There are those who will suggest that society’s love affair with bacon and the baconalia movement in general have gone too far. From bacon toothpaste to bacon sundaes, you can get a bacon flavored just-about-anything these days.
We’ve even contributed (happily) to the madness with our Bacon Milkshake and our FACON™ – the only gluten-free, chemical free, vegan friendly bacon flavored seasoning out there. Best of all, the flavor comes from a blend of organic sugar and smoked sea salts, how cool is that? If you love bacon, you’ll say “very cool” along with the rest of us!
Most of the bacon craze and baconalia hoopla stems from the misguided belief that “everything tastes better with bacon”. That’s just not true – well, it’s not entirely true…unless you start with good quality bacon! If you select a premium bacon, well then you just might be on to something.
But, the good stuff doesn’t just grow on trees and you won’t find it in any of your local grocery stores either. Short of finding a local charcutier, an artisan who has honed his craft, most of us have likely never enjoyed anything that really closely resembles bacon.
Let’s be honest here; the brine-injected, spattering-in-the-pan and spitting-hot-bacon-grease-at-you excuse for good cured pork belly is not worth the $5.00 per pound most places are charging for it. What’s more, those pork bellies come, almost entirely, from factory raised hogs and are usually only about an inch thick. The pseudo-bacon that comes from those efforts seems to be the quintessential attempt to “make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear”. How better to make more money on that wee little belly than to increase its total weight with brine. It’s greed, pure unadulterated greed.
That also explains why you wind up sooooo disappointed when you cook up that one pound rasher of bacon and find yourself left with barely 8-10 ounces. It’s the brine water that disappeared! But, as one bacon aficionado once said, “grocery story bacon will do in a pinch”.
A good farm raised hog’s belly is an entirely different story. Between two and three inches thick with that beautiful creamy, milk white pig fat. What’s more, I’ve never yet seen a hog’s belly show up on the butcher block full of brine solution!
Thankfully, in most areas of the country you can get your hands on pork belly of this quality, even if you have to order it online. Then, you can set about making some of the most delicious bacon you’ll ever have. There is just something to be said for the exponential increase in tastiness that is directly related to the actual time and energy YOU put into making it!
The curing of bacon is very simple. There are three aspects, 1) the seasoning, 2) the curing and 3) the hot smoking or cooking.
The seasoning and the curing are accomplished in the same process. A blend of salt and sugar along with some herbs and/ or spices are blended together to create the dry rub that will provide the flavors you want. That blend of salt, sugar and other flavorings is then augmented with a small amount of curing salt. Curing salt or Prague Powder #1 contains 93.75% salt and 6.25% sodium nitrite.
We choose to use Prague Powder rather than celery or cherry powder. Yes, you can get nitrites from celery, spinach, carrots and cherries just to name a few. But, those powders do not contain consistent and repeatable levels of nitrites for curing. The important thing to remember is that nitrites occur naturally and are well-known to prevent botulism. Botulism grows in proteins and in an anabolic environment. Preserved meats are the perfect carrier for botulism if not properly cured. Therefore, we don’t recommend skipping the pink curing salt. And, for the record, there is no definitive link between nitrites and cancer.
In point of fact, the National Academy of Sciences, American Cancer Society, National Research Council and the American Medical Association all agree on this subject. Decades of research have been sanctioned and gallons of ink have been used to pen the conclusions of those research studies. They all came to the same conclusion – nitrites do not cause or contribute to cancer.
Yes, it’s toxic, just like alcohol is. But, the truth be told, most of us will consume FAR MORE alcohol than nitrites during our life time. We don’t hear anyone complaining about nitrites being unhealthy when pushing the benefits of eating your spinach right?! Oh, and unlike alcohol, nitrites don’t kill brain cells either, so let’s leave the “nitrites are unhealthy” discussion at the door, ok?
The third aspect is the hot smoking or cooking. When choosing hot smoking, it serves a two-fold purpose. First, it’s done to add an additional flavor element to the bacon and it also serves to cook the bacon to an internal temperature of 150° F. However, most of us don’t have access to a smoker, so does that mean we need to give up our dreams of making our own bacon? NOT AT ALL!!!
Later this month we will be releasing six (yes, you read right, SIX) Do It Yourself Bacon Cures. (they are in the final stages of product development, so we’re eating lots of bacon this month!) These pre-mixed bacon cures will include both the seasoning blend and the curing salt. We’ll share the release with you here… SOON! So, get ready to make some of the most delicious bacon you’ve ever had. Not only will we be introducing these new blends, but we will also provide the proof of concept video for making bacon without a smoker… in your oven!
Until then, sleep well and dream of large rashers!