I’ve started smoking again. Smoking meats! After months of thinking about it, I finally did it. I made bacon.
Curing and smoking meat comes across as a difficult, time consuming task, sprinkled with a pinch of food poisoning. It’s not true. By following food safety rules and a few simple steps, it was easy as anything to make bacon.
When I say bacon, I don’t mean the supermarket bacon. The stuff wrapped in plastic, piled a foot deep in the refrigerator bins is not bacon. That “meat” is pumped with liquid smoke, chemicals for colour and lots of water to make it heavier and thus more expensive for you. I mean a piece of pork belly, dry cured with salt and herbs, air dried and then cold-smoked for nine hours. Once you taste real bacon, the supermarket version will be all but a distant memory (or nightmare).
I won’t go into a lot of the curing details. Essentially, pork belly (skin on) is put in a bag with salt, sugar and herbs for a week in the fridge with some weight pushing down on the flesh to expel the water from within. Once cured, the pork is washed, to remove the salt and herbs, and put on a rack in the fridge to form a pellicle (a film/skin for the smoke to adhere to).
Now, to smoke meat, there are two methods: cold smoking or hot smoking. Don’t know if the names give it away or not but, hot smoking uses heat, and cold does not. For the bacon, I cold smoked. To cold smoke, I needed to produce smoke without the heat. To do this, I made a stainless steel mesh wood dust burner. I bent to stainless to form a number five (or “s”, depending on how you see the world) and lit one end of the snaking wood. This way I could control the burn and lengthen the time of the burn.
Since there was very little heat being created, and all smouldering wood was contained in sheet metal, I opted for a very cheap and recyclable smoking box: a cardboard grocery store box.
With a few slots cut for racks and access, the box I took from No Frills, had taken on the form of a no-frills smoker.
The wood dust, hickory in this case, was lit and placed in the bottom of the smoker. On the racks I put two sides of bacon and a piece of cheddar cheese, and closed it up. After a couple of hours, things were looking good and the smoke was doing its thing.
The cheese was pulled after three hours, and the bacon remained in the box for a full nine until it had a nice coating of smoke all over the meat, fat and skin.
After removing the skin and resting it in the fridge overnight, I fried it up with some eggs and decided that if I get really fat from this bacon, it would be completely worth it.
Special thanks to the chickens for the eggs out the garden. I’d say thanks to the pig, but I never met her, only her streaky goodness.
On a side note, the rabbits were mated after breakfast. Beatrix is out looking at baby clothes, while Rex is relaxing with a cigarette.