Bacon is popular as ever. A perennial favorite, we like it on the side, on the burger, on our salads - really, we like on everything. Whether fried, braised, boiled, chopped, smothered or smoked, bacon is the ultimate comfort food. From basic bacon to exotically global flavors, nothing taste better than bacon.
If you really love bacon like I do, you should try your hand at curing your own. The basic process is really simple and can quickly evolve into a world of bacon flavors that you’ll rarely find at the local meat counter. Salt, sugar, occasionally some curing salt, herbs and spices, sometimes smoke and a little time, combine with pork belly (or lamb or duck) to make a preserved meat that’s both tasty and sustaining.
Here are the basics: Order a five pound fresh, uncured pork belly from a local butcher or farmers market meat seller. Get your hands on some pink curing salt at a butcher supply place like Butcher & Packer. Curing salt is cheap and will last for many bacon projects. Bacon doesn’t always need curing salt, but it does provide that “hammy” flavor that we know and love. Other main ingredients include kosher salt, brown sugar and black pepper. After that, it’s time to improvise. Pink curing salt, kosher salt, sugar and pepper are sprinkled over the fresh belly (see recipes for amounts). Put the belly and cure into a big Ziplock bag, pop it in the refrigerator and flip it daily for a week until the belly is stiff. Rinse the cure off the belly. At this point it’s technically bacon! Amazing, no? Cook it as is, or for more flavor, slowly roast it, smoke it, BBQ it or dry cure it. Each technique will yield a different flavor.
Here is a wrap up of a few of my favorite home-cured bacon recipes that will take your bacon up to eleven.
Home-Cured Bacon, Michael Ruhlman
Basic bacon at it’s best from the author of Charcuterie.
Ventreche, Hunter, Angler, Gardener
A French bacon, this smoked version is from Gascony.
Fresh Herb Bacon, One tomato, two tomato
Fresh herbs and smoke make a deliciously tasty bacon.
Tuscan Pancetta, Hedonia
Garlic, black pepper, thyme, rosemary and sage combine in this classic Italian bacon that flavors sauces, stews and dishes across Italy.
German Bacon, Hunter, Angler, Gardener
Mustard and caraway create a distinctly savory bacon.
Italian Guanciale, One tomato, two tomato
The fatty jowl of the pig makes wonderful meaty bacon. Dry cured jowl has an intense porky flavor.
Lamb Bacon, Smoke Cure Pickle Brew
Smokey sweet lamby goodness describes this unique bacon. Yum.
Sichuan Canadian Bacon, One tomato, two tomato
Sichuan peppercorns, ginger and star anise make this Canadian-style smoked bacon. Try it in your next stir fry!
Duck Bacon, Girl in the Little Red Kitchen
Those fatty duck breasts make amazing bacon!
Warm Spice Bacon, One tomato, two tomato
Perfect for winter and a pot of baked beans, this bacon uses classic spices of pepper, mace and allspice.
Tammy Kimbler is the blogger of One Tomato, Two Tomato. A cultivator at heart, Tammy’s passions lie with food, preservation, gardening and connecting to her local community through blogging and urban agriculture. She eats well and love to feed others as often as possible. She currently resides with her family in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
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