Transforming Sliced Pork Belly into Home-Cured Bacon Perfection

As a bacon enthusiast, I’m always seeking new adventures in crafting the perfect slice. And curing your own bacon from sliced pork belly lets you customize flavor and texture precisely to your taste With the right technique, you can create artisanal, flavor-packed bacon rivaling the best gourmet versions.

Curing and smoking turns humble sliced pork belly into irresistible, smoky bacon glory. Read on as I walk through the simple process step-by-step. Soon you’ll be serving up scratch-made bacon that even the most discerning bacon critic would drool over!

Why Cure Your Own Sliced Bacon?

Curing your own bacon is extremely rewarding, and offers many benefits:

  • Customize flavors – Craft your own signature cure with herbs, spices, sugars, etc.

  • Control salt content – Make it as salty or mild as you like.

  • No nasty additives – Homemade allows you to avoid nitrates/nitrites if desired.

  • Adjust smoke levels – From mild to intensely smoky.

  • Perfect thickness – Slice to exactly the thickness you want.

  • Cheaper than store-bought – Save money doing it yourself.

  • Impress guests – Show off your impressive charcuterie skills!

With the right techniques, curing sliced pork belly into bacon is actually pretty straightforward. Let’s get started!

Ingredients Needed

Curing your own only requires a few basic ingredients:

  • Sliced Pork Belly – The star of the show! Source high-quality meat from a butcher or grocer.

  • Curing Salt – Necessary for preservation and food safety. Use Instacure #1.

  • Spices and Herbs – Tailor flavors with garlic, pepper, thyme, brown sugar, etc.

  • Smoking Wood – Apple, cherry, hickory, etc. impart delightful smoky notes.

That’s it! Now let’s walk through the simple curing process step-by-step.

Step 1 – Prepare the Pork Belly

Start with high-quality sliced pork belly that’s about 1⁄4 to 1⁄2 inch thick. Rinse and pat dry thoroughly with paper towels. This helps the cure absorb evenly.

Trim any excess hard fat, but leave a bit for flavor. The pork belly should look nice and neat.

Chill in the fridge until ready to cure. Cold meat accepts the cure better.

Step 2 – Make Your Curing Mix

Now for the fun part – creating your own signature curing blend!

For a basic cure, combine:

  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1⁄4 cup salt
  • 1 tsp Instacure #1
  • 2 tbsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp garlic powder

Mix thoroughly and add any other seasonings you’d like to experiment with. Get creative with spices, herbs, citrus, vanilla, etc!

Step 3 – Cure the Belly

Liberally rub your dry cure mix into the pork belly on all sides. Really work it into the meat.

Place cured belly in a sealable bag, removing excess air. Cure in the fridge for at least 5 days, flipping daily.

After 5-7 days, rinse off cure mix under cold water and pat dry.

Step 4 – Add Smoky Goodness

Next, its time to impart irresistible smoky flavor. This is easiest with a pellet smoker, but charcoal or electric work too.

Smoke the belly for 2-3 hours at 200°F using your favorite wood like apple, hickory, mesquite, etc.

Cook to an internal temp of 150°F for food safety.

Step 5 – Slice and Enjoy!

Once cooled, slice your bacon to desired thickness. The real test – fry up a piece!

Savor the smoky, salty, crispy treating you crafted with love. Enjoy bacon bliss!

That covers the basic curing and smoking process. But let’s dig into some pro tips for bacon perfection!

Helpful Tips for Curing Bacon Greatness

Follow these tips and tricks to take your sliced pork belly bacon to the next level:

Select the Best Pork

Choose fatty pork belly with plenty of rich marbling for the best results. Heritage breed pork has phenomenal flavor.

Play with Cure Recipes

Experiment with different sugars, salts, spices and other ingredients until you craft your perfect cure.

Use a Gram Scale

Weigh ingredients versus volume measurements for precise ratios, especially curing salts.

Chill Meat Before Curing

Colder pork accepts the cure better. Chill in the fridge 1-2 days prior if possible.

Flip the Bag Daily

During curing, flip bag daily to distribute liquid and ensure even penetration.

Rinse Well After Curing

Rinse pork under cold water to remove excess cure mix, then pat dry.

Use a Meat Slicer

For uniform slices and thickness, invest in an electric slicer. So worth it!

Take Precise Notes

Record each batch’s cure recipe, process, results and tweaks for replicating perfection.

Troubleshooting FAQs

Still have some questions? Here are answers to common cured bacon queries:

How long does sliced pork belly bacon last after curing?
Properly cured and refrigerated, expect 4-6 weeks until best quality is retained. Freeze for longer storage.

Can I cure just a few slices of pork belly?
Absolutely! The curing process works the same for small or large batches. Just adjust cure ratios accordingly.

What if I cure too long – will the bacon be overly salty?
It’s definitely possible to over-cure if going well beyond normal time frames, resulting in overly salty and dried-out meat.

Why does some of my bacon look gray?
This can happen if surface areas don’t cure properly. Just trim off affected parts before smoking. Proper curing technique prevents this.

Can I cold smoke instead to avoid cooking the meat?
Cold smoking alone doesn’t make the bacon shelf stable. You’ll still need to cook to 150°F internal temperature after cold smoking for food safety.

What causes white powder on the meat after curing?
This is simply leftover cure mix that didn’t absorb fully. Rinse it off before smoking and pat meat dry.

Ready to Become a Bacon Master?

With the right techniques, you can easily cure mouthwatering artisanal bacon from sliced pork belly.

Understanding the process allows you to experiment with flavors and really perfect your signature style. Before you know it, you’ll be crafting bacon that makes store-bought taste bland!

The sense of satisfaction and pride from enjoying scratch-made bacon is so rewarding. Now get out there, source some quality pork belly, and start curing! Enjoy the journey and sizzling fruits of your labor.

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