Let’s see. There are eggs, milk, club soda. Pickled red cabbage, blueberry chutney, and pickled figs. Milk and buttermilk, an orange pepper, and homemade apple cider. All looks pretty typical for a refrigerator, right?
But what’s the gauzy bandaged package in the middle? That, our friends, is pork belly, brined and now drying.
In other words, it’s almost bacon.
Did you know you can make bacon from scratch? I certainly didn’t, not for a long time. Bacon seemed like one of those delicious foods that arrived in a package, brined and delightful, made by the food gods for me to enjoy. Once I started learning where food comes from, I began to enjoy it even more. Thinking about the hours of work, the well-honed techniques, the salt and cider and drying and smoke? They have only made me love bacon more.
Soon, we’ll be eating bacon that Danny crafted from scratch, from raw belly to brined goodness to that hanging package to meat on the smoker to crisp fat and meat in a BLT sandwich we constructed ourselves.
I can’t wait.
So, why make bacon when it’s available in every store?
It’s going to taste better. What tastes better, making your own mayonnaise or something you buy at the store? You can buy canned tomatoes or you can buy some at the farmers’ market. So many people are used to buying their bacon at the store. But it’s such a simple process, mostly about waiting patiently, that you will be amazed. Once you make bacon once, you’re never going to want to stop.
If you would like to make bacon, here’s a place to start.
3 cups water
1 cup apple cider
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup kosher salt
1 clove garlic
4 sprigs rosemary, chopped
4 sprigs thyme, chopped
4 sprigs sage, chopped
2 tablespoons black peppercorns
1 tablespoon fennel seed
4 cloves garlic, smashed
1 fresh bay leaf or 2 dried bay leaves
2 pounds pork belly (we used Mangalitsa from Wooly Pigs)
Pour the water and apple cider into a large saucepan. Add the sugar and salt. Boil until the sugar and salt have dissolved.
Meanwhile, toast and smash the peppercorns and fennel seed. Add the toasted spices, plus everything else, to the liquid. Remove the saucepan from heat and cool to room temperature, allowing the flavors to steep.
Put the pork belly in there. Make sure it’s submerged. Put in the fridge, preferably in a container with a lid. Brine for 5 days.
Remove the belly from the liquid. Pat it dry.
Wrap the belly in cheesecloth, in at least a couple of layers. Use butcher’s string to truss up the belly, then hang it in your refrigerator. Hang the belly for at least three days. Let the flavors in the brine intensify in the belly.
(stay tuned next week for the rest of the process)