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How long to cure

Discussion in 'Bacon' started by alblancher, Sep 24, 2010.

  1. alblancher

    alblancher Master of the Pit Group Lead OTBS Member

    I'm starting some pork bellies for the SE Louisiana Event we have in two weeks.  The Hong Kong Market didn't have whole pork bellies so what I have to work with is well trimmed and under an inch thick but with a good amount of meat.   In the past I have done whole bellies with a very thick layer of fat.

    I am 14 days out and trying to decide if I should go ahead and start them to cure this afternoon and let them go for 13 days or still only cure them for 10 days and then let them spend 3 days in the fridge after curing and rinsing?

    I will use a dry cure (cure 1, salt, maybe brown sugar) but have decide to use Steens Cane Syrup on some of the bellies.  Steens is a dark, rich sugar cane syrup made in the heart of Cajun Country.  Kind of like molasses without so much sulfur and a bit lighter but still thick and full of flavor.   I was thinking of incorporating the Steens in the cure process instead of the sugar.  I am also thinking that I should add a thin layer of the Steens to the cured bacon after the fresh water rinse.  The intention is to allow the syrup to dry on the meat before going into the smoke house.

    My concerns

    Is 13 days of cure time maybe too much for thin belly.

    If I do only a 10 day cure I think the 3 day rest would only improve the flavor  right or wrong?

    Will the Steens after drying on the bacon and becoming sticky pickup up too much smoke or prevent the smoke from getting into the meat?


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  2. ak1

    ak1 Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    I would think that might be too long in the cure. I've never gone more than 7 days.

    Is there something stopping you from just making the bacon & then freezing it?
  3. Bearcarver

    Bearcarver SMF Hall of Fame Pitmaster Group Lead OTBS Member


    It really depends on the thickness.

    For calculating length of time in cure:

    Measure the thickest point of your thickest piece.

    How many 1/2" are in that number ?

    Add 2 days to that for safety.


    Thickest point---3 1/2".

    There are seven 1/2" in 3 1/2".

    7 + 2 = 9

    That means the belly should be in cure for a minimum of 9 days.

    No less than that.

    3 days more should not hurt, but I don't know if I would want to go any longer.

    To avoid being too salty, after you pull it from the cure, rinse it off real good under cold water. Then soak it for a half hour in ice water. Then cut a couple slices, fry them, and taste them (fun part). If they are too salty, soak for another hour or two, and taste again. Repeat as necessary until it tastes right, before smoking.

  4. alblancher

    alblancher Master of the Pit Group Lead OTBS Member


    I would like the smoking to be part of the event.  There a a couple of people coming that have never done a cold smoke.


    The belly is pretty thing so I am beginning to think that 13 days will be too long.  I like your formula and I think a 7 day cure would be about right with your and AK's advice

    Any thoughts on the sweet syrup  brushed on and allowed to dry before smoking? 
  5. ak1

    ak1 Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    If you'd like smoking to be part of the event, then there are IMO a few possibilities. One, you could cure it now(for 7 days), then rinse and freeze until the day before. After that put it in the fridge to thaw overnight, and then smoke the next day with your friends. Or count backwards from the smoke day and start curing 8 days before. I say 8 days because you want to cure for 7 and give yourself the eighth to do the taste trials, and let the pellicle form prior to smoking.
  6. lcruzen

    lcruzen Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    If you weights and measurements are correct then you can't over cure it.
  7. ak1

    ak1 Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Really?  Not trying to be smart, but asking as someone who is quite new to curing.

    7 days or X days wouldn't matter?
  8. alblancher

    alblancher Master of the Pit Group Lead OTBS Member

    Icruzen is not the first to say that from some of the web searches I have found.  I am obviously still up in the air about it. 

    Some posters recommend curing not for a specific time but until the meat is firm to the touch.

    I didn't like the bellies I unwrapped when I got home this morning so I ordered some more from a butcher in Carrierre MS.  They should have them Monday so I am getting closer to that minimum 7 day cure and 1 day equalization/drying

    I guess some of the rejected bellies will also go in the smoker just to see how they come out.  The rest will get cut up into bite size pieces and fried for Cracklins.
  9. beer-b-q

    beer-b-q Epic Pitmaster OTBS Member

  10. Bearcarver

    Bearcarver SMF Hall of Fame Pitmaster Group Lead OTBS Member

    My formula in my other post is what most of us use.

    If you do the calculations from that, 7 day plus 1 is fine for a belly that is 2 1/2" thick at it's thickest point:

    2 1/2 " thick = 5 halves

    5 plus 2 = 7

    Remove after 7 days in cure, do your salt testing & whatever soaking is needed (if any).

    From there on, I dry my pieces with paper towels, and put them on the smoking racks over night to dry & form pellicle.

    Then I put them in the smoker the next day. You can do this if you have an extra fridge to do it in.

    If you don't have fridge space, you can put it in the smoker for an hour or two without smoke at maybe 120˚ or 130˚.

    Then put your smoke on, and set your heat wherever you want.

    Or, as some do, put the pieces on your rack in front of a fan for an hour or two to dry & form the pellicle, before they go into your smoker.

    All kinds of ways to do however you want. Just don't cure for less time than the formula above.

    Aaaaaand, don't forget the Qview,[​IMG]


    OOOPs, almost forgot your other question:

    I tried putting maple syrup in with the cure---didn't taste it.

    I tried injecting maple syrup in the belly pieces----hardly taste it.

    I never put it on the outside before smoking, because I didn't want it all sticky. Plus that might effect the smoke & pellicle dryness???

    I'm going to try a maple sugar powder in with the cure next time.

    That's about all I can tell you.
    Last edited: Sep 24, 2010
  11. alblancher

    alblancher Master of the Pit Group Lead OTBS Member

    Any comment on coating with the sugar cane syrup after washing.  Wash/soak to remove salt, pat dry, coat with Steen's, allow to air dry then cold smoke.  Will this thin coat of syrup enhance or cause problems once in the smoker?  If a pellicle is the thin "sticky" layer that holds the smoke would adding the syrup enhance that effect?

    Also, how long can you leave in the fridge after curing and washing before affecting the pellicle?  I heard about 3 days max.  Will the cool temps of the fridge and the cure keep the bacon safe?  I would think that the longer the better as far as getting the flavors to meld.

    BTW, great link on the calculator Beer-B-Q,  thanks

    Thanks for bearing with me Bearcarver and AK.  I've done this before but I would like to try some new things to impress our visitors.
  12. mballi3011

    mballi3011 Epic Pitmaster OTBS Member SMF Premier Member


    Hey there AL I have cured a bunch of bellies and I have always cured them for 2 weeks. No matter the thickness of the bellies. Now I'm another one that doesn't think that you can over cure bacon. I think that the bellie gets deeper stronger cured flavor. If that makes any sense at all. But it just taste better to me and I continue curing my bacon for 2 weeks.
  13. Bearcarver

    Bearcarver SMF Hall of Fame Pitmaster Group Lead OTBS Member

    There ya go Al, I was waiting for that answer too. Now we know the extra time won't hurt. If Mark says it, you can Bank on it!

    mballi to the rescue!

  14. alblancher

    alblancher Master of the Pit Group Lead OTBS Member

    You guys are great.  We now have the cure time 1 day per 1/2 inch plus 2 days, max of about 2 weeks and proportions of Salt, cure and sugar resolved

    I guess I'm going to find out for myself about the cane syrup because you guys don't want to send me in the wrong direction.  I'll do some with and without the after cure syrup mop.  Between Piney, Shooterrick, Eman and a couple of  other respectable members that are attending I am sure my success or failure will be well publicized.  

  15. pineywoods

    pineywoods SMF Hall of Fame Pitmaster Staff Member Administrator Group Lead OTBS Member OTBS Admin SMF Premier Member

    Al you can put the syrup on after the cure it won't affect the smoke. I will echo what Bear said tho about not being able to taste it in the final product at least that was my experience with it and I've tried it on both Belly Bacon and Canadian Bacon twice. I haven't tried cane syrup tho so maybe it will produce different results but I wouldn't count on it. Also they were correct in that if you use the proper amount of cure #1 then you can't over cure
  16. Bearcarver

    Bearcarver SMF Hall of Fame Pitmaster Group Lead OTBS Member

    I never tried putting it on after curing. I usually just sprinkle CBP, onion powder, and garlic powder on it then.

    But with Piney, Shooter, and Eman coming, I'd be nervous. Them there guys are some real smoking vets !

    They're real nice guys though too, so you'll be fine.

    Good luck,

  17. hemi

    hemi Smoking Fanatic

    I tried it with pure maple syrup and liked it but i think the taste was just on the outside.  Not much penetration . Butt good anyhow..  Hemi..[​IMG]
  18. eman

    eman Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator OTBS Member


     I have never done belly bacon  but have done lots of CB and have allways used steens or molasses on it b4 smoking . It has allways had a good smoke flavor.
  19. alblancher

    alblancher Master of the Pit Group Lead OTBS Member

    Glad so many of you offered your suggestions and experience.

    Bear, I apologize for mis reading one of your earlier posts where you attempted to answer my question about the syrup. 

    Seem to be pretty evenly split between some effect and little effect.  Maybe a couple of days with the syrup after curing will do the trick.  Seems to be the general opinion that it will not hurt either the cure or the smoke.  Maybe even do a bit of injection.

    Don't you love playing with your food!
  20. Bearcarver

    Bearcarver SMF Hall of Fame Pitmaster Group Lead OTBS Member

    Do different things on different pieces?

    Then you can compare how you like each way for next time.


    LOL---No problem, I've been misread before in far worse situations.