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Bacon questions?

Cactus DougCactus Doug Posts: 341
edited November -1 in EggHead Forum
First batch of home cured bacon is underway. Cure should be done Friday night, following the Ruhlman recipe (savory). The belly is 5lbs and is 2" thick tapering down to 1.25" on one side. How do I know if the 7 days has been enough of a cure? The book says the belly should be firm but this being my first one I have no point of reference. Also after the cure how long should I leave the bacon in the fridge to dry/form a pellicle before smoking? Any advice from the bacon pros out there would be great. Thanks.


  • jimi1234jimi1234 Posts: 95
    You can be pretty confident the cure is done after seven days. It is hard to say how to tell how firm it should be. It will just feel a bit firm to the touch but not hard.

    Once the cure is done, you can rinse it (well) and you are good to go.

    I have often found homemade bacon to be a touch on the salty side. Before slicing and frying, I often soak the bacon for a bit in water to draw out some of the salt.

    For my next batch, I am going to soak it for a bit before smoking to a) rinse it very well and b) draw out some of the salt at the same time.

  • FSM-MeatballFSM-Meatball Posts: 215
    This is good timing. I just picked up my first pork belly and I am going to start the curing today.

    Question- Should I cut the skin off? I am planning to do that.

    I have some curing mix from the butcher, looks like a pink fine ground salt. I am planning on adding brown sugar and maple syrup and let it sit. Then smoke it with some apple wood.
  • Cactus DougCactus Doug Posts: 341
    The recipe I have says to leave the skin on until after smoking, and cut it off while the fat is still warm.
  • It'll be done. I did the same recipe and it turned out great.
  • Little ChefLittle Chef Posts: 4,725
    FSM Meatball: I always remove the skin first, just like skinning a fish filet. If you remove the skin after smoking, you lose the flavor from all that smoked skin surface.
    Also find out what your butcher gave you. It sounds like Prague Powder (aka pink salts), but you should find out for sure. You need to follow a recipe. Don't just add the pink salts (nitrates) willy nilly. You need to be pretty precise with them. Ruhlmans basic cure recipe is 1 pound kosher salt + 8 oz sugar + 2 oz pink salt. 2 oz of the cure mix will cure 5lbs of meat.
  • Little ChefLittle Chef Posts: 4,725
    Cactus Doug: It will be done. (Would probably be ready sooner, perhaps 4 or 5 days, but 7 is fine.) Give the slab a good soak in water for a few hours after curing, changing the water a few times. It will help reduce the saltiness. Pat it dry, then allow to dry overnight. I always let the bacon warm up before smoking so that it doesn't condense when I start to smoke it. If you do see some condensation when smoking, just pat it dry.
  • Cactus DougCactus Doug Posts: 341
    Thanks for the answer about the rest in the fridge. So you like to do the soak to remove some of the salt. This is going to sound weird but do you consider yourself salt sensitive? I have seen others on the forum post good reviews using this cure without a soak. Salt levels seem to be very much tied to personal taste. One persons great is not edible for others, I trust your judgement on this matter and was thinking about doing a soak before your response. Will there be a loss of flavor due to soaking? Will the flavors of garlic, pepper and bay still come thru?
  • Doug, I don't soak mine. It is a little salty but my wife and I like it that way. I recommend skinning it as well before smoking. Good luck and post pics. J.
  • Little ChefLittle Chef Posts: 4,725
    Cactus Doug: I am actually a salt 'fiend'! I love salt! But I also appreciate when flavors are balanced. I do not find any decline in 'flavor' with a bit of a soak out. I only do it for a couple hours, maybe 3 water changes. It doesn't remove flavor, just removes some of the external excess of salt. No harm in cutting your belly in half, and trying half in a soak, and the other not. You will have your answer for the future that way. If you want a peppered bacon, the pepper flavor will still be inside from the cure, but you can sure add some more to the exterior for the drying and smoke! Once you do your first, you will know what you want to change for your second, or 52nd! It is an ever evolving adventure once you get into the curing side of things! Just keep the basics basic (meaning the true basic cure)then modify flavors as you desire. Do you have the Charcuterie book by Ruhlman yet?? Another great one is called 'American Charcuterie' by Victoria Wise. If you think you want totake curing and sausage making (and MORE) to the next level, I highly recommend both books! Victorias was published earlier, is a paperback, and less expensive. Don't let the cover Ruhlmans book fool you...there are no pretty photos inside. (Though I am not a fan of fancy photoed cook books anyways!) Best to you on this! As I stated earlier, you need to do your first to know how you might modify for your second. I would definately split the belly this time if you are torn between the soak or not. I personally can't imagine not soaking, and I still find it very flavorful. Keep us posted!!
  • HossHoss Posts: 14,587
    Skin if you want.Or don't.REAL homecured bacon down here usually has the "Rind" (skin),attached.I think it is personal preference.They are both better than ANYTHING you can buy in a regular store. ;)
  • Cactus DougCactus Doug Posts: 341
    Thanks for all the input LC. I am going to go with the soak, I can always add more salt. I have the Ruhlman book already and I will look up the other book. The Ruhlman book is actually a pretty good read for a cook book I find it to be a great source of info. This is the first thing I have tried out of the book, I figured that I should start with something easy. I am sure it will turn out good, the wait is a killer!
  • Little ChefLittle Chef Posts: 4,725
    You are welcome...and NO worries...the wait will be SOOO worth it!!! :laugh: B) As long as the fridge space isn't inconvenient, I try to space my belly bacon cures about 3-4 weeks apart. Then I always have home made in the fridge, and some in the freezer for emergencies. Once you get this down, you will never look at the store bought stuff the same! Curing is FUN!!! Take a good look at Ruhlmans Pancetta recipe...easy peasy, and WONderful! (And if you can't find Juniper Berries, shoot me an email...I will send you some) Actually, haven't tried a recipe in that book I didn't like. I must confess...Victoria Wise published MANY years before Ruhlman, and many of his recipes are identical to hers. So, perhaps a bit of copy cat by Ruhlman. Wise's book has many varieties of terrines and such as well. Between both books, you have years of experiments! Wish you the best on your bacon!!
  • I smoke it with the skin, slice it off while warm, cut into four or five pieces and then throw in the freezer to use whenever I make a pot of beans. Gives a smoky, porky, cured flavor that kicks some butt. I also will slice off any hug pieces of fat from a smoked belly and save for the same purpose.
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