It will release a lot of juice, which is good, this type of curing depends on reducing the moisture of the meat. Let’s not kill anyone, shall we? Cook it it a pan, appreciating how readily it browns, and without all the popping, curling, and carrying on that wet-cured factory bacon does. That is that, enough said. I’ve left the recipe as is, but noted how you could add nitrite if you wish. You don’t need to raise your own pigs or own an expensive smoker. Here is how I convince myself that it is safe: Is there anything in this recipe that someone wouldn’t happily do when smoking a pork shoulder or bbq ribs? You don’t need to raise your own pigs or own an expensive smoker. You need five pounds of pork belly, skin or rind taken off. Rub the mixture thoroughly all over the belly, working it firmly onto every surface and crevice. Make sure every surface of the pig belly gets thoroughly coated, otherwise the salt may not draw enough moisture from the bacon. It is much easier to hot smoke, some bbqs can be used, or two woks. My bacon is different than bacon you can buy at the store, and not just because it doesn’t have nitrates. The risk with this recipe is higher than most, (primarily because of botulism) so keep that in mind, along with the fact that I’m not a professional, and basically don’t know what the hell I’m talking about. I would rather not put nitrates into the bodies of people I love. Check it every day, to make sure it’s happy and comfortable in there all alone, and empty the liquid that will be released underneath the rack. Since we are using salt, sugar, and smoke as actual preservatives, rather than just flavorings, this bacon is much more intensely flavored that modern bacon. 3 cups of salt, 1 cup of pure maple syrup. It usually takes us four to six hours with our setup. Nitrates and nitrates basically poison bacteria that would otherwise grow on the meat. But first, some debunking. I think it managed to be a cold smoke only because it was 20 degrees outside when I smoked it. They let it “cure” for a couple of hours, and then package it up. Critics, if it makes you feel better, don’t call it bacon. Nitrates are commonly used in cured meats to preserve the meat, kill bacteria, and prevent botulism and food poisoning. I used a 1lb pork belly as this was my first attempt. What the hell is a preservative? When it’s dried, it’s time to smoke your bacon. Bacon and brined ham can be hot smoked instead if you won’t be preserving it for long. Corina Sahlin homesteads on five acres in the upper Skagit Valley, where you can find her with her hands either in the dirt, in a pot full of whey stirring curds, or mixing cabbage in a crock of sauerkraut. You can get my free e-book if you subscribe to our newsletter, where you learn free homesteading skills and get great tips and recipes to live a healthier, happier, more sustainable life. We don’t use nitrates when curing bacon. Simple as that. Let me take a moment to bitch about modern “bacon”. Saltpeter is mostly potassium nitrate, but some of it is transformed during the cure to nitrite, which is the real preservative agent. Now taste test it and rejoice! We once kept ours in the fridge for three days, and it turned out way too salty. Previously frozen pork belly can be used to make bacon, but your end product won’t be quite as moist. Put the proto-bacon on a rack, into the fridge. Cold-smoking takes longer than hot smoking, because it's performed at a low temperature. If the bacon tastes too salty, you can soak it in water for a few hours before frying. Refrigerate, or freeze if you want to keep it for more than a few days. He also runs some through his planer to make smaller saw-dust type chips. PHOTO BY CORINA SAHLIN. Enjoy! Another reason our home made bacon is more flavorful than store bought bacon is the mix of salt, sugar, spices and smoke we use as preservatives. After a couple of days (at most), it will stop releasing juices, and for convenience, you can throw it in a ziploc bag, with a sprinkling of additional cure mixture, and leave it in the fridge for another 5-7days. I do my smoking, grilling and BBQ in my beloved Primo ceramic grill, but honestly, any grill or smoker skillfully handled will work fine. Bacon sizzling in the skillet! Just because it is “cured” and we call it bacon, doesn’t make it magically dangerous. You really want to coat every surface very thickly, or else the salt may not draw enough moisture from the meat. If you like bacon, you can save a lot of money and get a tastier, healthier product by smoking your own bacon without nitrates. Let it sit uncovered in the fridge one more night to let the surface dry a bit, which will help it form a pellicle. Feel better? For what it is worth, I usually do use nitrates these days. If you don’t own an electric smoker, you could borrow one or even convert a BBQ or grill into a smoker. For every five pounds of pork belly, mix the following in a bowl: 1⁄2 cup of sea salt, 1⁄2 cup maple syrup (you can use sugar if you want),1 Tbsp black pepper, any spices you want (we use 2 Tbsp organic salt-free spice mix from Costco, but you can use thyme, toasted fennel seed, coriander, rosemary, or any other flavors you like). What has worked for us over the years is keeping the inside temperature of the smoker around 170 degrees. Well, a lot of people think they are completely horrible for our health, and some people think they taste bad. This can be done by dehydration, as in jerky. I leave it on. Get the temperature of the grill stabilized around 200º. If you are using pink salt (aka curing salt which is 6.25% nitrite), add 7 tsp per lb of your cure mixture. Technically, it is cured, and should keep very well, but freezing doesn’t hurt the bacon, and it is better to be safe than sorry. If your bacon slabs are small, err on the short side, if they are large leave them in longer. Pat it dry with paper towels and let it sit in the fridge for another whole day to help it dry and form a “pellicle”, which is a coating of protein that comes to the surface and dries out a bit. Luckily there is an established tradition of curing meat with salt and smoke which uses no nitrates, and that is what we shall do. UPDATE 2: People! Most people think of nitrates and nitrites as modern preservatives of today’s unhealthy processed food. If that didn’t scare you off, then you must be my kind of people. So you like cooking bacon but do you know how to cold smoke bacon?Cold smoking is a great way to preserve the bacon and is an essential part of the overall curing process.Unfortunately, not a lot of people are aware of the proper way to cold smoke the bacon. The temperature in the fridge needs to be under 38 degrees for safety. The upshot is that this bacon tastes more salty, more smoky, more intense, more “bacony”, and since it has less water in it, doesn’t spatter, pop, and curl as much during cooking either! Packed with nitrates.) Since we are dry curing, the bacon loses water in the process, which concentrates and intensifies flavors compared to store bacon, which often has brine added to it to make it heavier! Let me explain how we have safely and successfully cured and smoked bacon without nitrates for years. Store it in the fridge for three weeks (good luck making it last that long) or in the freezer for three months (ditto!). Another, very important method is to reduce the moisture in the meat, since bacteria need moisture to grow. Another method is to smoke the meat, which deposits a layer of compounds on the meat which inhibit bacterial growth, and incidentally, taste yummy. Although many people think nitrates are safe, I don’t trust them, because several published studies indicate that N-nitrosamines are carcinogenic in animals. (BTW, that “uncured” bacon you’ve been buying at the grocery store? A preservative is basically anything that makes your food less tasty and hospitable to microbes. When we first started smoking our own bacon, we spent hours on the internet looking through recipes and reading through meat curing forums, and there are lots of different opinions. At the end of the week, give it a thorough rub down in fresh water, even letting it soak for a few minutes in fresh water, then pat it dry. I’m getting a lot of push-back in the comments about the safety of this no-nitrates recipe.
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