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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    Location
    Broken Arrow OK
    Posts
    502

    Default from belly to smoked bacon

    'Merican bacon (also known as streaky bacon,made from belly or side), Canadian bacon, British bacon (also known as rashers, made from the back), buckboard bacon. Different areas of the world use different meat for bacon--lamb, goat, turkey, pretty much whatever is available..I know diddly about anything other than the first. This addresses what we know as bacon here in the States.

    Disclaimer: As with most everything in this hobby, there are enough opinions on how/what to do/not to do to go around numerous times. Nitrate in the cure are either absolutely required to keep from dealing with trichinosis bacteria, or it should never be used because it causes cancer. Here's a site full of good info on salt/nitrate/nitrite. Bacon doesn't need to be smoked after curing, has to be smoked under 100 degrees, or has to be brought up to 150 degrees within 4 hours. Fat renders above 120 degrees, so only bring you bacon to that temp... Like galvanized hardware or how much of the dreaded drum liner to remove, "you pays your moneys and takes your chances". Read, research and decide what you're comfortable with. Since I'm just starting with this stuff, I feel more comfortable using a cure with nitrate.

    The one thing that seems to be the most agreed upon is that you can use a plain salt cure, a cure with Morton's TenderQuick, or a cure with Prague powder#1 (also known as pink salt). The plain salt cure seems to be the most questionable due to the nitrate issue. The Prague cure is quite strong, so very little is used. (1 tsp/5lb of meat) Great if you're curing huge amounts, but hard to portion for smaller amounts. Morton's TQ seems to be the most popular, at 1/2 oz per lb.

    If you're not raising/butchering your own hogs, a good butcher is most likely to have bellies available. Most supermarket meat departments just look blank when you ask about bellies, but Asian markets usually have them available.

    I started with an 11 lb belly, which I then cut into smaller chunks, mainly so that if I really screwed up, I wouldn't waste much and would have more to play with. From pics I've seen, the belly I purchased is pretty thin. I guess I'll find out as I do more.

    Rinse or not rinse the belly, then dry it. The dryer the better. Some trim their bellies, but that seems counter-intuitive to me. Isn't fat flavor? Maybe I just had a lean one to start with.

    Wheigh your belly. I stick with ozzes or lbs, 'cause that's what I know... Grams (Nash or Parsons--oops! Wrong forum) confuse me.


    Do your cipherin' to figure out how much TQ to use, and weigh it out. Remember to not include the weight of the container...

    Then do the math again and verify the accuracy.
    UDS #2
    RUDS #3
    Weber one-touch
    Magic Chef fridge smoker

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    Location
    Broken Arrow OK
    Posts
    502

    Default

    After you have the proper amount of TQ (1/2 oz per lb), add whatever seasonings you want--maybe. Brown sugar is popular, as is maple syrup, honey, garlic, onion, cracked black pepper, whatever floats your boat. Some say add it now, others add it just prior to smoking. I pulled a chunk out of the smoker a couple of days ago I had sprinkled some cayenne onto. Thought it might add a bit of heat to it...

    Put the meat on/into a non-reactive container. Rub your cure mixture into the meat, just like you would any other time. Be sure to coat the edges and fat side. If you're working with a skin-on belly, rub some into the skin also. Or not. Depends on who you believe. Or remove the skin prior to curing, even though most of my research points to it being easier to remove the skin (rind) after smoking.


    Some add liquid to the cure mixture, or add it when the belly is wrapped/bagged to be put into the fridge to cure. I added some cinnamon applesauce to this chunk, 'cause it was in the fridge and nobody seemed too keen on eating it. I'll use applewood for this smoke, so it seemed like a good thing.


    Once you've applied the cure, wrap the belly tightly in a few layers of plastic wrap or put it in a ziplok and squeeze as much air out as you can. Be sure that any cure which fell off the meat is put into the bag also--you need it to pull the moisture out of the meat.


    Turn the bag daily (or every two or three, or whenever the mood strikes you) and massage the meat-or not. You should find more liquid surrounding the belly each day. Massaging the meat is supposed to bring the cure back into contact with the meat in case it has floated off. The whole purpose of the cure is to pull the moisture out of the meat, making it a less homey place for bacteria to breed in. For what it's worth, I had very little liquid come off the chunks I've done so far. It may be related to the weight of the belly you're working with, and bellies that have been frozen seem to produce less liquid.

    The belly will firm up as the liquid is pulled out of it. The timeline I ran across most often is to cure the meat 1 day for every 1/2 inch of thickness at the thickest point, then add 2 days for good measure. This is what makes me a bit leery about the whole process; firmness is apparently the best way of deciding the meat has properly cured. The extra 2 days in the timeline is there to add a measure of safety to the process.

    Not curing enough will not get rid of the bacteria that causes food poisoning. Curing too long will make the meat too salty. You do a taste test after curing to check for saltiness. Soak the belly in ice water to attempt to reduce the saltiness.

    After soaking, dry thoroughly then put it back in the fridge for a day or two to develop the pellicle. More about that later.

    The temp in the fridge is crucial to the timeline. 36-39 is supposed to be ideal. Drop below 36 and the curing process slows down. (How much? I have no idea.) And we all know about holding meat above 40 degrees... I keep my Maverick 732 in the fridge while the belly is curing, and keep the remote display in the living room where it can be glanced at throughout the day.

    I have the two chunks pictured above curing in the fridge now. I'll post a few pics throughout the process. The plan is to wait until next Saturday to smoke them, just 'cause my neighbor is interested and wants to see the process. I expect I'll have to soak them awhile to reduce the extra saltiness.

    As I said, I'm no expert, I just know what I've read and what I've done. Feel free to jump in with any knowledge you care to share. Maybe we'll all learn something new.
    UDS #2
    RUDS #3
    Weber one-touch
    Magic Chef fridge smoker

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2008
    Location
    Hampden, MA
    Posts
    2,647

    Default

    Looking forward to the updates.
    FBJ

  4. #4
    SmokyOkie Guest

    Default

    Nice thread LZ!

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    Location
    Broken Arrow OK
    Posts
    502

    Default

    Haven't forgotten. Updates sometime tomorrow!
    UDS #2
    RUDS #3
    Weber one-touch
    Magic Chef fridge smoker

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    Location
    Broken Arrow OK
    Posts
    502

    Default part way through

    Here's a couple pics of the moisture drawn out of the chunks. One showed quite a bit, the other very little.



    After soaking and drying. The one on the left had the applesauce added to the cure:


    Rude Goldberg contraption. It came to me last night I could just use a funnel to join the cold box to the smoker. Whacked the end off with a hack saw, a bit of tape, and even a redneck would be proud...


    It appears to work, after a fashion... Temp inside the smoker runs about 10 degrees colder than the air going into to cold box. Two frozen bricks seem to last about 3 hours before there's a noticeable rise in the temp:


    I went to put the apple dust into the AMZN, and found that I hadnt' ordered any apple. Decided to try cherry instead. My biggest goal at this point is to see if there is any taste difference between the belly with applesauce and the one without.

    More pics when they come out of the smoker.

    Thanks for looking!
    UDS #2
    RUDS #3
    Weber one-touch
    Magic Chef fridge smoker

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jul 2011
    Location
    Chandler, AZ
    Posts
    368

    Default

    Nice, thanks for sharing.
    Mark Crigler

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    Location
    Broken Arrow OK
    Posts
    502

    Default all done but the slicing

    After about 8 hours of cherry smoke...


    They're wrapped and sitting in the fridge. I'll leave them there for a day or so, then freeze for about 30 minutes before slicing. I don't want them frozen, just good and firmed up.
    UDS #2
    RUDS #3
    Weber one-touch
    Magic Chef fridge smoker

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jan 2008
    Location
    Carthage, MO
    Posts
    10,055

    Default

    Now that's anything but lazy ... I bet it's some of the best bacon you ever ate.

    Very nice write up buster
    Plank Owner ..................
    I didn't fight my way to the top of the food chain to be a vegetarian!



  10. #10
    Join Date
    Oct 2010
    Location
    Magnolia/Tomball Texas
    Posts
    1,571

    Default

    I would kind of like to know how all this turned out.
    Very cool thread.
    Why in the hell should I have to "Press 1 for English?"

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