Makin' Bacon

So after many years of thinking about it I finally pulled the trigger and made my own bacon. And after doing so I see no reason to purchase bacon from the grocery store ever again. The process is simple and as long as you have the patience, a spare refrigerator and a wood fired smoker you too can make your own delicious bacon. When it comes to turning raw meat into something delicious and crave-worthy I can't help but feel a strong sense of satisfaction with my accomplishment, and making my own bacon is right up there with any meal I have created. Here's how I did it.
I started with a 6 pound pork belly that I cut into two equal 3 pound pieces. This allowed for a more manageable placement inside the cooker and makes it easier to control when slicing. With each of these pieces I removed the skin of the pig so the pork belly will cure evenly. I placed each piece onto a rimmed baking sheet and using Morton's Tender Quick Meat Cure I rubbed three tablespoons into each 3 pound slab of pork belly. It's important to rub the cure onto all parts of the belly including the sides and the ends. I then rubbed equal amounts of brown sugar all over each piece. Now it's time for the meat to cure. I placed each piece in a freezer bag and pressed out any air in the bag prior to sealing it. Placing the two bagged pieces on the baking sheet (in case it should leak) I place it in the spare refrigerator in my garage. Here it would sit for 7 days to cure, flipping each bag over once a day to ensure even curing.

After 7 days it was almost time to smoke the bacon. But first I had to rinse each piece thoroughly under cold water to remove any excess curing salt. As an additional step to prevent the bacon from tasting too salty I let each piece sit in a bowl of cold water for a couple of hours, replacing the water every half-hour to remove the salty water. After a thorough patting with paper towels to dry them off I rubbed each piece with course black pepper and a few other spices. Now they are finally ready for the cooker. I fired up my Lang 60 deluxe cooker using oak wood as the fuel and opened the vent from the cooking chamber to the warming box. I want to cool smoke these bellies at an ambient temperate of no higher than 150 degrees and it would be very hard to maintain a temp that low in the cooking chamber whereas using the vent to control the amount of heat and smoke entering the warming box was much more manageable. I placed each piece into a rib rack so the bellies would sit standing up and half way through I would rotate them. My thought was that this way they would receive the smoke more evenly on all sides.
It took 9 hours for the bacon to reach the target internal temperature of 140 degrees. Half way through the cook as I was flipping them over to promote even smoking I noticed that the edges of the slabs that made contact with the wire of the rib rack had lost its nice straight edge so I took them out of the rib rack and just laid them flat on the grate. After removing from the cooker I placed each piece in a clean freezer bag and submerged in the sink filled with ice water. By doing this immediately after smoking the cooking process was halted, preventing the residual heat within the meat from overcooking the bacon.

That's about it. Oh yea, except for eating it. I sliced up the first half for enjoying in the days and weeks to come. I wrapped the second half in plastic wrap, vacuumed sealed it and placed in the freezer for a nice wintertime treat. Click Here to view photos of the Makin Bacon process.