Early in our quarantine life when everything was shut down and we started ordering our groceries online and doing curbside pickup, I noticed that the price of bacon soared. This led to us considering it a luxury and only ordering it about twice in 3 months. The problem is that we love bacon. Then, back in March, we saw an article about Whittinham Meat Company offering “Corona packages” of meat. I bought immediately, and so we had 10 lbs of pork belly. So, the bacon journey began.
For my first try, I used recipes by Michael Symon and Alton Brown as a guide. Both called for more sweet than I figured I wanted, so I didn’t strictly follow either. I used 2lbs pork belly, 1/4 c curing salt, 2 tbsp pepper, 1/2 tsp cumin and 1/4 tsp brown sugar. I marinated it 5 days, then let it dry 3 days before smoking it for 2 hours at around 190 degrees. It was good but too salty.
Round 2: I tried an “uncured” recipe. I used 1 lb pork belly, 1/2 cup kosher salt, 2 tbsp black pepper, 1 tsp cumin, and 1/2 tsp brown sugar. I marinated it for 5 days and let it dry for 3 days before smoking it for two hours at around 200 degrees. Again, good but too salty, though less so than version 1.
Round 3: This round was all about trying to fix the salt issue. I marinated 1 lb pork belly in 1/3 cup kosher salt, 1 tbsp black pepper, 1 tsp cumin, 1 tsp paprika, and 1/2 tsp brown sugar for 5 days. I then rinsed it clean and let it dry in the fridge for 3 days. I smoked it for two hours at around 200 degrees. This was better, but the salt still was too much.
Round 4: Same spice combo, but this time, I soaked it overnight in purified water to draw out some of the salt. Smoked again the same way. This was better, but the salt was still overpowering if eaten on its own.
Round 5: Same spices and same process as round 3, but this time I let it soak in purified water for 2 days and just before smoking, I coated it with coarse ground black pepper. This is the winning combo and thus the reason I can finally post this adventure here.
Each and every iteration has been a learning experience and a delicious one at that. If you have never made your own bacon, I would highly recommend trying it out. I do think most recipes I have found call for way more salt than is necessary to achieve the goal.