Charcutepalooza February Charcuterie Challenge: Make Your Own Bacon

by Anne Maxfield on February 14, 2011

Accidental Locavore ChacutepaloozaWhat on earth is Charcutepalooza? A year long cook-along using Michael Ruhlman’s Charcuterie cookbook, and the Accidental Locavore blog was accepted into the event. How could you resist anything having to do with charcuterie, especially one that ends with a trip to France for the winner?  The February challenge is to make bacon, so off to Whole Foods for two small pork bellies (they had cut all the big pieces up). I’ve successfully made bacon from Charcuterie and since there were the two pork bellies, I decided to do riffs on the bacon cure. Both pieces got the basic cure along with some red alder smoked salt from the Meadow to give it smoke flavor while my grill is under two feet of snow…the savory piece also has some crushed juniper berries, crushed peppercorns, bay leaf, herbs de Provence, while the sweet one has brown sugar and cumin.Accidental Locavore Bacon Savory CureAccidental Locavore Bacon Sweet Cure

Into the fridge to cure for a week.

A week later, the cured bacon is removed from the fridge and rinsed thoroughly (having learned my lesson the hard way from my first attempt at duck prosciutto…unbelievably salty) patted dry, and slowly roasted in the oven.

A couple of hours later,  there is a wonderful aroma of roasting meat and the bacon is done. Finished and cooked, it’s surprising how much flavor from the cure both pieces maintain. It’s easy to tell the two apart, and I find myself liking the brown sugar one slightly more than the juniper/peppercorn. What I’m really looking forward to is the chance to actually smoke future batches. It took an enormous amount of willpower not to cruise over to Williams Sonoma and pick up a smoking gun to shoot at my bacon. Wonder if it’s too late now…

Breakfast the next day. The brown sugar one is still more flavorful and my favorite of the two, the cumin is subtle, but it’s there and adds a nice note. The other one has a slight taste of juniper berries but that might just be because I know they were there. No peppercorn taste at all. Interesting how the sweet flavor in the rub comes through much more than the savory ones. However, if I was cooking with the bacon, i.e. coq au vin, pasta carbonara etc, the sweet one would be too sweet.

Making bacon is one of those things that if people knew how easy it was, everyone would be doing it. I’m interested in experimenting with different cures, and smoking it vs. baking. What I did learn was that you don’t need a 5 pound belly, the small ones work just as well,  and would be my preference to be able to play with the cure mixtures. If you’re taking the time to make your own bacon, it just makes sense to play with different flavors. I would rate these batches 3.5 out of 5, my gold standard being the wonderful (and local) bacon from Dickson’s.

So what would it take for you to make your own bacon? How about ideas on things to add to the rub?

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Annapet February 16, 2011 at 6:52 pm

I did pancetta and did not stray away from the recipe. When I get more comfortable with charcuterie, I’ll be more adventurous.

Darlene, thanks for the tip on lemongrass/kaffir/galangal. I love those flavors and will keep them in mind.

Anne Maxfield February 16, 2011 at 11:05 am

Sounds great, I’m definitely trying that next time!

Darlene February 15, 2011 at 6:25 pm

I rarely use more than Ruhlman and Polcyn’s basic cure and some all spice for my bacon because I find the flavors of other spices don’t come through very much. Having said that, I tried a garlic/lemongrass/kaffir lime/galangal combination and the flavors came through wonderfully. Very bold.

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