Salt + Time = Love

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Belly prior to cutting to fit inside smoker

This past summer, I took a charcuterie course at NC State University, taught by Dr. Dana Hanson.  On the first day of class, we received a T-shirt with a salt shaker, a plus sign, a clock, an = sign, and a heart at the end of the equation.  Salt + Time = Love.  Dr. Hanson was and still is absolutely right.

Today, I’m putting that mantra into action, again.  I’ve made my own bacon many, many times, but this is special.  The pork belly I’m using is from a local farmer and friend of mine, Matt Ames of Our Father’s Farm.  I need to ask him what breed the hog was, but suffice to say this is about 40 pounds of porky goodness.  Thick, meaty, fatty – in a word, awesome.

I used a basic cure (1 pound salt, 8 oz sugar, 8 teaspoons of DQ #1 (sodium nitrite, or pink salt), some brown sugar and some freshly cracked pepper.  It’ll cure for about a week or so, and I’ll overhaul (turn) the bellies every other day.  After that, I’ll rinse the cure off and  dry the bellies, allowing a pellicle to form in the refrigerator (that sticky surface that occurs when the proteins dry).  The pellicle is essential – helps the smoke really adhere to the meat.

Normally, I double smoke the bellies when turning it into bacon (usually at about 90 degrees F and below) for about two hours before hot smoking them at 180 degrees F or so until they reach an internal temperature of 150 degrees F.  I use a Bradley smoker at home (at work we have an Alto Shaam that is awesome), and it works OK, though I had it packed with six racks of belly the last time I made bacon, and had some trouble getting the pork up to temperature.  Apparently, when a Bradley is full, the heating element struggles a bit (I’ve heard that some folks modify their Bradley smokers, putting in an additional heating element – might have to do that at some point).

Anyway, here’s some more pictures of the process thus far.  I’ll post more later when I finish the bacon.

Salt + Time = Love.

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Cut belly – check out the fat!

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Belly ready for cure application

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Applying cure using the box method

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Cure applied to all bellies, ready for refrigeration

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Labeled and dated, ready for refrigeration

 

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