Finer Things in Life – Cure Your Own Bacon (FTIL #5)

Famed celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse made career out of it; certain religions prohibit it; but at the end of the day, there is nothing better than the smell of thick-cut bacon frying on the stovetop Sunday morning.  A friend of mine, a former GM at a restaurant now turned PR agent, once gave me a recipe for curing your own bacon.  He swore by the superiority of home-made bacon over anything you can buy in any specialty store.  Initially I was little skeptical, but given my apartment’s vicinity to Chicago’s Fulton fish and meat markets where I can get relatively inexpensive grade A+ pork belly, thought I’d give it a shot.  As I found out, the process is relatively simple:

  • Start with 4 to 5 pounds of thick cut pork belly
  • Using a mortar and pestle, crush together a couple of table spoons of peppercorns and fennel seeds (licorice scent of fennel really adds to the mix)
  • Add a quarter cup of salt (John said to use kosher, I used Himalayan and it worked just fine…) and a quarter cup of something sugary (sugar, syrup or honey – I like to use Agave nectar)
  • Lastly, add some rosemary or thyme into the mixture (if you have fresh sprigs, great – if not dried seasoning out of bottles will also do) along with some garlic, either whole cloves or crushed

Rub the mixture liberally onto sliced pork belly.  Put them in a Ziploc bag and place in your fridge for a week or so.  Wash in cold water to remove all that salt and sugar then dry thoroughly.  Here is an important step – smoke or bake the pork for an hour at 225~250 degrees before frying them.  Home cured bacon, without all the preservatives and commercial brine, will last a few more days in your fridge.  The best part I believe – curing your own bacon could become part of your wonderful Sunday morning family tradition, not to mention knowing that you are feeding your family one less preserved food.

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