HOMEGROWN Life: Bringing Home The Bacon
I love bacon. To be honest, I don’t think there is anyone that doesn’t love bacon. I’ve even heard that the hardest part of being vegan is not being able to eat bacon. So when I heard that one of Charcutepalooza’s February Challenge was Bacon, I had to jump on. After reading the instructions on how to cure bacon I realized it didn’t look too difficult and didn’t require any special equipment. Why not make bacon my first experience in curing meat? It didn’t take much time, either, to decide to start curing meat. I saw the challenge in the morning and that afternoon, as soon as I could, I was gathering what I needed so I could start that evening. The hard part, I figured, was getting the curing salt and juniper berries.
Surprisingly the place we purchase spices at carried both. Bonus is that it’s in the same public market as a butcher where I could pick up the 5 lbs of pork belly that I would need. What I like about that butcher is that they only source humanely raised, pastured meat. The pork they carry is also from heritage hogs. Of course it’s not cheap, but going a year without groceries, we’re able to spend the extra money on high quality food, including meat. That evening, after dinner I got all the spices measured out and pulled out the pork belly. I was ridiculously excited. I took lots of photos. I massaged the salt, herbs and spices into the meat until it began to draw out moisture. Stuck it in a pyrex dish and covered it.
Now came the waiting – the most excruciating step of making bacon. Every evening I pulled the pork out of the fridge and massaged it, almost lovingly. I definitely noticed the pork belly becoming more firm as days went by. After 7 days I rinsed all of the herbs, spices and remaining salt from the pork belly, put it on a cookie sheet and roasted it on the lowest setting my oven allowed – 260 deg F. The instructions said 200 deg F, but obviously I couldn’t do that. Ninety minutes later the internal temp had reached 150 deg F. It was done. I pulled it out, put it back in the now-clean pyrex dish and stuck it in the fridge to cool.
It took my entire being to not slice off a piece of it immediately and cook it up. I guess I could have, but I wanted to wait so I could share it with everyone. For lunch we ended up each having a slice of it – thick cut and cooked until crispy. It was delicious! I’m definitely going to try it again, but next time I want to smoke it.
My friends in college used to call me a Renaissance woman. I was always doing something crafty, creative, or utilitarian. I still am. My focus these days, instead of arts and crafts, has been farming as much of my urban quarter acre as humanly possible. With my husband, we run Dog Island Farm in the SF Bay Area. We raise chickens, goats, rabbits, dogs, cats, and a kid. We’re always keeping busy. If I’m not out in the yard I’m in the kitchen making something from scratch. Homemade always tastes better!