Homemade Bacon:

Sounds delicious. No smoking — and no added water, a deletion that the author (my friend Kristina Johnson, who is a former chef) reports is quite valuable — but garlic, pepper, cumin, thyme, juniper, anise, and bay leaves, plus the usual salt, sugar, and of course Homer Simpson's and Pliny the Elder's favorite meat. It's the sort of thing I would have gladly tried before the arrival of my energetic sons caused me to put most of my cooking interests on the back burner. Yum.

einhverfr (mail) (www):
Nah, I expect to try to make this anyway. I still cook sometimes. Will have to wait until my next trip to Seattle though since I can't get the pork side here....
9.8.2009 1:11pm
DiverDan (mail):
The recipe in the Link is technically for Pancetta, the Italian dry cured version of Bacon - it is delicious in various Italian Recipes -- like a Creamy Pasta Sauce with Pancetta and fresh Peas served over Linguini. To make true Bacon, it needs to be cold smoked for several hours. Cold smoking is a process where the Bacon is hung in an enclosure that is filled with smoke from a fire that is in a separate enclosure, separated by several feet of ducting, so the smoke arrives fairly cool - it doesn't cook the Bacon, merely infuses the meat with the smoky flavor. For a recipe (and instructions) on real bacon, check out Alton Brown's recipes on the Food Network website. And to find raw pork belly, well, good luck. As far as I know there are only a few places in Dallas I can find it, all traditional butcher shops. I used Potassium Nitrate (saltpeter) for the cure - you can get this from a Walmart Pharmacy (though you might have to ask them to order it). You also need Saltpeter to cure your own Corned Beef from Brisket (home cured Corned Beef is FAR superior to any Deli Corned Beef you'll find anywhere outside of New York).
9.8.2009 1:12pm
Stevie Miller (mail):
Blaming the boys for the lack of bacon ... sad, man.

How much time does it take to heat up a griddle and sizzle a bit? Cmon. Crack open a few eggs too, and maybe even mix up a bowl of pancake batter.

Your sons will be better off with a father comfortable in the kitchen, mark my words.
9.8.2009 2:04pm
The book you want is Michael Ruhlman's (with Brian Polcyn) Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing
9.8.2009 2:09pm
I'm also a huge Alton Brown fan - and his bacon recipe works well - as do his methods for making a smoker on the cheap. Still playing with his rub for BarBQ, but Q is a very regional delicacy. Nothing to do but keep tinkering with it.
9.8.2009 3:11pm
Leo Marvin (mail):

(my friend and former chef Kristina Johnson)

You had a chef?
9.8.2009 3:27pm
Kristina (www):
For anyone having a hard time finding pork belly, I suggest checking markets which cater to a primarily Asian or Latino customers. We found ours in a local Asian market with a butcher counter.
9.8.2009 3:40pm
Wish I could have stayed friends with my former chef.
9.8.2009 4:49pm
Be careful about these sorts of posts, Professor. You'll soon be accused of keeping company with the bacon-nuts and your credibility will be all shot to hell. [Poster goes into a drool-accompanied reverie]. MMMMMMMMMMMMM, bacon-nuts!
9.8.2009 5:38pm
Duffy Pratt (mail):
Echoing what Kristina said. You aren't likely to find pork belly at any standard supermarket. I couldn't even find any slab bacon or salt pork that was not sliced. But the nearby asian market carries pork bellies, and other wonderful cuts of meat and bone that are simply not available at the regular supermarket. I guess they are just too "unpalatable" for a world that lives on only beef loin products and white meat chicken.

By the way, this reminds me of a thing I saw recently where Penn Gillette, of Penn and Teller, is reviewing chocolate covered bacon. It's hilarious and well worth seeking out.
9.8.2009 5:56pm
Duffy Pratt (mail):
Heres a link to the chocolate covered bacon review. Its number 9 on the list.
9.8.2009 6:01pm
Eugene Volokh (www):
OK, I changed the "my friend and former chef" to "my friend Kristina Johnson, who is a former chef."
9.8.2009 6:53pm
Laura(southernxyl) (mail) (www):

hang it in a cool dry place for another week

Well, that would be problematic for me. I'd have to anticipate the very brief period of time in December or January that we have that kind of weather.

My grandparents in Mississippi had a smokehouse where they cured their own meat. I well remember, from my childhood, the smell of the hickory smoke and that delicious pork. (I remember tossing apples at the pigs, too, and I think I was young enough not to make the connection.) There is NOTHING like a cathead biscuit with a slice of tomato and some salty fatback. Maybe onion too.

If I were to try this, I think I'd try to skip the sodium nitrate. Processed meats are a migraine trigger for both my daughter and me. As a matter of fact, maybe I'll give this a whirl and try skipping the cool dry part. It would be really cool to have bacon that we didn't have to weigh the consequences of eating ... well, not that consequence, anyway.
9.8.2009 7:02pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
We make a trip to asian markets once a month. We buy pork belly, beef tendon, chicken feet, pigs tongues, and a wide variety of other foods. The tendon is REALLY good.
9.8.2009 7:54pm
Reg Dunlop:

I used Potassium Nitrate (saltpeter) for the cure - you can get this from a Walmart Pharmacy (though you might have to ask them to order it).

Will I have to stand in line and get treated like a crackhead, as I do for Claritin?
9.8.2009 7:56pm
DiverDan (mail):

Will I have to stand in line and get treated like a crackhead, as I do for Claritin?

No, but, given the historical reputation of saltpeter (i.e., as a chemical suppressor of the libido), the folks in line with you might snicker, thinking that you need Saltpeter because of a bit too much of the little blue pill.

As to Laura's concern about Nitrites or Nitrates, yes you can prepare either Bacon or Corned Beef without either Sodium Nitrite or Potassium Nitrate. The Corned Beef, however, will not have that pleasant pink color - it will turn greyish. The Bacon also will lose some of its pinkish hue, unless it is smoked for at least 8-10 hours. Both will require a bit more care in storage, without the microbial protection that the Sodium Nitrite or Saltpeter provide. I would NOT just hang the bacon in a "cool dry place" if I used no Nitrites or Nitrates in the cure; immediate refrigeration, or freezing for long term storage, would be advisable.
9.8.2009 9:40pm
Leo Marvin (mail):
The Volokh Conspiracy: Pro Pork.
9.8.2009 11:02pm
Is sodium chloride an acceptable substitute for sodium nitrate when making corned beef and pastrami? I'd heard it was, but that was from an unreliable source.
9.8.2009 11:06pm
Former Chef (www):
DiverDan is right. If you're not going to use the pink salt, then the bacon won't have that rosy color you might expect. And certainly don't hang it! You'll need to use a different recipe if not using the sodium nitrite.

Plus, make sure your reaction/allergy is not w/nitrates instead of nitrites. Lots of info available out there on that.

When I make this again (and I certainly will because my Mom won't share what's left) I probably won't hang it. I'd like to see how it turns out without doing that.
9.8.2009 11:37pm
Steve2, Sodium Chloride is common table salt - there is already quite a bit of it in the dry cure for that recipe.

For both color and texture, I find the saltpeter a necessity. Should you wish to avoid it, for whatever reason, then I would suggest a preparation method involving a brine, followed by a long cold smoke, or a considerably shorter hot smoke method - either of which should be adequate for retarding the growth of undesirable microorganisms, assuming you respected safe food handling techniques up to that point.

If you are trying to avoid a strong smoky flavor, you can use a relatively short hot smoke, just enough to develop a little smoke ring in the meat, then wrap it in aluminum foil, transfer it to a baking dish, and finish it low and slow in your oven. Assuming you brined the meat (mentioned above), and keep the oven at its lowest setting, you are in no danger of drying out your slab. Do remember to rest the meat when you are done cooking, before slicing it, or all that wonderful collagen will end up all over the cutting board.

Of course, at that point, we are no longer talking about pancetta, but we are certainly still talking about "Good Eats".
9.9.2009 9:59am
DiverDan (mail):
Thanks, CarLitGuy, for the plug for "Good Eats" - it's far and away my favorite Food Network show (though Everyday Italian is not a bad second choice - and Giada De Laurentis is real easy on the eyes - she could easily move to my favorite spot if she'd just start doing her show in lingerie!), and I just love the fact that Alton Brown explains the chemistry and physics of cooking; it's not only fascinating, it really helps you to "ad lib" in the Kitchen when you understand what's going on.
9.9.2009 11:15am
einhverfr (mail) (www):
Reg Dunlop:

Will I have to stand in line and get treated like a crackhead, as I do for Claritin?

For saltpeter? No. They'd more likely treat you as a terrorist ;-)
9.9.2009 11:44am
einhverfr wrote at 9.9.2009 11:44am:
For saltpeter? No. They'd more likely treat you as a terrorist ;-)
Heh. Used to buy it by the pound back in the 1950s. Good oxidizer for model rocketry.

Back then the stock pharmacist's question was "Your dad is treatin' some cattle?" "Uh huh."

Guess he never figured out we lived in town and didn't own cattle.

That was due to the pervasive belief to which DiverDan alluded at 9.8.2009 9:40pm:
... given the historical reputation of saltpeter (i.e., as a chemical suppressor of the libido), the folks in line with you might snicker, thinking that you need Saltpeter because of a bit too much of the little blue pill.
9.9.2009 2:00pm
do you remember Caprial (sp?)? Pre Food Network (maybe even appearing on public television), she used to cook in silk, and, like Giada, many seemed to think she wasn't hard on the eyes. I still wish I could cook without the occasional spill, slip, etc appearing on my clothing.

I depend on Alton for the Cooking with Chemistry - lost most of my sense of smell (with the attendant inability to discriminate many tastes) in an accident years back. If I didn't understand the ratios and the chemistry, and the "why the cooking method matters" that he shares, my family would likely never touch my cooking again.

You mentioned being in Dallas, do you have a spice rub for your BarBQ that you are willing to share?
9.9.2009 6:37pm
DiverDan (mail):
Yes, I'm in Dallas, but even though I've been here 27 years, I'm still a transplanted Yankee who's not really all that keen on Texas Barbeque (in Texas, it's all about Beef - primarily Brisket), so no, I do not have any special spice rub. I do love a slow smoked Pork Shoulder, for Pulled Pork Sandwiches, but I always sort of wing the rub - Kosher Salt, Brown Sugar, Black Pepper, Paprika, Cayenne, Cumin (gives a nice smoky flavor by itself, I love cumin), Mexican Oregano, plus whatever else strikes my fancy when I'm mixing it up. Rub it generously over the whole pork shoulder, refrigerate at least overnite (2 would be better), then slow smoke (don't let the temperature go over about 275 degrees - 225-275 is ideal) with hickory &pecan chips for a good 6-8 hours. Shred pork with forks while it is still warm, put on toasted buns with a good spicy vinegar Barbecue Sauce ( I do have my own recipe for that, but I'm not sharing), some Louisiana Hot Sauce, and a good coleslaw. Heaven on a bun.
9.10.2009 11:02am

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