Best BLT I have ever eaten, hands down!  The bacon with the heirloom tomatoes was beyond amazing!  The cream cheese and avocado along with the rich tomato made sure the sandwich was not dry.

I am definitely adding this exact sandwich to my list of worthy sandwich meals hahaha.  Enjoy the pic below!

 

tallbm

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I updated the main post with the bolded text below.
I made 24 pounds of bacon this past week and I wanted to use up this seasoning and the Venison Bacon one I have so I went and did some number crunching, researching, and educated guessing to figure out how much of the seasoning to use to get the right amount of salt WITHOUT having to ice water soak the bellys to remove excess salt.

I dry cured with the seasoning for 8 days and also added the proper amount of cure on top of the seasoning. I'm very happy with how it came out and now I know to use these seasonings at 3.25% of the pork belly weight and then add the proper amount of cure#1 on top :)

I really really really like this LEM's Jalapeno Bacon Cure seasoning flavor and now that I have figured out how much of it to ACTUALLY and safely use (follow the directions on the package = too much salt) I will likely buy it again rather than trying to figure out how to make it on my own Jalapeno bacon seasoning.

I hope this info helps those out there using these or similar store bought bacon seasonings! :)


[UPDATE:] - So I figured out the perfect measurement for using this seasoning. Take the weight of the pork belly you will dry cure in ounces or grams (not pounds) and multiply that weight by .0325 (3.25%). The number you get is the weight of the LEM's Jalapeno Cure seasoning to use. This number does not include the measurement of cure#1 to use. Measure that separately and add to the seasoning. Doing this leads to pork belly that needs no ice water soaking after you rinse off the belly!!!
 

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