Homemade Bacon!

About a year ago I discovered how to make my own bacon from Pork Bellies. We have been on the GAPS for almost twelve months and this has been a staple of our diet. I have adapted a couple of basic recipes to make bacon (so I know exactly what goes in).

My simple method for homemade bacon:

 Ingredients

5-lbs pork belly (we have a couple of local, sustainably managed pork farms)
~ ¼ C fine sea salt
~ ¼ C local raw honey

Equipment
4 ziploc freezer bags (gallon size)
Wood chips (I like hickory, but have also used mesquite)
Gas grill with smoker box (you can buy a smoker box at Home Depot for around $10)

Curing
Cut the pork belly in half (basically making it two squares that will fit into a one-gallon Ziploc bag)
Add ½ the salt in each bag and shake to coat the pork belly.
Add ½ the honey to each bag and mush it around to cover the pork belly.
Close the bags and put them in a refrigerator for one week, turning them once per day, and place a weight on top (I use a cast-iron sandwich press). When you turn them, you’ll notice fluid in the bag. That is good! Try to wash that around the pork belly each time you turn them.
At the end of the week, the bellies should be firmer than when you first put them in. Rinse the bellies with tap water. Some folks will fry a slice at this point to test saltiness before smoking. If too salty, you can soak the bellies in water for one hour to leach out some of the saltiness.

Smoking
This is an optional step, but one that adds an immense amount of flavor.

Warm up one burner of the gas grill (we’re using the indirect grilling method) and place the smoker box over that burner. You want to sustain a temperature of 200 degrees, no more than 250 (we’re not looking to cook the bacon, but get the smoke into the meat). you may need to occasionally open the grill to let out some of the heat. The first 30 minutes of smoking it is important to keep the smoke rolling(check your smoker box about every 10 minutes). After that, check about every 30 minutes  to make sure the smoke is still rolling (carefully adding wood to the smoker as necessary).

HINT: I like to use a jellyroll pan with a cooling rack. Put the porkbelly on the cooling rack and the cooling rack on the jellyroll pan, and the works goes on the indirect side of the grill. This will catch the rendered fat which can be saved for future cooking (sweet, smoky lard- YUM!)

Smoke until internal temp of 150degrees (about 2 – 2 ½  hours).

Finishing
Enclose the bellies in 2 clean Ziploc bags and freeze for 1-2 hours before slicing (if you slice it warm, it will just be a mess). I usually just cut each piece into thirds which gives me a total of six pieces. Each piece is enough for one breakfast for my family.

Cooking
I take one piece from the freezer and put it in the refrigerator the night before I intend to use it. I slice it in the morning using a fillet knife (I find the thicker chefs knives tend to stick to the bacon making it less likely that I get a decent slice). I always cut from one end and usually end up with more of a “chunk” as the final slice (I save those chunks for cooking greens later in the day).

I will occasionally cook the bacon in a cast-iron skillet at medium temperature (watch closely- it burns easiliy). However, my preferred method is to cook the bacon in the oven at 325 degrees. I put a metal drying rack onto a jelly-roll pan and lay out the bacon without overlapping. I find that about 20-30 minutes produces a fairly even (depending on how well I’ve cut it), crispy bacon.

Buena suerte!

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4 thoughts on “Homemade Bacon!

  1. Hi. This is great – our diet is lacking flavour and this could really add some pazazz into our soups! I have just bought 3 kgs worth of pork belly to see what it would taste like with just curing as I am concerned about the health benefits of smoking – do you know anything about them i.e. nitrates, carsonogenic etc? Its hard to find info. on naturally smoked meats – more about the dangers of commercially smoked meats but I think its the smoking process which is harmful. Cheers.

    • Sorry for the delayed response. I for one do not use nitrates though most professional recipes recommend them to prevent botulism and other ailments. As for the carcinogenic effects of grilling, this article was useful (http://medweb.mit.edu/wellness/resources/mithealth/summer2006/stories/story2_1.shtml)- basically there are two potential risks: one related to meat fats landing on the heat source and the smoke could have PAHs (but in my method, the fats don’t burn) ; second, HCAs are released in high-heat cooking (smoking is typically done at 250 degrees Fahrenheit or less). I find that the salt and smoke curing keep things on the safe side even in the absence of nitrates. We have done without the smoke and it still tastes OK. In fact I often will do a batch of pancetta alongside my bacon (pancetta being more savory and is air-dried versus smoked)- I’ll post some notes on that in the near future.

  2. Thank you! I had 10lbs of pork belly in my freezer and was at a loss to find a cure recipe that didn’t require pink salt!

    I don’t have smoking capabilities unfortunately so the salt/honey alone will have to do. i have 5 Lbs that I started curing this morning. I will report back in a week!

  3. Pingback: GAPS with Flavor! | DeGuzmans on the GAPS Diet Blog

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