Sunday, April 8, 2012
Bacon in April 2012
I just finished my first batch of bacon for 2012 and thought I'd post some pics of it. To the left are pics of this batch from one hog belly, except for the two hunks I'd taken out of the smoker earlier and forgot to include in the pic. On the far right you can see the inside of the bacon because I cut into one hunk for supper.
The house is still full of the smell of smoking bacon, and that's great. This batch was done with apple wood, and I liked the smoke from the larger chunks of apple wood more than the smoke from the little chips of hickory you buy in the stores.
Since I'm still in my first year of curing my own bacon, each time is a learning experience. Hopefully I'll get it all together and post a final post on making bacon. The first time I learned not to pile the salt on like you're baking a fish in a salt dome. So this time I salted lightly and appropriately. However, I put the bacon in salt on March 20, 2012, and didn't get it smoked until April 8, 2012. That's too long in the salting process. The bacon didn't end up salt pork, but it was a close call.
The second thing I've decided is that I want to cure the bacon in larger slabs. For some reason, maybe because it's what I'm used to buying, I keep cutting the slabs into pieces about the size of what I'd buy in the grocery. I decided that's really not the way to go with it. I'm going to keep the slabs in the largest pieces possible on the next batch. Once they're cured and smoked, I'll cut them into sizes appropriate for storing.
The third thing I've decided is that I need a different smoker. I bought a propane Char-Broil Smoker and thought that would work for the bacon. However, I've decided it's simply too hot for the way I want to smoke bacon. Everything I've read recommends a cool smoke for curing bacon, and after this last batch I think I'm going to try that route. A bit ago I saw a smoker with the bin on one side, and the racks for the meat in a different chamber. I want to try that for curing the bacon.
This time I had all three racks full of bacon, and after about two hours I noticed grease pooling on the patio around the legs. When I checked on it, enough grease from the bacon had dripped into the pan holding the wood that I was worried about overflow of grease and blow up from the grease spilling into the propane flame.
Ah, no problem, thought I. I'll just get my ladle and scoop some of that grease out. Don't try that if your ladle isn't stainless steel. Otherwise, you'll simply melt your ladle.
The last thing I've learned is that you really have to shop and search for a place to purchase the hog belly. The first I bought from the good meat market in Memphis, Charlie's, and it didn't cost more than $35. The second I ordered from a local grocery in Carlisle County, and that price was $120 for not much different poundage. I ordered one from a butcher near Paducah, but they never ever called me to let me know the order was in. What? Did they think I wasn't serious about the order? So Max agreed to take time from work to drive over to Charlie's in Memphis and get this last one. Again, 30-something pounds of hog belly for about $35.00.
Don't ask me what's up with the meat market. I can't figure it out.