I’ve really wanted to make my own “no nitrites added” bacon for awhile now. I made my DIY cold smoker attachment for my Traeger a few months ago, and have been dying to cold smoke bacon. Here’s how I did it:
- I bought a ~9 lb pork belly from my local Costco and then cut it in thirds. I froze two of the pieces and used the third.
- I made a dry cure using 1/4 cup of sea salt, 1/4 of brown sugar and 2 tbsp of 16-mesh black pepper
- I coated the entire 3 lb piece of pork belly in the cure/dry rub and then put the entire thing in a freezer ziplock bag.
- I flipped the bag once a day for 7 days.
- On the seventh day I removed the now-cured bacon from the ziplock and washed off all the cure and dried it off to remove surface moisture (at that point I should have cooked a small piece to test for saltiness – more on that later).
- I put the now washed and dried cured belly back in the fridge on a cooling rack with a pan below to catch any drippings to let the belly dry out more and allow it to form a pellicle on the surface. The pellicle is just a semi-dry semi-sticky surface that allows the smoked molecules to adhere better. More smoke means better flavor, right
The next morning I pulled the belly out of the fridge because it was time to make bacon in my homemade cold smoker attachment that I built a few months ago. The temperature outside was great – only about 65F (very nice for a Saturday in January ). So I put the pork belly, along with some Gouda and Jarlsberg cheese, onto my smoking rack and then into the cold smoking chamber. I used applewood for my smoke. The bacon and cheese both got a 6-hour smoke bath. I did flip both the cheese and the bacon about half-way through, just to make sure that all surfaces would get equal smokiness applied. The temperature inside the smoke chamber maintained a 75-80F temperature throughout the process, as I was hopeful would happen.
The results of this cold smoking process were pretty darn amazing for the bacon. The cheese is still mellowing in the fridge. As of this writing, it’s been about 2.5 days, and I’ll probably let it go another day or so. Then we’ll try it out. The bacon is another story altogether. I could not wait to try it out. So once I pulled it, I immediately sliced A few pieces off and cooked them up in the cast iron skillet. The flavor was every bit as amazing as I had hoped. HOWEVER, because I had not tested for saltiness before the smoking process, I learned that it was definitely too salty – even for me. So lesson learned. Next time I will do a test strip before smoking. And, if necessary, I’ll soak the belly for an hour to extract some of the saltiness, then re-test and repeat to get the right salt levels.
All in all this has been a very fun and enjoyable experience. I am looking forward to doing another batch soon. And maybe I’ll even make some pork belly burnt ends with some of it.