Home Cured Bacon

Happiness is finding one last pound of your homegrown bacon at the bottom of the freezer! I thought all of the bacon had been eaten months ago…but I found the very last pound of smokey, salty goodness hiding under a meat chicken.

As I was cooking the bacon to add to dinner tonight, I realized I never posted the recipe for the home cure we used. I should have done it mostly for my own reference for our next batch of pork, but also if anyone who follows us ever has any interest in attempting their own cure and smoke.

As we approached butcher day {see previous post on why we did the butchering ourselves}, we were talking about using ‘Insta Cure #1’ which is almost always used in cured meats like bacon or ham. We couldn’t find it anywhere and it was too late to order it online. Insta Cure #1 is a curing salt and preservative that contains a mixture of table salt, sodium nitrate and red dye. So we looked at each other and said said “no…why in the world would we be striving for the highest quality pork- raised on pasture, fed barley fodder, pastured eggs and organic hog feed- then go and ruin this beautiful bacon with red dye and sodium nitrate??”

So we did a bit of research into traditional methods of curing meat using sea salt. Curing with salt {real salt!} was the primary way of preserving meats until the late 19th century. Nowadays, using real salt is considered ‘uncured’ meat where using Insta Cure #1 is considered ‘cured’ meat. Insta Cure #1 also lends a pink color {thanks to the red dye} to the finished product, which some people prefer over the natural color of pork. Not us, but some people.

It has to be said though, that without the ‘chemical cure’, the bacon will not last as long. We freeze all of our meat and once thawed we use it within 3-4 days. That’s not hard though, because who really takes longer than that to go through a pound of bacon? Again, not us.

So here is our method for curing bacon and ham at home, we chose a wet cure but there are also dry cure recipes out there if you prefer that. Whether you raise your own pork, can find a pork belly from a butcher or Farmer’s market- we think this recipe is great!

You’ll need:

1. Pork belly and/or ham

2. Food grade buckets, 5 gallon

3. Brown sugar

4. Sea Salt

5. Whole peppercorns

6. Water

Cut your pork belly {we also cut our hams up} into roughly 5 lb portions. It’s easier to handle and fit in your bucket.
Place 1 gallon of water into your bucket. Add 2 cups of brown sugar, 1 cup of sea salt and 1/4 cup whole peppercorns. Mix to dissolve. Add in your pork and add water if necessary to cover. The meat MUST be submerged the entire time. We placed a dinner plate on top of the meat to keep it submerged under the cure.

We used a chest freezer with the ability to set a specific temperature. The chest freezer is nice and roomy for a 5 gallon bucket, but obviously you don’t want freezing temperatures. We set it to around 38F, same as a refrigerator temperature. Hopefully you have something that works for you! We let the buckets of cure solution and pork rest in the chest refrigerator for 14 days. After 14 days, we cut off a small piece of bacon and fried it up to test the flavor. The flavor was great- so then it was time to move on to the smoker! If your bacon needs more flavor, you can let it rest up to another 7 days and try again.

My husband is the smoke expert around here so this was all him! He smoked all of the bacon and ham with applewood chips. He says he’s not sure of the temperature, our smoker is kind of temperamental, but it didn’t take long at all! After about 30-45 minutes we again taste tested and it was perfect! Super smokey with a hint of sweet from the brown sugar.

This is not a hard and fast recipe, have fun with it, tailor it to your tastes and enjoy!

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