So I mentioned in a thread about cookbooks that I had picked up this book
on charcuterie and my first project, my first step toward my ultimate goal of taking over for Mario Batali's dad when he retires, was making bacon. Well, we start toward sopressata with tiny steps.
Not counting Paulina's homemade bacon, which has been a standard item around the house for years, I had one experience with homemade bacon, MAG's, which was quite fine though it had a slightly different texture which I did not understand until today when G Wiv sent me the recipe she had used: it was brined, wet, for a day or so rather than cured, dry, for a week or so before being smoked. The result was a most delicious form of pork, to be sure, and not unlike many bacons that you see in stores (except for being much tastier than 99% of them, not least because she started with Niman pork), but did not have the chewy curedness that Paulina's does.
So I was going into new territory after all, simply by following my book's plan for dry-curing. I acquired the pink salt (nitrite) at Paulina, mixed it up with sugar and salt for a basic cure, and went to Peoria Packing to get me a pork belly. And here I ran into problem number one, which was, a lack of intimate familiarity with the anatomy of Sus domestica.
Peoria had nothing called a "pork belly"; instead it had two candidates for the job, one called "rib belly," a coffee-table-book-sized slab with ribs on one side and skin on the other; and one called "fresh bacon," a coffee-table-sized slab which looked more like bacon, and also like much more than I could possibly need or use.
For that reason, after inspecting the rib belly, I decided it too was bacon material, and cheaper (because smaller) just in case I was totally off base, so I bought it. G Wiv later confirmed that it was a perfectly fine choice, though he didn't see my quantity problem with the other. I trimmed the ribs off and began rubbing it with the cure, then put it in a 2-1/2 gallon ziploc bag along with, just for the hell of it, some of the juniper berries I'd been given by Cathy2 for Thanksgiving brine use. And into the auxiliary fridge the whole thing went, about 4 pm today.
The book had suggested adding maple syrup or sugar for the classic American bacon taste, but I was a little concerned about washing my brine off if I did so. (Same for the recipes I saw that added beer.) By 8 pm, though, it already had produced a certain amount of expressed liquid, so I decided that by now it was safe to add the maple syrup, which I poured onto the non-rind side and then sloshed around in the bag. So far so good; now I just have to turn it and slosh it a little every day for a week. Check back then...