Makin' the Bacon

Here are a couple of videos on making your own bacon. We now have to let it sit in the fridge for a week so we'll follow up next weekend with another series of videos on what to do next. If you have a smoker of any sort, then making your own bacon is pretty easy. In fact, even if you do not you should be able to finish it up in your oven for unsmoked bacon - I'll try that once and make a video for it as well. This is the first time I'm making my bacon this way - usually I brine the belly for 2 or 3 days in my regular brining solution, and then smoke it. But I decided to give curing a try since I think it is a more correct way to do it, and I also decided to try using nitrites even though I am pretty sure you can cure without them. Nitrites work their way into the meat and then turn to a gas, and as the gas escapes it is noxious to microorganisms which kills them and gives you a higher degree of certainty that the meat is safe. I've never worried too much about that since bacon always gets cooked well anyway. I'll also try this again with just a salt cure and no nitrites.

The exact recipe I'm using is from monty on Ottawa Foodies. It looks like this for 5 lbs of belly.

  • 1/4 cup non-iodized salt (pickling, kosher, sea)
  • 2 tsp Insta-Cure® (6.25% sodium nitrite)
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup

One thing you have to be aware of when using nitrites is that it is actually a pretty dangerous substance and you really have to use it in the right amounts. One immediate problem I had with this recipe is that I did not have Insta-cure on hand, and instead I had a Canadian product called Readycure®, which has only 1% sodium nitrite. So I had to convert the recipe to account for this. Instacure has 6.25% sodium nitrite, and readycure only 1%. So here is what I did.

I started by rounding down the 6.25% to just 6 - which was close enough for me to be able to do easy math. And it erred on the side of less nitrite which I felt was safe. But I am no expert by any means. So in order to get the amount of sodium nitrite in the recipe, I had to use 6 times as much Readycure as Instacure. So instead of 2 teaspoons I needed 12 of them! In the case of both of these cures, the remainder of the ingredients is just salt. Actually, Readycure has a bit of sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) in it as well, but since it was listed after the sodium nitrite, I knew it was less than 1%. So I chose to just ignore it in my math.

There are 48 teaspoons in a cup. So 12 teaspoons of Readycure is 1/4 cup. But since Readycure is 99% regular salt, that meant I was essentially dealing with just 1/4 cup salt. So that took the place of the 1/4 cup salt in my original recipe. The 2 teaspoons of Instacure in the original recipe are of course 94% salt, so mostly salt. So just adding 2 teaspoons of salt would give me about the same amount of salt as the original recipe.

So I ended up with :

  • 1/4 cup Readycure (12 teaspoons)
  • 2 teaspoon non-iodized salt
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 3 cloves garlic

Then there was a second issue to deal with - the original recipe was for 5 lbs of meat, and I was only dealing with 4 lbs. So I used only about 80% of each ingredient - 9 teaspoons readycure, 1 teaspoon salt, and shy of 1/4 cup of the sugars. I also tossed in 3 cloves of garlic for good measure.

As you can see in the video, you need to mix all the ingredients, and then cover the entire belly in it. Then put it into a ziplock bag, remove the air, and put it into the fridge for a week.

Next weekend we'll be smoking this bad boy, so will update this article at that point.