Just before the storm hit last week, I picked up an 8 pound pork belly. I had had problems finding belly on short notice, most of the local butchers said they would have to order it. So on a whim, I stopped in at an asian market, thinking perhaps they would have some. I was right. They had belly in all shapes and sizes: thin sliced, thick sliced, slabs, 3" hunks...but no whole bellies. But the stuff that was pre-sliced looked great! Thick layers of fat, plenty of meat. So I asked the butcher, who disappeared into the back. He removed the rib bones for me, and packaged it up. $2.09/lb...not too shabby. When I got it home, however, I was disappointed. It was nowhere near as thick as the other pre-sliced stuff they had behind the counter, with much less fat, and he had left the skin on.
I skinned it, cut it in half mixed up Ruhlman/Polcyn's basic cure, and put each half into a plastic bag with the prescribed amount of cure. I was worried about how little cure the recipe called for. Their instructions call for dredging the belly in the cure, ensuring even coating, OR, for small 3-5 lb bellies, putting them in a ziplock bag, adding 50 grams of cure, and shaking to coat. 50 grams is NOT very much, and I'm sure I would have had more, if I had dredged. But I followed the directions, and moved on. To one bag, I added garlic, black pepper and crumbled bay leaf. To the other, I added brown sugar (the only syrup I had on hand was imitation maple). Then into the fridge for 7 days.
After a week of daily massages(the pork, not me), I rinsed the bellies thoroughly, dried them, and set them in the fridge to dry for about 18 hours. Last night, I smoked them over apple wood chunks at 225ish degrees until the internal temps were 150.
My fears about not adding enough cure turned out to be needless. As you can see, it's plenty pink.
Pretty, ain't they?
I sliced off some rather thick slices, and fried them up...a little QC. The brown sugar bacon is good, but not really sweet at all. Maybe maple syrup would have imparted more flavor, but I'm not sure. It was just kind of...bacon...
But the savory bacon is out of this world. Truly amazing stuff.
Both slices were kind of tough, though. I'm not sure if it's a matter of the quality of belly I started with, or my complete inexperience frying bacon that thick (I only have limited experience frying bacon at all, regardless of thickness. Normally I bake my bacon.)
And since I had my camera out, I caught a pic of our own personal in-house Elly-ton John concert last night.