In a town where food writers are often too discreet to tell it like it is, the Surly Gourmand delivers brutally honest restaurant reviews on his blog, surlygourmand.blogspot.com. Little known fact: He also makes killer home-cured bacon. Here, in his own words, is how he does it.
Bacon is awesome. If you know how to make bacon, you have power. You’ll find your friends are suddenly friendlier and your enemies have turned deferential. Besides, bacon is our heritage—real American bacon, made from pork belly, maple cured and smoked over hardwood, tastes better than your mom, is prettier than Old Glory, and is cooler than God.
Some notes on the ingredients: Do NOT use iodized salt because it tastes shitty. The product labeled “pink salt” is just regular table salt, plus 6.25 percent by volume of sodium nitrite. Nitrite kills bacteria and prevents the oxidation of hemoglobin, so that the meat stays red in color instead of turning brown like old grocery-store ground beef. You can buy pink salt from Emerald Market Supply in Seattle.
5 lb slab of pork belly
3 oz kosher salt
A little over ½ oz (18 g) pink salt
½ cup brown sugar
About ½ cup maple syrup
1½ oz black peppercorns,
Sift all of the dry ingredients together. Add the maple syrup and mix until you’ve got a coarse paste. Smear the paste all over the meaty side of the belly. Do NOT: rub cure on the belly’s skin. Do: be sure to take a humorous photograph of yourself pretending to lick the nipple on the pork belly (if it has one).
Seal the belly into a zippered plastic freezer bag and remove as much air as possible. Stick the belly flat onto a shelf in the fridge with the cure side up. Leave it in the fridge for 10 days, flipping it over every other day. At the end of 10 days press the belly—it should feel stiffer than when you put it into the bag. The meat will be an appealing maroon color; the fat will have been stained a luscious, creamy off-white.
Remove the belly from the cure and rinse off all of the cure. Put the belly on a baking rack and dry it, uncovered, in the fridge overnight. After 12 hours it will have developed the sticky surface that is necessary for smoking.
Smoke the bacon in a wood-fired smoker for 1½ hours over hickory or applewood or whatever hardwood you like. When the bacon is done smoking it will be a mahogany color. Take it out and slice the skin off. Now it’s finished, but it isn’t fully cooked. You still must slice it and fry it.
And that’s all there is to making bacon. Right about the time you take the bacon out of the smoker, you might start to hear a majestic fanfare. Don’t be frightened: That’s just the sound of your own awesomeness.