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First time bacon...unsure of curing process!

shaneyb72

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So I have always wanted to get a pork belly and try some bacon. And the last time I was at Restaurant Depot they had a whole pile of pork bellies! So I figured it was meant to be and I picked out a nice looking 13lb belly. I have done a ton of reading on here (too much maybe) and decided to go with a dry cure rub for the curing process and will then cold smoke it in my RT-700 (no power, only smoke from an A-MAZE-N).

I used diggingdog's online cure calculator to come up with 0.5oz cure #1, 3.5oz salt, and 2oz sugar. I followed this very closely, using a digital kitchen scale to weigh out the cure, salt, and sugar. I have to admit, it did not seem like very much dry rub at all! I cut the belly into 4 roughly equal pieces and divided the mixture evenly over them and rubbed it into all surfaces. I put each piece in a gallon Ziploc, squeezed out all the air, sealed them up, and put them all in the fridge.

They have been in the fridge for 8 days now and I just took them out, rinsed them off well, and put them in an ice water bath. After an hour I plan to dry them off and put them back in the fridge to dry out until morning when I will start cold smoking.

But here is my issue...I am not sure that the curing process "worked"! The curing process didn't seem to pull any moisture out of the bellies. There was no liquid in the bags at all. The bellies are definitely firmer than they were, but not as much as I expected. They do not seem "dry" at all. Are my expectations just totally off here? Or did this not work right? I want to trust the process, but also don't want bad bacon!

Thanks to all in advance for any help on this!
 

Steve H

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shaneyb72 shaneyb72 That is not an issue. If you followed the cure portions then you are good to go. It is normal for the liquids to be reabsorbed into the belly. If I had any thoughts, then I'd question the length of the cure. I normally go 12 days. You can cut a piece off. And fry test it. But I think you're fine.
 

shaneyb72

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shaneyb72 shaneyb72 That is not an issue. If you followed the cure portions then you are good to go. It is normal for the liquids to be reabsorbed into the belly. If I had any thoughts, then I'd question the length of the cure. I normally go 12 days. You can cut a piece off. And fry test it. But I think you're fine.
Thanks Steve...appreciate it!
 

DanMcG

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I agree with what Steve wrote.
Only small issue I saw was you divided the meat into four pieces and cut the cure into equal portions. You should measure out the cure in proportion to the weight of the meat. If the bellies are not equal weights, then a smaller piece will end up with more cure and the large ones will have less.
 

shaneyb72

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I agree with what Steve wrote.
Only small issue I saw was you divided the meat into four pieces and cut the cure into equal portions. You should measure out the cure in proportion to the weight of the meat. If the bellies are not equal weights, then a smaller piece will end up with more cure and the large ones will have less.
Ya, I realized that after I had already done it. Next time I will portion them, weigh them, and calculate cure for each portiion.
 

Steve H

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I agree with what Steve wrote.
Only small issue I saw was you divided the meat into four pieces and cut the cure into equal portions. You should measure out the cure in proportion to the weight of the meat. If the bellies are not equal weights, then a smaller piece will end up with more cure and the large ones will have less.
Overlooked that! Good call.
 

phanman

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But here is my issue...I am not sure that the curing process "worked"! The curing process didn't seem to pull any moisture out of the bellies. There was no liquid in the bags at all. The bellies are definitely firmer than they were, but not as much as I expected. They do not seem "dry" at all. Are my expectations just totally off here? Or did this not work right? I want to trust the process, but also don't want bad bacon!

Thanks to all in advance for any help on this!
I by no means am a bacon expert, but when I did my first bacon I thought the same thing. I know I measured correctly with the cure but the doubt creeped in if I had done everything right. I had very little liquid in the bag after 10 days, but did the same thing and rinsed them and then soaked for a good 2 hours then back in the fridge until the morning. They turned out fantastic! As others have stated, the liquid just reabsorbed into the bellies. You are going to love the bacon I am sure. Don't forget to show us some pictures of that beautiful bacon.
 

HalfSmoked

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Thanks for the like shaneyb72 it is appreciated.

Warren
 

SmokinAl

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I think the guys have put you on track.
The only thing I would add is, I always cure for 14 days.
But I’m sure you will be fine.
Al
 

HalfSmoked

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Thanks for the like Brokenhandle it is appreciated.

Warren
 

zwiller

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One thing I picked up here and helped me (OCD) is most agree that cure penetrates at a rate of 1/4" per day. 8 days being 2" so unless that belly was over 4" thick you should be fine. I think you're good. When I first started curing it seemed odd that cured stuff doesn't really display any obvious form of success. Stiffness is agreed to be a good sign but that's about it. Eventually after a few times you start to trust yourself. I cure a lot of stuff but have only made bacon a few times and was not really blown away with mine. Probably because I have access to some killer stuff here. If I ran bacon again I would smoke much longer than most say, like 24hrs or longer. I actually plan to run some loins this fall starting around 48hr and up to maybe 80hrs.
 

shaneyb72

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One thing I picked up here and helped me (OCD) is most agree that cure penetrates at a rate of 1/4" per day. 8 days being 2" so unless that belly was over 4" thick you should be fine. I think you're good. When I first started curing it seemed odd that cured stuff doesn't really display any obvious form of success. Stiffness is agreed to be a good sign but that's about it. Eventually after a few times you start to trust yourself. I cure a lot of stuff but have only made bacon a few times and was not really blown away with mine. Probably because I have access to some killer stuff here. If I ran bacon again I would smoke much longer than most say, like 24hrs or longer. I actually plan to run some loins this fall starting around 48hr and up to maybe 80hrs.
Ya this belly was not real thick...especially after I removed the rind. I’d say it’s barely 2” at the thickest part.
 

thirdeye

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You see this tip mentioned occasionally but I add at least a tablespoon of bottled water to each zipper bag as a kind of head start.
 

shaneyb72

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So I thought I should come back and give an update.
On Thursday I rinsed, soaked, and dried it. I then applied to the 4 chunks:
-pepper, garlic powder & onion powder
-maple syrup (local)
-maple syrup and coarse black pepper
-brown sugar
All 4 pieces went on racks in the fridge overnight.
On Friday I put them in the RT-700 (fan only) and applied smoke (hickory, cherry & maple) for about 15 hours. I alternated between an A-Maze-N maze (filled with dust) and an A-Maze-N tube filled with pellets. Temperature crept up to about 88 degrees when the sun was at its peak. I did put 2 pans of ice in as well to try to keep temps down. Yesterday I fried up a couple slices for breakfast sandwiches before we went tailgating for the Bills game.
And today I sliced and vac sealed it all.
All in all, I think it was a success and I’ll be trying it again!
 

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HalfSmoked

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Looks good to me. That is what counts if you were happy with it then great. Improve as you see a need to do so.

Warren
 

Murray

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Suggest you take detailed notes, % of salt and sugar used, curing time, type and time of smoke added and most importantly the flavour of the finished product. I have done 10 or so batches of bacon and know exactly what WE like. We love salt so 2% salt and 1.5% brown sugar, only a quick rinse and a minimum of 12 hours cold smoke with apple dust. Bottom line, experiment lots and figure out what you like, each batch will get you closer to your own liking.
 

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