There has been lots of discussion about food safety and the use of nitrites and nitrates in processed foods. We share those concerns. We use our products to feed our own families. And happy healthy people are what we want. For ourselves and for you. And yes, it is all nitrogen.
The family favorite is honey cured bacon. We started about 5 kilos last night. The meat counter at the local SM had only so-so pork bellies when we visited them. They were not the nice thick ones we prefer. But that did not slow us down for a moment. After removing the skins, we cut the bellies into sizes easier to work with and prepared four small bowls with the correct amount of Bacon Cure #1 by weight for each piece. Simple. Then we took 1/4 cup of honey for each 2.5 pounds. The amount of honey is not crucial, you can use more or less, but you want to be sure that you use the correct amount of Bacon Cure #1 based on the weight of the pork belly you are working with.
When we cut these bellies down to smaller sizes to be easier to work with and it made them fit into the ziploc bags we have. The pieces ranged from 2.25 pounds to 2.8 pounds each. We adjusted our amounts of Bacon Cure #1 by using measuring spoons that were appropriate. Each pound got a level tablespoon. Then we figured the difference. The teaspoon measure worked if we needed 150 grams or 5 1/4 ounces of meat left after the 2 pound weight. A half teaspoon would handle 75 grams of met. And the 1/4 teaspoon would do 37.5 grams of meat. So it was just a matter of figuring how many grams were left after the 900 grams (2 pounds) the initial 2 tablespoons of Bacon Cure #1 would do.
Then we added 1/4 cup of honey. I had a bit of natural Maple Flavoring on hand, so we put a few drops of that in the honey to give a deeper flavor to them. A tablespoon of hot water made it easier to spread the mixture around. If you do it, add your honey to your correctly measured Bacon Cure #1 for each piece, stir the together and then coat the exterior of your pork belly.
The photos below show how easy to coat the pork belly. We have removed the skin and any bones or cartilage. Then cut into easier sizes to work with.
Next time we will look at using Liquid Smoke if you do not have access to a smoker for flavoring your bacon. Until then...
Love, Peace, & Bacon Grease!
When you get in a hurry, things can go wrong!
I was finishing up some bacon while smoking it on my charcoal cooker. But the weather wasn't cooperating and the wind was too high. I couldn't control my temperatures so I decided to finish it in the oven.
It was late and I had been up for quite awhile. So I decided to hurry the process. I set the oven to 350F and put a temperature probe in the bacon. I figured it would be good. Well, it was good cooked by the time the probe went off in the bacon at 150F. The outside was not just warm, it was cooked! And my cookie sheet was full of grease that had rendered out.
I knew better! The temperature to do this is 200F to 225F. Not 350F! Not Gas Mark 7! And I don't plan to make that mistake again. Was the bacon ruined? No, it was still very edible. But much harder to cut. Thank goodness I had tall sided pans or it could have been a real problem. And a good meat slicer to cut my bacon afterwards.
Why do we finish bacon in the oven? It is not required, since many cultures will "cold smoke" their bacon and serve it. It does a couple of things. One it is double insurance against any sort of buggies or contamination being eliminated. If you serve your bacon to any "at risk" folks, such as children under 5 years old, or elderly above 65 years old, not to mention anyone that is ill, warm finishing the bacon simply ensures that there is zero chance of a problem for them. It is not required.
And it improves the look of your bacon. The outside takes on the darker reddish brown that is associated with good bacon. So I always support warm finishing your bacon, either in the oven or by warm smoking if you have the equipment and wood for smoking meat. It adds beauty and gives you peace of mind.
So live and learn.
We grew up frying bacon in the skillet. But is there a better way to cook your bacon? Yes, there is! In your oven. A cookie sheet or pan will do a wonderful job of cooking your bacon. We set our oven to 175C or 350F, even up to 400F. It takes about 15 to 20 minutes to cook bacon this way, but you can do a pan full at a time.
We save the bacon grease, since it is delicious. We use if for fried rice, making gravy, all sorts of things. We've even put in our ground beef for a really juicy hamburger! Back to the oven. When your bacon is finished, or even just before it is finished, pull it out. Let it cool down, damp off the excess grease with a paper towel. You have precooked bacon. Next time you need some for breakfast or to chop up and add to your rice, it is already done! How easy is that? So convenient and you can have it ready in a snap.
If you remove it from the oven before it is done, then you can finish it on the stove top when you need it. If you wait until it is finished, then you simply have to warm it up to eat it. You can do that on the stove top or in a microwave. It will be warm in seconds!
One trick we use to get our bacon to look like those perfectly flat pieces the fine restaurants serve is called "Jaccarding". Sounds difficult, but it isn't. You just poke your bacon with a fork! Just work from one end of the bacon to the other, poking it every few millimeters or maybe a quarter inch. Between fork poking and the oven, your bacon will be just a pretty as that served in the nicest restaurant in Manila or Hong Kong!
Love, Peace, & Bacon Grease!
Homemade bacon, there is nothing quite like it! Fantastic flavors and it keeps longer than regular pork belly. It is a favorite in my family and a gift our friends love to receive.
We started making bacon at home and found it was very easy to do. The only hard part was figuring out how much of each ingredient should be used. Too much salt was not a problem, that was easy to fix, even after the bacon has cured, simply by soaking in fresh water for an hour or two.
The challenge was sodium nitrite. And we did not want any sodium nitrate in our bacon. All the authorities say do not do that, it is bad for you. It is even illegal in the USA to make bacon with sodium nitrate in it. Only sodium nitrite - notice the difference? Sodium Nitr-I-te is okay, Sodium Nitr-A-te is not. At least in bacon. Both are found in nature. They occur in many edible plants. But high heat and sodium nitrate is a no-no!
When we went to find curing salts, we ran into two serious problems. The first was it was very hard to find. The second was most of it was repackaged and unlabelled. We could not tell what we were buying. It might be what we were looking for or it might have sodium nitrate in it, which we did not want and would be a health hazard.
So we decided to make our own. With known ingredients so that it was safe to use. And we worked on it to make it simple. Seriously simple. We don't expect you to be a food scientist. Just a cook. If you know how to level a measuring cup and measuring spoons, you can make great bacon at home!
In upcoming posts, we will share recipes and flavors. We will talk about techniques to enhance your bacon. And about food safety. We will talk about problems we have had making bacon at home and how we solved them. And we will share our love for good food. So please visit us and share your ideas and experience.
Love, Peace, & Bacon Grease!