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  • Post #211 - July 20th, 2009, 12:42 pm
    Post #211 - July 20th, 2009, 12:42 pm Post #211 - July 20th, 2009, 12:42 pm
    My bacon belly project is underway. My buddies and I picked up 10 pounds of pork belly from Gepperth's in Lincoln Park. It was cheaper than what we were quoted from the vendors at Green City and this being our first charcuterie adventure, we opted for the cheaper option this time. The bacon and pacnetta is currently curing in my fridge and I have a few questions and observations:

    1) I picked up one of the much-maligned electric smokers off craigslist this weekend for $30. I realize they have a bad rap but I figured at $30 I might as well give it a shot. My question is - how exactly do I incorporate the woodchips with the smoker? Do I soak them in water, wrap them in foil, and set them on the bottom where the electric heating element is?

    2) What type of wood should I get for the smoking? I'll probably head to Paulina to pick up whatever they recommend there.

    3) I don't think I can realistically dry cure the pancetta as nothing in my apartment is going to be in the 60 degree range. Think we'll be okay if we just eat the pancetta after it has been cured or do we need to dry it out somehow?

    4) We followed the recipes in the Charcuterie book. I was surprised at how little salt and curing powder was called for. I was expecting to have the belly completely drowning in salt but instead it was more just a light coating sprinkled on. Did I mess up a conversion factor when I scaled down the recipe?

    I am very excited for this weekend to try out the smoker and try the bacon.
  • Post #212 - July 21st, 2009, 9:22 am
    Post #212 - July 21st, 2009, 9:22 am Post #212 - July 21st, 2009, 9:22 am
    I just finished smoking and packing up my 10lb pork belly. I don't have answers for your first three questions, but don't worry about the salt content of the cure recipe from Charcuterie. I used the same cure, cured it for 6 days, and it was plenty salty. I should be able to post some photos here in a couple of day. Have fun...and just take your time when it comes to slicing it up.
  • Post #213 - July 21st, 2009, 9:35 am
    Post #213 - July 21st, 2009, 9:35 am Post #213 - July 21st, 2009, 9:35 am
    For 2, I use applewood for bacon. It is pretty available and burns well. I have to be honest, I don't get much difference between woods, but I suggest chunks over chips. Try Berger Bros. for supply. Remember to keep the fire very, very low. You will be cooking the bacon before eating, so you want to impart the smoke, but not roast the meat.

    For 3, you can use it before drying, but you aren't going to get the same flavor as if you had hung it to dry (which concentrates the flavor). If you fear meat sicknesses due to the high temperatures in your place, you could use a wine fridge or set a beer fridge at a relatively warm setting, but add some humidity to the operation.
  • Post #214 - November 19th, 2009, 10:38 pm
    Post #214 - November 19th, 2009, 10:38 pm Post #214 - November 19th, 2009, 10:38 pm
    Hi,

    I have a pork belly that has been curing and is about to be smoked. In the past, my belly still had the skin on. This time it is skinless. If anyone smoked bacon without the skin, please comment if there is any special method to consider while smoking?

    Thanks!

    Regards,
    Cathy2

    "You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
    Facebook, Twitter, Greater Midwest Foodways, Road Food 2012: Podcast
  • Post #215 - November 20th, 2009, 8:02 am
    Post #215 - November 20th, 2009, 8:02 am Post #215 - November 20th, 2009, 8:02 am
    Cathy,

    I just smoked a few Slagel bellies with skin already removed. As a test, I put former skin side up and down, initially, to test which I liked better. I prefer the former skin side up to keep the fat from sticking to the grates (an alternative would be an application of oil).

    One thing that I did outside of the cook that worked well was I ran a fan over the bellies for a few hours after rinsing and resting overnight in the fridge. That seemed to form a nice pellicle on the belly.

    BTW, Slagel bellies were very nice. With bacon, I usually associate thickness with goodness, but Slagel's bellies weren't terribly thick, the fat was amazing and the meat was a nice dark color. The deliver retail meats to Mado for pickup. I ordered bellies, jowls, and fatback. The bellies were great, but the jowls and fatback look amazing.

    Mark

    Edit: After Mado's Butchering Demo last night, which was spectacular, there was some talk about how to reach Slagel Farms. The url is
    http://www.slagelfamilyfarm.com/index.shtml
    I found them very nice and easy to deal with and the product is great.
  • Post #216 - December 7th, 2009, 11:27 am
    Post #216 - December 7th, 2009, 11:27 am Post #216 - December 7th, 2009, 11:27 am
    I've taken the plunge into bacon-making!

    I've been wanting to do this for a while but haven't pulled the trigger. The butchering demo at Mado and Rob Leavitt's endorsement of Slagel was the final nudge I needed. So, I got my bellies from Slagel and the process was very easy. I e-mailed them and told them how much I wanted and they delivered it to Mado.

    I was concerned about having to skin 20 lbs of belly but also kind of excited at the possibility of making cracklins out of all that skin. But I was actually relieved to see that they had already skinned it, saving me the work.

    I mixed up a batch of dry cure a la Ruhlman and got it on the bellies yesterday. I'm planning on smoking next Sunday. I'll post pics of the final product.

    And I was incredibly fortunate to be the recipient of Mike G's raffle gift - bacon! It was very fortuitous as now I have a gold standard to gauge my own attempts! And thanks Mike for the tips!
  • Post #217 - December 14th, 2009, 9:31 am
    Post #217 - December 14th, 2009, 9:31 am Post #217 - December 14th, 2009, 9:31 am
    The result of my first bacon-making endeavor:
    Image

    I fried up a couple of slices immediately and savored the bacony goodness! It was VERY satisfying!

    For the most part, I was able to keep the smoker no higher than 150 degrees. It spiked once to around 175-180 but I was able to bring it back down by almost closing the bottom vents on my WSM all the way. It still cooked the pork a bit but it still fired up nicely. I used about a 60% full chimney of coals and that kept the smoke going for the full 3 hours.

    Next time, I think I may build a much smaller fire and just replenish with lit coals as necessary. Also, I think I will wait for a colder day. Thanks to msmre and MikeG for all your tips.
    Last edited by viaChgo on December 16th, 2009, 4:06 pm, edited 1 time in total.
  • Post #218 - December 16th, 2009, 2:55 pm
    Post #218 - December 16th, 2009, 2:55 pm Post #218 - December 16th, 2009, 2:55 pm
    viaChgo, the picture isn't showing up. On my end anyway.

    Congrats on your bacon! I also read all the posts in this thread too. I just recently made my first batch of bacon too. I can't see buying regular "store" bacon again.







    Image


    Thanks to all that contributed to this thread:)
    dan
  • Post #219 - December 16th, 2009, 4:08 pm
    Post #219 - December 16th, 2009, 4:08 pm Post #219 - December 16th, 2009, 4:08 pm
    gonefishin wrote:viaChgo, the picture isn't showing up. On my end anyway.



    Just fixed the image link. It should show up now. Thanks.

    Congrats on your bacon as well! Were you able to keep the temps low in your smoker?
  • Post #220 - December 16th, 2009, 4:32 pm
    Post #220 - December 16th, 2009, 4:32 pm Post #220 - December 16th, 2009, 4:32 pm
    So I have kind of a silly question. Does it matter which way I slice the belly? I know you slice meats against the grain but I guess it didn't occur to me to do so with the bacon. I tweeted my pic (the one upthread) to Ruhlman and he responded with "...but maybe slice in the other direction?!"
  • Post #221 - December 16th, 2009, 4:47 pm
    Post #221 - December 16th, 2009, 4:47 pm Post #221 - December 16th, 2009, 4:47 pm
    I have sliced from both ways on the same belly when it was too long in one direction until I shaved it down a bit. Any given belly might have a better direction here or there, based on where there's hunks of fat or whatever, but generally, you basically get the same thing either direction.
    Watch Sky Full of Bacon, the Chicago food HD podcast!
    New episode: Soil, Corn, Cows and Cheese
    Watch the Reader's James Beard Award-winning Key Ingredient here.
  • Post #222 - December 16th, 2009, 4:49 pm
    Post #222 - December 16th, 2009, 4:49 pm Post #222 - December 16th, 2009, 4:49 pm
    Mike G wrote:I have sliced from both ways on the same belly when it was too long in one direction until I shaved it down a bit. Any given belly might have a better direction here or there, based on where there's hunks of fat or whatever, but generally, you basically get the same thing either direction.


    Thanks! That was kind of my thinking as well. Maybe he just thought my slices were too short? It all still tastes great! Btw, your bacon was delicious!
  • Post #223 - December 16th, 2009, 11:06 pm
    Post #223 - December 16th, 2009, 11:06 pm Post #223 - December 16th, 2009, 11:06 pm
    Hi,

    The most recent slab of bacon I made, I pulled a little late at 165 degrees. It was by far the easiest slicing job to date. Do you think the elevated temperature contributed to this?

    Regards,
    Cathy2

    "You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
    Facebook, Twitter, Greater Midwest Foodways, Road Food 2012: Podcast
  • Post #224 - December 17th, 2009, 7:33 am
    Post #224 - December 17th, 2009, 7:33 am Post #224 - December 17th, 2009, 7:33 am
    viaChgo wrote:
    gonefishin wrote:viaChgo, the picture isn't showing up. On my end anyway.



    Just fixed the image link. It should show up now. Thanks.

    Congrats on your bacon as well! Were you able to keep the temps low in your smoker?



    I got the picture now, looks great!

    This was the first time I tried smoking with the temperature quite low. It went easier than I thought. I just loaded the fire drawer up with two decent pieces of lump. Once I got the lump going with my torch, I placed the two pieces of applewood on top.

    I ended up cutting the pork belly up in three pieces. One I made Maple flavored, one brown sugar and the last I made a honey and spice.

    happy bacon day! isn't every day bacon day?


    dan
  • Post #225 - December 17th, 2009, 10:02 am
    Post #225 - December 17th, 2009, 10:02 am Post #225 - December 17th, 2009, 10:02 am
    Cathy2 wrote:Hi,

    The most recent slab of bacon I made, I pulled a little late at 165 degrees. It was by far the easiest slicing job to date. Do you think the elevated temperature contributed to this?

    Regards,


    I think so. I would think that the meat would be much firmer at 165 than at below 150. I guess ideally, you want the meat to remain as "raw" as possible, texture-wise. But, that would make it more difficult to slice.
  • Post #226 - December 27th, 2009, 9:53 am
    Post #226 - December 27th, 2009, 9:53 am Post #226 - December 27th, 2009, 9:53 am
    Love this thread.

    Couple questions for you all as I have three 4lb bellies finishing up in the cure:

    1. How important is it for them to sit a day after washing?

    2. Has anyone ever left the cure on during the smoke? I only ask this because sometimes when you see packaged bacon nd it is a pepper format, it still has tons of peppercorns on it. Is this because they wash the cure then re-apply the peppercorns before packaging?
  • Post #227 - December 27th, 2009, 10:41 am
    Post #227 - December 27th, 2009, 10:41 am Post #227 - December 27th, 2009, 10:41 am
    1. How important is it for them to sit a day after washing?


    I've never done that. Straight from a rinse to the smoker.

    The problem with leaving them in the package with something is, I suppose, that they're could get a concentration of that flavor in spots. But hey, experiment and see.
    Watch Sky Full of Bacon, the Chicago food HD podcast!
    New episode: Soil, Corn, Cows and Cheese
    Watch the Reader's James Beard Award-winning Key Ingredient here.
  • Post #228 - December 27th, 2009, 11:00 am
    Post #228 - December 27th, 2009, 11:00 am Post #228 - December 27th, 2009, 11:00 am
    Mike -

    Thanks for the response. One more, did one with a maplish and peppercorn cure. Do I need to scrub all the peppercorns off? Or is it ok if some lingers behind?
  • Post #229 - December 28th, 2009, 8:18 am
    Post #229 - December 28th, 2009, 8:18 am Post #229 - December 28th, 2009, 8:18 am
    jpeac2 wrote:Mike -

    Thanks for the response. One more, did one with a maplish and peppercorn cure. Do I need to scrub all the peppercorns off? Or is it ok if some lingers behind?


    I tend to rinse pretty well and let sit in open air (not out of the fridge) for a day or two, but I think that if you leave some peppercorns on the belly, you should be fine. Pepper may burn in the smoking process, but if the heat is low enough, it should be fine.
  • Post #230 - February 13th, 2010, 11:46 am
    Post #230 - February 13th, 2010, 11:46 am Post #230 - February 13th, 2010, 11:46 am
    All -

    Couple questions.

    Once dethawed, how long can the bacon sit in the fridge?

    Also, our pepper bacon did not have any pepper flavor. We used some really spicy pepper from Spice House. Washed off prior to smoke. Then after smoking, slicing, and cooking nothing was coming through.

    Did we miss a step? Do we need more pepper?

    How do you impart the flavor?
  • Post #231 - February 13th, 2010, 11:57 am
    Post #231 - February 13th, 2010, 11:57 am Post #231 - February 13th, 2010, 11:57 am
    I think bacon easily lasts a week, if it's cured properly. I don't know that I've ever had a reason to keep it longer, it's certainly going to taste less than optimal at some point, well before it would actually be unsafe to eat. Anyway, defrost one Sunday morning, fail to cook, use the next Sunday with no adverse effect.

    Anything peppered, it seems like you want to coat it for the smoking process, as you do with pastrami, and have visible pepper on it at the end.
    Watch Sky Full of Bacon, the Chicago food HD podcast!
    New episode: Soil, Corn, Cows and Cheese
    Watch the Reader's James Beard Award-winning Key Ingredient here.
  • Post #232 - February 13th, 2010, 5:14 pm
    Post #232 - February 13th, 2010, 5:14 pm Post #232 - February 13th, 2010, 5:14 pm
    jpeac2 wrote:
    Also, our pepper bacon did not have any pepper flavor. We used some really spicy pepper from Spice House. Washed off prior to smoke. Then after smoking, slicing, and cooking nothing was coming through.

    Did we miss a step? Do we need more pepper?

    How do you impart the flavor?


    Making pepper/maple bacon, I used a serious amount of pepper in the cure (1/4 cup) and got good results. The bacon still tasted like traditional bacon, but had subtle pepper flavors. If you want to taste the pepper up front, I suggest adding a few tbsp on the cure and then coating for a smoke.

    Keep in mind though at that point, that you may be creating a monster. Not that bacon is filled with subtlety, but if you add strong pepper flavor to already strong smoke and pork flavors, you may just end up with something that is too strong.

    On a similar note, I made about 5 lbs. of bacon using the cure from Michael Symon's newish book. It includes honey, chili flakes, paprika, and cumin in addition to some of the more traditional ingredients. The change in taste is that the bacon includes more heat, but the real differences are the color of the bacon is much more red than standard and the cook is slightly odd. The edges seem to caramelize. I am guessing that it is from the residual honey and brown sugar that was integrated into the belly. Not a deal breaker, but it keeps the bacon beneath Paulina, where the best feature, to me, is that it cooks perfectly every time on a rack in the oven.
  • Post #233 - April 12th, 2010, 6:38 pm
    Post #233 - April 12th, 2010, 6:38 pm Post #233 - April 12th, 2010, 6:38 pm
    After seeing lamb belly on a bunch of menus around the city, I thought that the texture was likely remarkably similar to pork belly, so I decided to try making bacon from a lamb belly. The results were very, very good. Not completely different from bacon, but with a ton of lamb, salt, and smoke. A pretty darned good alternative for your cured and smoked meat needs.

    Lamb
    Image
    vs.
    Pork
    Image

    Cooked
    Lamb
    Image
    vs.
    Pork
    Image
  • Post #234 - April 13th, 2010, 11:57 am
    Post #234 - April 13th, 2010, 11:57 am Post #234 - April 13th, 2010, 11:57 am
    Hi,

    Where did you order the lamb belly? Roughly what was the cost per pound? Do you have any special ordering advice? Could you walk into the butcher to obtain what you wanted or did you call in advance to have what you want set aside?

    I have some venison belly I am going to attempt to make into bacon. I haven't defrosted it yet to figure out how it will work.

    Regards,
    Cathy2

    "You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
    Facebook, Twitter, Greater Midwest Foodways, Road Food 2012: Podcast
  • Post #235 - April 13th, 2010, 12:12 pm
    Post #235 - April 13th, 2010, 12:12 pm Post #235 - April 13th, 2010, 12:12 pm
    Cathy2,

    I ordered the Lamb Belly from Slagel Farms and picked it up at Mado. It was about $6/lb. and came bone in. Earlier, I had tried to order from Mint Creek, but got something altogether different from what I now know as lamb belly. The question that I asked LouisJohn at Slagel after misordering at Mint Creek was, "So this lamb belly looks just like the pork belly that I got from you, right?" and he said that it was, but had ribs attached (and the skirt steak), which seemed more like a bonus than a detraction.

    My guess is that this isn't a "keep it in stock" item that butchers would have on hand regularly. I also saw it at Peoria for cheaper last Wednesday, but it was the first time that I had seen it there.

    I am interested in seeing how the venison belly works. Venison is so lean that I can't imagine that there would be much belly with which to work, but I love the flavor of venison. My advice is to cure it for a shorter time depending on thickness. The lamb belly was slightly saltier than I prefer after a 4 1/2 day cure and a 4 hour soak in water. It was about 75% of the thickness of the pork bellies that I have made into bacon. Next time, I'd go about 3 days tops. I took half of the belly and rolled it with spices to try a lamb pancetta as well, but probably have about 2 months worth of hanging on that before I try it.

    For more info and pictures, feel free to take a look at a more comprehensive view of the process.

    http://homemadebacon.wordpress.com/2010 ... amb-bacon/

    Can't wait to hear about the venison bacon.

    Mark
  • Post #236 - November 10th, 2010, 1:22 pm
    Post #236 - November 10th, 2010, 1:22 pm Post #236 - November 10th, 2010, 1:22 pm
    I'm joining the legions.

    I got 5.28 pounds of rib belly from Garden Fresh (at $2.49 seems like it might be a bit of highway robbery, but still a bargain compared with artisan bacon). The butcher tried to sell me the whole 14lb primal, but my cardiologist probably wouldn't appreciate that.

    It had several stubs of rib bones which I carefully removed giving the inside sort of a McRib appearance. More disturbing were the two nipples on the skin -- hard to think of food having nipples. They had to go. Should I have removed the skin? I didn't see any instructions online saying this was needed, but there were tiny bristles occasionally, and the skin is pretty tough.

    Image

    I used mainly Ruhlmann's cure, using brown sugar, skipping the juniper and adding 1.5tsp cracked black pepper, 1 tsp whole brown mustard seeds, 1 tsp ground allspice and 1 Tbs whole coriander seed.

    Image

    Rub pressed into the slab o' pig, ready for a nice cool rest.

    Image

    It's just gone into the fridge, so if something I've done (in terms of spices, for instance) is blatantly stupid, I've got some time to change it. But the spice mix I used sounded good to me.

    Tune in next week, when it comes out of the icebox and onto the smoker. I haven't been able to find applewood chunks, only chips, so my plan is to wrap a bunch in perforated foil packets to put on the WSM.
    What is patriotism, but the love of good things we ate in our childhood?
    -- Lin Yutang
  • Post #237 - November 10th, 2010, 9:14 pm
    Post #237 - November 10th, 2010, 9:14 pm Post #237 - November 10th, 2010, 9:14 pm
    A couple of weeks ago I finished making 60lbs of bacon! I didn't get too creative with it, being 60lbs I just made everything with a simple cure and smoked with applewood/cherry.


    This thread has been part of the inspiration for diving into making my own bacon over a year ago. Thanks to all those who participated :mrgreen:

    BACON!
  • Post #238 - November 18th, 2010, 1:28 pm
    Post #238 - November 18th, 2010, 1:28 pm Post #238 - November 18th, 2010, 1:28 pm
    Smokiiiiiiiiiiiiin'
    A week after putting it up to cure, the meat had lost a fair amount of liquid. Weight at this point after rinse and pat dry is 4lb 9oz, down from about 5lb 4oz (pre de-boning). So figure a quarter pound of bones, 7oz liquid. It looked like more than that in liquid, although some salt and sugar probably made their way into the belly.

    Image

    Rinsed and dried:
    Image

    Meanwhile, I'd set up the WSM. A little light on coals, since I don't need a lot of heat. I could not find applewood chunks, so I wrapped a handful each in three packets of foil, and poked holes in that.
    Image

    Additional chips were thrown on top of the coals -- this may have been less than wise as it got very, very smoky.
    After about an hour, I flipped it over, and tossed a few more chips on top of the coals.
    Total smoking time until it reached 150 in the center was a little over two hours.

    Bacon Porn Shots:
    Image
    One without flash:
    Image

    All photos using Moto Droid phone

    I cut off an odd-shaped hunk and fried it up. As I was fixing dinner at the time (Gary's Low and Slow Issan BBQ Chicken), I burnt it a bit. I'm a little concerned that the rind is going to be tough, and it is indeed. Hopefully, more thinly sliced that won't be a problem.

    Garden Fresh was willing to slice the (mostly) cooked meat I'd bought there -- Jewel and Dominick's won't do that anymore, although I remember my mother having them slice her corned beef. There may be a couple more glamor shots tonight, I'm thinking bacon cheeseburgers.
    What is patriotism, but the love of good things we ate in our childhood?
    -- Lin Yutang
  • Post #239 - November 21st, 2010, 11:12 am
    Post #239 - November 21st, 2010, 11:12 am Post #239 - November 21st, 2010, 11:12 am
    I haven't experimented much with different kinds of smoking woods until I recently acquired a whiskey barrel that was used to age beer and decided to take it apart and smoke a slab of bacon with its slats. The results were excellent. I picked up a Becker Lane belly which seemed to be about 20% lean.

    I was never one to be able to taste differences in smoking woods, but this cases was very different. You can really tell. It is highly recommended.

    The barrel
    Image

    The slab
    Image

    The bacon
    Image

    For more information:
    http://homemadebacon.wordpress.com/2010 ... y-barrels/
  • Post #240 - July 26th, 2014, 3:13 pm
    Post #240 - July 26th, 2014, 3:13 pm Post #240 - July 26th, 2014, 3:13 pm
    Perhaps a dumb question - but I'm not sure.

    I bought the 'rib belly' from Peoria Packing. I cut the ribs off with very little meat, since I want as much belly as possible. What have you guys done with the bones? Seems a shame to throw them out.

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