Hickory-Smoked Maple bacon: with Pix

Discussion in 'Smoking Bacon' started by couger78, Jun 4, 2012.

  1. couger78

    couger78 Smoking Fanatic

    It's makin' bacon time!

    Got all the ingredients lined up for this recipe...[​IMG]

    Into the dry ingredients, I add the 'wet.'


    Well-mixed into a sticky paste that'll be rubbed into the bellies...


    I picked up 16.5 pound of pork belly at a 'reasonable' price. Hard to get it in my area, I've discovered. Many places want upwards of $7-8 a pound! This was $3.99/lb special ordered at our local Whole Foods. Good fat-to-lean ratio.


    I gave the bellies a thorough rub-down with the maple/honey cure paste, distributing it evenly across all surfaces. These will sit in my fridge for two days while the salt draws moisture out and a brine develops. It's important to allow the brine to cover the meat so I may move the bellies into separate zip-locs to ensure good brine contact & submersion.


    That's all for now. After 5-7 days of curing, it will then be on to the next step: SMOKING.

    More to come!

    Last edited: Jun 4, 2012
  2. scarbelly

    scarbelly Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Looking great so far 
  3. Looking good...those are nice bellies! 
  4. jrod62

    jrod62 Smoking Guru Group Lead OTBS Member

    Looks good . Will be back to check this out in two weeks
  5. couger78

    couger78 Smoking Fanatic

    Last night I picked up some jumbo Ziplocs (13x15") which are an ideal size for the belly-slab sizes I have.

    I transfered the bellies from the plastic lug to the Ziplocs—a nice brine has developed— and squeezed out the excess air.


    Now I'll flip these every day or so for good cure coverage. In hindsight, had I already had the ziplocs in hand, I wouldnt have had to let the bellies sit in the lug, but gone right into the bags.

    If all goes well—I'll sample a piece on Saturday for saltiness, and if it's on the mark, I'll hang dry 'em overnight & on to the smoker the next day.

    Last edited: Jun 5, 2012
  6. chef jimmyj

    chef jimmyj Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator Group Lead OTBS Member

    Good start Kevin...JJ
  7. sub-80

    sub-80 Fire Starter

    Those really are some nice looking bellies...Whole Foods you say? Huh....I'll have to remember that. I'm happy with the belly I got from my local butcher, but yours is a little thicker...looks good.
  8. couger78

    couger78 Smoking Fanatic

    Sub, someone recommended Whole Foods, so since its on my way home from the office, I figured I'd give it a shot.

    According to the guy behind the butcher counter, they don't normally stock bellies, but if let him know on Tuesday, he'll get it in frozen by later in the week. Price was fair & the quality excellent—at least in this batch I received.

    Last edited: Jun 8, 2012
  9. sam3

    sam3 Smoking Fanatic

    Looking good so far Kevin.
  10. couger78

    couger78 Smoking Fanatic

    This morning, I sliced & fried up a sample to check the overall flavor balance (salty vs sweet) after 4.5 days of curing.

    Tasted fine— a bit of both saltiness and sweetness, neither overpowering the other. So on to the next step....

    I washed & wiped down all the belly pieces quite throughly (2 larger 'squares' and two end hunks) and dried them. Some of the black pepper 'residue remained, but my main concern was to remove any excess cure/salt.

    Ready to be hung...


    Dug out my bacon hangers & set up our 2nd fridge to let the bellies hang dry for a day or so. This is to ensure a good dry time (fridges suck out moisture from exposed foods) and really aid in developing good pellicle formation—essential for decent smoke adhesion.

    Hangin' & dryin'...


    Come Sunday eve, I'll be prepping the smoker and getting these bellies ready to move there for a long, cool overnight smoke.

  11. tjohnson

    tjohnson Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator Insider OTBS Member SMF Premier Member


    Waiting for the smoke
  12. couger78

    couger78 Smoking Fanatic

    Ditto, Todd!

    I've my a-maze-n pellet smoker ready to go with an nice mix of both hickory and apple.

    I just have to be sure I get good airflow in the MB Extra-Wide. I've had some issues keeping the pellets from going out. Best place I've found is right over 'flame ring' opening in the floor center.

  13. couger78

    couger78 Smoking Fanatic

    Okay, Sunday eve has rolled around and so now on to the smoker....

    Temps were high today (90°F) so I'm glad I waited for a cooler overnight smoke.

    After dinner, ambient temp in the smoker was still warmer than I wanted (less than 70°F), so I waited a while.


    By 8:00 pm, the temp had cooled down to 68° so off we go...

    A nice dry, firm skin (pellicle) had formed on the bellies, so I was in good shape as far as the condition of the pork.

    I loaded up the A-Maze-N smoker with a combination of pellets:


    I positioned the lit amazen over the floor opening in my MB ExtraWide & test to be sure I was getting good airflow into the smoker:


    Once I was ensured of good smoke movement, I was ready to hang the bellies.

    To do this, I need to insert my 'custom' ([​IMG]) sausage-hanging rack.

    These will hold up to 25lbs of sausage so I know they'll do okay with the pork belly load:


    Finally got the bellies hanging and the smoke rolling. My 'heat deflector' is an old foil-lined cookie sheet. There's not a 'lot' of heat being generated, but indirect is still best.

    The smoke isnt as 'intense' as it appears here in this photo (due to the door being wide open)—just a steady stream of light blue smoke:


    I'll check on it a bit later. We revisit this tomorrow morning after a good 10-12 hours of smoke.

    I may backfill a few more pellets before calling it a night.

    More to come...

    Last edited: Jun 10, 2012
  14. sub-80

    sub-80 Fire Starter

    Looking great Kevin! Thanks for the detailed pictures!
  15. couger78

    couger78 Smoking Fanatic

    Early next morning, time to check on the bellies. They've been smoking now almost 12 hours, with the temps in the low 60s outside & in the smoker.

    It's supposed to be warm today, so I'll pull the bellies before the smoker temp hits the upper 70s.

    After 12 hours of cold smoke: 


    The bellies have taken on a nice yellowish-brown color (as expected with cold smoking); much more subdued than the brilliant RED when hot smoking.  They smell VERY smokey!....


    These will rest in the fridge for the next 2-3 days before I chill them well and slice. I read where, like cold-smoked cheese, resting is essential to 'mellow out' some of the harshness of the smoke.


    Slicing & sampling still to come...

    Last edited: Jun 11, 2012
  16. dnic

    dnic Fire Starter

    Looks great! You'll have to excuse my lack of knowledge, but once finished, is this bacon ready to eat, or do you still pan fry it before eating?
  17. couger78

    couger78 Smoking Fanatic

    Since the temp never gets over 75° during the cold-smoke process, yes, the pork needs to be cooked before eating. The curing process prior to smoking prevents the growth of botulism and aids in preserving the meat.

  18. indyadmin1974

    indyadmin1974 Smoking Fanatic

    Why don't we have one of these --> [​IMG]  full of bacon?

    I'm ready for my cure to be done so I can move on to the next step.
  19. sub-80

    sub-80 Fire Starter

    I think that color is just fine...looks awesome Kevin!

    Thanks again for the qviews. I wish a I had a similar set-up to hang the bellies. Mine are going to the smoke very soon on my kettle...laying flat. There has to be an advantage to hanging...
  20. Looks real good!!!!


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