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If you have the space for pigs but still haven’t made up your mind to raise them, then let me give you a little nudge. It will be one of the best investments you’ll ever make for your farm. The return is almost immediate, and the money saved is huge. Now with that said, let’s move on to one of my favorite reasons for growing your own pork: making bacon!

On my personal blog, I have a “cheater’s” recipe for anyone that wants to try their hand at curing to make a more traditional-flavored bacon. You can pick up a side (pork belly) from your local butcher and use liquid smoke for flavor without a having to purchase a smoker.

Cheater’s “Smoked” Bacon

(Original recipe by Karen Solomon – jam it, pickle it, cure it: and other cooking projects.)

Ingredients:

3 lbs pork belly
1/2 cup sugar or packed brown sugar
1 tbsp molasses, maple syrup, or honey
2 tbsp kosher salt
1 teas curing salt (pink salt, optional*)
1 teas black pepper
Liquid smoke

(You can double or triple this recipe for larger sides.)

Directions:

  • Rinse the pork belly and pat it dry. Trim the fat to the desired thickness. If the belly comes with a skin (rind) then remove it.
  • Mix the sugar with the molasses.
  • Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well.
  • Rub the mixture into the meat and store it in a large plastic bag in the refrigerator for 7 days, turning it once a day and rubbing the mixture in each time.
  • On day 7 check for stiffness in the meat. It should be somewhat stiff all over. (If necessary, add more salt and leave it another day.)
  • Once it’s ready, preheat the oven to 200° and rinse the meat well.
  • Brush a tiny bit of liquid smoke on both sides of the meat. Place it on a rack inside a shallow pan or baking sheet (to catch the juices) with the fat side up.
  • Roast for 2 – 2 1/2 hours or until the internal temperature reaches 150°.

Slice a piece off and fry it. At this point you’re just testing to see if more liquid smoke should be added to your liking. (But be careful, too much smoke gives the side a saltiness that could overpower the bacon.) If all is good, square up the meat to make slicing easier. Save the excess for a big pot of beans, split pea soup, Southern-style collard greens, etc. The bacon will last about a week in the refrigerator, 3 months in the freezer. Enjoy!!!

If you love this and want to do more (and I bet you will!) then you might be faced with the difficult decision to buy a smoker and slicer. I bought both on eBay, you’ll find great prices that won’t scare a beginner away.

*About pink salt: I like to use it because the pork will turn dark without it. Here is more information according to the New York Time Cooking section:

“Pink salt, also known as curing salt No. 1, is a nitrate, a combination of sodium chloride — table salt — and nitrite, a preserving agent used to deter the growth of bacteria in cured meats. Bacon is cured in the refrigerator, then slow roasted, and finally cooked again before serving. It is not being consumed as a raw, cured meat, so the use of a nitrate is a personal decision. A small amount of pink salt in your cure provides that familiar pink color and bacon-y flavor, or what we have come to know as bacon-y. It is absolutely possible to cure bacon without nitrates; but be aware that the end product will be more the color of cooked pork and that the flavor will be akin to that of a pork roast. With or without the pink salt, homemade bacon is worth the effort.”

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