One of those pieces was a side of the pig.
Raw Side of Pig
As you can see, there is quite a bit of fat in which the meat is marbled... kind of the opposite of what you think of when you speak of a well marbled piece of meat, where the meat takes the fore. But one thing it gives you is BACON.
I have a fuzzy memory from my childhood of learning that my big brother, Juergen, loved bacon and would sometimes make a lot of it and eat it straight. My mom would disapprove of this activity, most likely thinking of needing to make the pound of bacon last a long time. Nutrition was never a real concern in those days.
The first step in making bacon is trimming the side of pork. In this case, the rind had already been taken off by the farmer. I used a curved boning knife that I got from Paulina Market about 25 years ago. Don't take too much off, because the fat is an essential element of the bacon. The fat can be cut up in small pieces and baked with a little water at 250 degrees F. for 4 to 8 hours. Pass the liquid fat through cheese cloth and voila!... Homemade Lard. It can be frozen in an airtight container. It is best used, in my opinion, to season Black Beans or Refried Beans, but bakers would disagree, noting that it adds an unparalled flake to pie crusts. The only fat that is of higher quality than this is caul fat, the fat taken from the omentum surrounding and supporting the bowels. Choose your poison!
I used a dry cure for the bacon. For 9 to 10 pounds of pork side, with the rind (or skin) off, make a mixture of:
- 1/2 cup Kosher or Pickling Salt
- 2 teaspoons Prague Cure #1
- 1 cup of Honey (Could also use same amount of Maple Syrup or Brown Sugar.
(I cut the 9 pounds I had into 5 chunks to make handling easier.)
Slather the pork with the mixture and place in a large brine bag, removing as much of the air as possible. Place the pork in your fridge and turn every night for 7 days.
Pork in Dry Cure
At the end of the week, wash off the brine...
Dry Cured Bacon
and smoke over a low heat with apple wood until you get the desired degree of smoke.
Apple Wood Smoke
I've read several positions on whether to hot smoke at 175 to 200 degrees F. or keep the temperature of the smoking down to 95 to 125 degrees F. Because it was a cold day, I was able to keep the temperature to the lower range. I have no idea which is better.
Bacon, The Candy of Meats
4 hours later, I gave it a taste test. It was simply the best bacon I have ever had in my life. Ilene had stopped by to drop off some keys and she said, "You'll have a hard time eating any other bacon again." I think she is right.
Just Plain Incredible