I demoed home-cured bacon at the Blogher 2010 after party Saturday night, with the help of the excellent students of the California Culinary Academy (thanks for the perfect set-up, chef-students!). I couldn’t do it start to finish, of course. You need to give the belly a dry rub for a week. Then you need to cook it for an hour or so. People drinking bacon martinis on a Saturday night don’t want to stand around watching pork belly cure.
I showed the steps though, cooked some up (the folks at CCA had cured it perfectly). I thought everyone was good to go.
But the next day, as I waited for the airport shuttle, a woman told me she wanted to cure bacon, even had a smoker (nice but not essential). She said, “But I’m afraid.”
“Well, didn’t you see my demo, didn’t you see how easy it was, didn’t it put you at ease?”
“I had to go to the bathroom," she explained. "There was a line.”
So for you, whose name I didn’t get, and for all those others at the excellent BlogHer event who would like specifics, and for anyone for whom bacon seems intriguing but just out of reach, here is a concise primer, recipe, and step-by-step for curing your own bacon:
- 2 oz coarse kosher salt (I like Morton or Diamond Crystal)
- 2 teaspoons pink curing salt
- 4 tbsp coarsely ground pepper
- 4 bay leaves crumbled
- 1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- ¼ cup brown sugar or honey or maple syrup
- 5 garlic cloves smashed with the flat side of a chef’s knife
- 2 tbsp juniper berries, lightly crushed (optional)
- 5-10 sprigs thyme (optional)
- 5 lbs pork belly
- Mix the salt and spices together in a bowl.
- Put your belly in the zip-top bag or on a sheet tray or in a plastic container. Rub the salt and spice mixture all over the belly. Close the bag or cover it with plastic wrap, and stick it in the refrigerator for seven days (get your hands in there and give the spices another good rubbing around midway through).
- After seven days, take it out of the fridge, rinse off all the seasonings under cold water and pat it dry.
- Let it cool and refrigerate it until you’re ready to cook it. But I know. You won’t be able to wait. So cut off a piece and cook it. Taste it, savor it. Congratulations! It’s bacon!