Total Project Time: 8 days
This is the recipe that kicked off Meat Club. Portland-based chef Ben Bettinger taught a charcuterie class, and this is the first recipe that he taught me (Ryan) to make.
After we smoked the bacon, the next day I receive a text message from the wife of a friend who I took the class with. The text read, "If you haven’t tasted the bacon yet, stop whatever it is you’re doing and try it. It’s the best bacon I’ve ever had!" I immediately cooked the bacon, and yes, it was some damn fine bacon.
2. Procure Equipment
The day before the event, procure the following equipment:
• Plastic tablecloth or garbage bags
• 1 cutting board per person
• Spice Grinder
• Food preparation gloves
• Plastic Wrap
• Paper towels
• Meat Thermometer
• Apple Wood Chips
• Cooling racks
• Freezer storage bags
• Masking tape
4. Prep Bacon Stations
After the family meal, divide the pork belly up into roughly 5 pound sections.
Using a Spice Grinder, grind any spice ingredients that were purchased whole. Measure out the following ingredients:
• ¼ cup Instacure No. 1 curing salt
• 1 cup finely ground black pepper
• 1 cup finely ground bay leaves
• 10 cups brown sugar
• 4 cups Kosher Salt
Divide the spices evenly and place at each prep station.
Place a plastic tablecloth or numerous trash bags beneath each prep station surface to catch the loose spices, which will make cleanup much easier.
5. Rub Thy Belly
Place the belly meat side down on a cutting board and sprinkle Instacure No. 1 curing salt over the belly. Wearing food preparation gloves, massage the curing salt into the pork belly.
Sprinkle a thin layer of black pepper and bay leaves over the belly. Next, sprinkle brown sugar and Kosher Salt over the belly.
Massage the spices into the meat until packed on well. Flip, and repeat the process on the other side.
6. Nap Time
Wrap each of the spice-laden pork bellies separately in plastic wrap. Place the wrapped bellies on a baking sheet to catch any leakage.
Using masking tape and a Sharpie, label the package Bacon: Smoke on December 20, 2013. Place the bellies in the refrigerator for 7 days.
7. Wash 'n' Dry
7 days later, remove each of the pork bellies from the plastic wrap and rinse them off with water to remove the spice rub.
Either pat each of the bellies dry with paper towels, or use a bacon hanger to hang the meat and blow dry with a hair dryer.
8. Divide before Conquering
Divide the 5 lb. pork bellies into 4 equal parts.
This will help the smoking go more quickly, and will make it easier to store and prepare your bacon.
9. Smokie the Pig
Place the pork bellies in a Smoker set to a temperature of 170F, until the bellies reach an internal temperature of 145F, which should take around 4 hours.
The preferred smoking woods for this style of bacon include wood from fruit trees (apple, cherry, pear, etc.) for a lighter, fruitier smokiness.
When ready, remove the pork bellies from the Smoker and place on cooling racks.
10. Stop, Bacon Time
Place in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks, or the freezer for up to 2 months. If freezing, place in a sealable freezer storage bag and label it Bacon: made December 13, 2013.
Slice the bacon thinly and cook it before consuming it.