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Bacon experiment

akdutchguy

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I am trying to get some recipes mastered so when I get my commercial smokehouse going I can turn out some quality products. My latest project has been bacon. My first batch was awesome until I had a smoker malfunction and it got way over smoked. The next couple batches have been very inconsistent. I have been using pops brine method. So this go around I decided to try a dry sugar cure recommended by Mr T. Both processes are here in the forums somewhere. I haven't figured out how to post the links yet. I will try to work on getting that figured out. Here are some observations:
Pops brine:
Fairly easy to setup especially for large full slabs of belly. Just weigh the meat and cure, sugar, and water and put it in a cooler and put it in the fridge.
Mr. T's sugar cure takes a bit more to get curing. I had to cut the belly down to get it in the bag. After you know they fit in the bag you need to calculate out the cure and other spices needed. Put the belly and spice cure in the bag and put them in the fridge. This method takes up less space in the fridge to keep she that must be obeyed off your back.
As far as clean up the sugar cure was way easier to clean up. Take the bellies out of the bags and throw them away. Pops brine I have to wash out the cooler for the next run. After the 14 day cure the sugar cure bellies were nice and firm. The bellies in the brine were soft. After the rest period (mine went 6 days due to work) both bellies were firm. It was hard to tell the difference. The sugar cure may have been a touch firmer but not noticeable. Both bellies are in the smoker again today. It was too cold to keep a draft going and I found the smoke coming out the holes in my mailbox and not out the pipe. I got a 60 a bulb shoved down the stack and it seems to be keeping a draft better today even though it is 28 outside. I can't wait to fry these up and see how they turn out. Will keep you guys posted as the experiment continues.

Edit:
Pops brine
http://www.smokingmeatforums.com/t/110799/pops6927s-wet-curing-brine/0_80

Mr T's sugar cured bacon
http://www.smokingmeatforums.com/t/178233/mr-ts-sugar-cured-bacon/0_80

Hope those links work
Jason
 
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SmokinAl

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I've used both the dry cure & brine method, & I like the dry cure better.

I think the final product has more flavor & I like the texture of the cooked bacon better.

But that's just my opinion.

Al
 

uzikaduzi

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i've been making some using a modified version of pop's (just to get the salt and sugar where i like it... nothing extra added or left out) and a dry brine.

this last time i had one resting while another was curing (i have to buy one slab at a time so my wife doesn't think i'm going over board) so i put the one resting (pan + wire rack + belly) on top of the dry brine curing... i rest for a week before and a week after smoking so it was pressing the whole time (flipping daily) and it came out insanely firmer... i slice that one tomorrow so i'm excited how it turned out... maybe pressing adds something?
 

akdutchguy

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Al,
I'm leaning toward the dry method also. I fried up a tag end last night. It needed more smoke due to the malfunction, but the flavor was amazing. It didn't seem to shrink much if any. It was a small piece so it was hard to tell. I like the simple clean up and less space in the fridge to be huge benefits.
Jason
 

akdutchguy

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i've been making some using a modified version of pop's (just to get the salt and sugar where i like it... nothing extra added or left out) and a dry brine.

this last time i had one resting while another was curing (i have to buy one slab at a time so my wife doesn't think i'm going over board) so i put the one resting (pan + wire rack + belly) on top of the dry brine curing... i rest for a week before and a week after smoking so it was pressing the whole time (flipping daily) and it came out insanely firmer... i slice that one tomorrow so i'm excited how it turned out... maybe pressing adds something?
Did you notice water in the bottom of the pan with the pressed belly? I didn't press when I rested mine. I noticed water in the pan of brine cure bacon and nothing in the dry cure.
Jason
 

browneyesvictim

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Interesting....

I did the same exact experiment just a couple weeks ago. I just had to know for myself. Admittedly, there were pros and cons to both, but I think I have convinced myself Pops brine method was easier for me. I soaked them in a 36qt stainless steel stock pot/steamer that I put in my spare fridge. They dry/rest on racks in the same spot in the fridge the pot was. Pot cleans up easily enough. With the dry cure, I felt that the meticulous measuring out the cure/ingredients/meat for each slab was a PITA versus weighing the total meat weight, mixing with a gallon and plopping it in and waiting.

.

In addition I compared "semi-hot smoking" and "cold smoking" I split the dry and wet cure to smoke half and half. One batch I did with apple wood  for 2x 12 hour smokes at 100' with a rest in the fridge in-between. The other I did 36 hours of continuous cold smoke (no heat') with pecan. It may surprise some that there was more smoke flavor and penetration with the apple wood  for 24 hours at 100' than the 36 hours pecan smoke for 36 hours. For this I think I preferred the pecan at 36 hours for belly bacon and would prefer the hotter smoke for ham CB or BBB. The flavor in the difference of the brined vs. dry cure was negligible. If there was a gun to my head and I had to choose I would say perhaps the dry cure maybe had a slight advantage but not worth the extra effort.

Right, wrong or indifferent, those were my findings. But I say whatever works best for you then that's the right way.
 

browneyesvictim

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uzikaduzi- My slabs are stacked on each other also as they rest, so they are also "pressed" in this manner. I do this to help keep a uniform shape for slicing.... That, and I don't have cake racks to keep space between them anyway. Maybe you are on to something here about the firmness? 

AKDutchguy- I can't say I noticed anything dripping off the brined ones after I rinsed and dried them and added a coating of CBP to one side.
 

uzikaduzi

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Did you notice water in the bottom of the pan with the pressed belly? I didn't press when I rested mine. I noticed water in the pan of brine cure bacon and nothing in the dry cure.
Jason
I might have worded that wierd. i had one from a modified version of pop's on a wire rack in a pan resting pre-smoke which was sitting on one dry brining in a zip lock bag underneath it.

i have never noticed any liquid fro a dry brined one while resting and this one was no different. with the wet brined one, i did notice a little moisture while resting and smoking in the high 80's it was a dripping a little water (i know that in theory could have been fat at that temp, but i collected it when i noticed it start... it was water). this pressing was 100% just due to space, i didn't expect it to change anything but there is quite a discernible difference.

taste wise i think pop's is closer to the bacon i bought at the local meat market growing up in NY... like behind the meat display case and by the pound stuff... not the mass produced stuff. it's great and my kids like it... my kids don't care  for the dry brined stuff. i love it. it cooks up flatter in the pan, seems much stronger flavored and the texture is a little unique. i like both honestly and do both but to me there is a distinct difference. i actually think my kids don't like the dry brined stuff because its different from their idea of bacon and pop's isn't as different.
 

chef jimmyj

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Have done both. Pops is more similar to the Store mass produced Bacon my City raised kids are used to and a great product with an Artisan quality. The Dry Cured is not unlike the Old Fashioned and the Country Style Bacon that I enjoyed in and around Amish Country in Central PA. I have switched back and forth depending on Refer space and individual requests for one or the other...JJ
 

uzikaduzi

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something i was thinking about AKDutchguy, i can fit a belly and 1 gallon of pops in a 2.5 gallon ziplock bag... nothing to wash up and takes up less space in the fridge. i will say i still put them in a tray generally because i don't 100% trust any ziplock.
 

akdutchguy

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I have been looking for 2 gallon ziplocks but can't find any. The largest I have seen are the 1gallon. I would still have to put it in something.
Jason
 

akdutchguy

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Here are some pics after 18 hours in the smoke.
The bacon pair on the right is the brine cure. The pair on the left is the dry cure. The shrinkage is similar on both. I thought the brine might shrink a bit more. The flavor of the pops brine bacon is too sweet for my taste. This can be adjusted by the sugar amount in the cure. The flavor of Mr T's sugar cure was good. The balance of salt and sweet was good. It was still a touch on the sweet side. Of course the kids liked both and didn't leave me much for my project.

Conclusion:
Both cures make some far superior bacon to any you can get in the store. I feel it is easier to do the brine cure for large batches. For smaller batches the dry cure might be easier. If I were to pick the one I like better it would be the dry cure. I think I will try to get pops brine to my liking for my next project. I think for more mass produced bacon it will be easier to do. I will do Mr T's for the smokers reserve black label bacon.
I'm sure everybody has different tastes and these are just my opinions. I hope this helps somebody in their bacon attempts. I think everyone should make their own bacon. Well worth the effort.
Jason
 

wade

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Another vote for dry cure bacon here. I have used both methods but I find the dry cure bacon is preferred by my customers - and by me too. I only produce the dry cure bacon now. 
 

akdutchguy

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Another vote for dry cure bacon here. I have used both methods but I find the dry cure bacon is preferred by my customers - and by me too. I only produce the dry cure bacon now. 
How much bacon do you do at a time?
Jason
 

wade

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I usually to keep a constant flow of bacon going through rather than cure it in large batches. There is pretty much always some curing in the fridge. I will usually do  a whole pork loin (cut in half) and a whole pork belly (cut into 4) every 3 weeks or so. Both are usually about 8-10 pounds (3.5-4 Kg) each. The volumes will vary depending on whether I am selling at any events. Regarding size, the important thing for me is that the final sliced bacon fits my packaging. Coming up to Christmas I will be producing more.
 
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akdutchguy

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Thanks Wade. I'm still in the process of getting permits and building plans approved. Gives me a chance to tweak some recipes.
Jason
 

wade

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My advice it to keep the recipes simple. I first tried to produce a range of different flavours but in the end found that the most popular was simple black pepper...
 

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