We are making bacon. And it's super easy to do, from what we are finding.
Now, this was inspired by three things. First and foremost, the blogging goddess Crunchy Chicken and her post last month about her first bacon phase. Second and crucially, the fact that we have a full-service pork store just around the corner from our house, where all manner of fresh pork product is sold seasonally from September to April. Lastly and gratefully, Able-Bodied Boy's willingness to buy a smoker box for our gas grill (I swear I didn't bully him into it!).
How do you make bacon? The basics are as follows:
- Obtain pork belly
- Cure pork belly (let it sit with salt and flavorings like sweetness or spices on it) for one week
- Smoke until the internal temperature reaches 150F
Seriously. That's it.
Why is this better than buying it from the store?
- Store-bought bacon has evil additions.
- Extra water, so that you are paying for more liquid than actual meat
- Preservatives, namely sodium nitrite (see safety discussion below)
- The source of the pork is unknown. We've all heard the horror stories about commercial farms: the feed, the anti-biotics, the conditions, etc.
- Ultimate customized bacon flavors!
Is it safe to make your own bacon?
Yes, just as safe as you bringing home and cooking any other meat product: if you are mindful of cleanliness, food-handling precautions, and safe cooking temperatures, than you are perfectly safe.
The FDA allows sodium nitrite to be used in the curing of meats. Sodium Nitrite helps in the prevention of botulism and keeps the meat a nice pink color. But it also, when heated, can form nitrosamines when heated. Nitrosamines are a carcinogen in lab testing. Now, there are some other products that can help prevent the nitrosamines from being created, so they pump ascorbic acid or erythorbic acid to help prevent that. source
I don't know about you, but I don't want to use those products. I'm not selling my bacon and I trust my methods. So, sodium nitrite (aka pink salts, aka curing salt, aka Prague Powder) is not being invited to this party.
Where am I going to find a pork belly from a good source?
This may take a bit of leg-work, but here are some tips:
- Google maps: sometimes just entering "pork store" will yield you some options
- Website listings: try localharvest.org or see if your local area has a website with area farm/market information. For the Philadelphia and South Jersey areas, I found farmtocity.org and slowfood.cape-may.net
- Farmer's Markets: just because your farmer's market doesn't have a pork vendor doesn't mean they don't exist. Ask around. Farmers know farmers. Farmers often don't bring with them what is too difficult to transport (say, heavy coolers full of meats and ice) if they don't reliably sell.
- CSA's: same as the farmer's markets. Many CSA's have relationships with local dairy/meat farms and they may have a good contact for you to call
- Know a local friend who lives around the corner from a pork store, or works in a butcher shop *winkwink*
I haz pork belly! What now??
Patiently wait for the next installment, when we start the curing process!
What's going on in your kitchen? Or, with this beautiful weather, have you made your way outdoors to the garden?