Monday, August 10, 2009

BLT from scratch: And so it begins

I figure it's time to get going on my BLT from scratch, which I first mentioned here. Remember? Bake your own bread, grow your own lettuce and tomatoes, whip up your own mayonnaise, and, yes, cure your own bacon. I decided I'd better get started on the star of this whole production: the bacon!

I haven't become an expert on it or anything, but all I've read about making bacon says that it's pretty dang easy. Apparently it's one of those items that impresses the hell out of people when you make it at home, but it's really very simple. I decided to use a recipe from Jam It, Pickle It, Cure It by Karen Solomon, who says, "Nothing could be simpler than makin' bacon, the king of all fried meats." It sounds like she has the right attitude so I'm going with her method.

First off, take a look at that, will you? That's a pork belly. (As for its future? My tummy.) It's just a big fatty slab o' pork, the type of thing that most butchers throw out. You can always order one from your meat market. If you're lucky, the butcher might rescue one from the back room for you. Or if you're very lucky, you can go to the local Asian market and buy one from the big pile on display in the meat case for $2.99 a pound. You can even buy two, although the butcher might give you a funny look.

Aye, there's the rub. It's made from sugar, molasses, kosher salt, curing salt (that's the pink stuff), and freshly ground black pepper. Curing salt is salt combined with some other things, including sugar, and it's dyed pink so you don't mix it up with regular salt. I tasted it and it's not like regular salt, although it's hard to say why. The best way I can describe it is to say that it tastes extraordinarily salty. It's saltier than salt, if that's possible. Speaking of salt, does anybody besides me find it amusing that the recipe for bacon rub calls for kosher salt?

So you mix the rub ingredients thoroughly and then you slather it on the pork belly, rubbing it in with your hands. (Solomon describes it thusly: "like a relaxing, porcine spa treatment.")

When you're done, it should look something like this.

Then you slip it in a big plastic bag, seal the bag, and start to wait. It takes about a week in the refrigerator; during the next seven days I'm supposed to massage the meat and flip the bag daily. Then, if I'm lucky, by next Monday evening it will be cured and I can decide how I want to smoke it: in the oven or on the grill. I'm still trying to decide.

I actually prepared two pork bellies because I figured, hey, how much harder would it be to make two slabs of bacon than just one? And my friend Brandon pointed out that two slabs of bacon means I can try both smoking methods, if I want to. Here are my babies, piled atop one another in my refrigerator. I can't wait to give them each a thorough belly rub in the morning.

As for tomorrow: reconciling my hatred of tomatoes with the fact that I have to include the T in my made-from-scratch BLT.


kb said...

This is just so amazing! I love that you are curing your own bacon. Can't wait to hear how this all turns out and how your bacon tastes. Happy bacon rubbing!

~ Lucy said...

Yes, I too find it sort of hilarious that bacon must be cured with kosher salt.

That is, by the way, the best lookin' piece o' meat I've ever seen... and I'm in the middle of a Mad Men marathon so that's sayin' something.