Everybody loves bacon. Even vegetarians love bacon. I love bacon, too. But knowing what I do about factory farming practices, I never buy bacon from the store anymore. I last made bacon when we lived in Northern California, in about 1997, when we raised our first pig and butchered it ourselves. It was amazingly delicious; it was as if I had never actually eaten real pork before in my whole life.
We raised pigs again after we moved back to Washington, in about 2003 or so. We had them butchered by pros, and sold some to friends. Recently I defrosted and cleaned out our older freezer, and discovered a wealth of frozen meat all encased in ice inside. Amongst these treasures were several pieces of pork belly from 2003 that we never got around to making into bacon. Amazingly, it had no freezer burn, or any other issues from being frozen for over 6 years.
So, figuring I had nothing to lose and everything to gain, I thawed some of it out and set to work. Like a lot of cured and smoked meat products, bacon is so easy to make that it’s embarrassing. I start with the pork belly, and trim it to fit into my largest glass pyrex casserole dish.
Make up a mixture of half canning salt and half brown sugar, layer some in the bottom of the dish, put the pork in, layer more sugar/salt mixture on top and rub it into the edges well. Cover and refrigerate. After a day or so, pull it out and repack it with fresh mixture, and turn it over. After another day or so, do the same thing. Or, do what I did, and space out and leave it in the fridge for a while longer. Like, maybe a couple of months?
Whichever path you choose, when you are ready to smoke it, it will be a good idea to slice off a piece, cook it up and taste it to see how salty it is. After letting mine cure for two months, I ended up soaking it in water for about 24 hours, changing the water once, to get the saltiness under control.
Once you’re comfortable with the salt level, set it up in the top rack of your electric smoker, and go get yourself some fruitwood chips. What I do is go out to one of the apple trees here, prune off a bunch of extra twigs and small shoots and chop them up into bits with the pruning shears.
I smoked this particular bacon for about 10 hours, using up about 7 pans of chips in the process. Once it’s smoked to your liking, pull it out, cool it, wrap it in paper and put it in the fridge. Now you get to slice off pieces however thick you want, and it will taste way better than any bacon you’ll ever get from the store.
Told you it was easy!