In America, when one says the word "Bacon," various images come to mind. Most will immediately think of bacon and egg breakfast. Others, bacon cheeseburgers. Or even bacon-wrapped shrimp, scallops, or filet mignon. What to do with that plain chicken breast? Stuff it with a cheese, spinach mixture, and wrap it with bacon.
Chocolate covered bacon? Why not!
Most stores carry okay, decent, or over-priced bacon
Regardless, bacon (to some, but not all) has quiet the culinary and appetite appeal. Unfortunately, the quality of bacon in the grocery store can vary from thin, tasteless, or over-salted to pretty good. Most of the time, quality is also reflected in the price.
Conducting my own survey in a local grocery store, I found the cheap stuff going for about $4/lbs, the standard thin, breakfast bacon for about $5-6/lbs, and thick-cut was going around the $7-8/lbs. And the gourmet, "Hand select (whatever that means)," or all-natural thick-cut kinds of bacon were in the $10-12/lbs price range.
I have tried all of them at one point or another in the past. The $5-6/lbs bacon is generally acceptable for most cooking and tastes okay. The $7-8/lbs bacon was definitely better. The $10-12/lbs sticker shock aside, I could not taste the difference from the $7-8/lbs bacon.
Surely homemade bacon tastes better and is less expensive?
As we did not raise hogs this year, I decided to see the price point difference to make my bacon at home from a fresh pork belly directly from a local butcher. I have cured roughly 100 lbs of bacon from my hogs, using a curing process and recipe that works best for me. I have tried other processes and recipes that did not go so well.
The curing process itself is surprisingly simple, only requiring one special ingredient, a scale in grams, fresh pork belly sourcing, and the other ingredients found in your local store.
Want to give it a try? Here's how to make bacon at home.
Things You Will Need
Gram Scale ( A digital scale with the Tare function is best )
#1 Curing Salt (found on-line sausage/meat processing websites)
4-5 Medium Garlic Cloves
2-3 Bay Leaves (crushed)
10 grams of Black Peppercorns
2-gallon Zip-lock plastic bags (or a non-reactive large container and enough plastic wrap to cover 5lbs of fresh pork belly)
Cross-section of Pork Belly
Ingredients For the Base Cure
Curing Salt #1 (Prag Salt #1, Insta Cure #1, Pink Salt)
450 grams of Kosher salt
225 grams of sugar
56 grams of #1 Curing salt
Weigh the ingredients listed above, place in a sealed container and shake well to mix. Place in a cool, dry place, mark and date it, and it will be good for years.