Because we raised our own pigs, we always have an abundance of pork. I've never forgotten how excited my family was to receive farm fresh bacon as gifts for the holidays. I like to believe it was because the bacon just tasted better when it was made with love by my own hands.
We do not go to the grocery store very often. We seldom buy meat from a store. So I was not aware that bacon costs approximately $6 a pound, and that's even for the organic bacon.
Pancetta cost is approximately $8 per pound. I was in flabbergasted when I saw the prices.
Image courtesy of: Just Sayin
It made me stop and think… homemade bacon would make a great holiday gift and save my family money too!
Homemade Bacon and Pancetta
The truth was, they did not buy bacon very often… and almost never pancetta, because of the cost. I thought it would be great if I could find an inexpensive way to make bacon and pancetta more accessible to my family during those times when they were waiting for us to butcher another pig.
Pork bellies was the answer. Being the unprocessed meat that bacon and pancetta are made from, pork bellies are much less expensive at approximately $2.00 a pound. With just a little time and effort you can make incredibly delicious bacon and pancetta for your family without breaking the bank.
Curing Your Pork Belly
Pork belly are usually found in the frozen section of your grocery store. It is packed in a slab usually about 1-2 pounds per package. You will need to defrost your pork belly before curing it. Curing is the process that is used to preserve meat. Curing is done by salting, smoking or drying the meat. It has been used by our ancestors for centuries to preserve meat. This would allow meat to be stored for long periods of time without the fear of botulism.
Before curing your pork belly, it may still have the skin attached. Take a sharp knife and cut between the meat and the skin, removing the skin from the pork belly. The skins can be sliced thinly and fried to make cracklings.
How to Cure Your Pork Belly to Become Bacon
Image courtesy of: kristiembry
The first thing you need to cure bacon is to make a dry rub. You can buy rubs prepackaged at the grocery store. I like the taste of our homemade rubs. When I first starting preserving meat I would just use kosher salt. But over time, I realized that using a mixture of pink salt and kosher salt preserved the meat for a longer period of time. Pink salt is a combination of regular salt and sodium nitrate. Your dry rub's ingredients will vary, depending on how you prefer the bacon to taste. These are basic dry rub ingredients to use in curing meat.
Ingredients for Bacon
- 2 to 3 lbs of Pork Belly
Dry rub ingredients
- 1 tsp Pink Salt
- 2 tsp Kosher Salt
- 1/3 cup Brown Sugar
- 1/2 tsp Pepper or Red Pepper Flakes
- 1/2 tsp Garlic Powder
- 1/2 tsp Onion Powder
Other ingredients can be added such as honey, molasses, maple syrup, thyme, rosemary, coriander or any other ingredient you think will enhance the taste of your bacon.
Grind all your spices together. Cover all sides of your pork belly with your rub. Massage it into the meat. Make sure here is a thick layer of the rub on the meat. Next you will put it in a zip lock bag in your refrigerator.
Each day you will flip the pork belly over, this needs to be done for now less then 7-10 days. Remove your pork belly from the zip lock bag before smoking.
Smoking Your Pork Belly, The Final Step to Making Bacon
Smoking your pork belly can be down two separate ways, cold or hot smoking. When smoking our bacon we use the cold smoking method. It is typically done with lower temperatures (68-86F degrees). The food takes on the flavor, but is still considered uncooked and your bacon should be cooked fully before eaten.
The other method is hot smoking, this is done by introducing enough heat to your pork belly to get an internal temperature of 150-155F degrees. Once it reaches 150-155F degrees it is considered cooked and would be safe to eat without cooking.
Smoking with different types of woods will also enhance the flavor. We tend to use Applewood as leaves a mild smoke flavor and does not over power the bacon flavor. The amount of time you smoke your meat will depend on the size of the meat, and if your hot or cold smoking. Follow the guide that you received with your smoker.
Once smoked, slicing your bacon is easily done if you chill it first it almost frozen. This allows the meat to firm up. Allowing your to slice your bacon to the thickness you prefer.
Unlike bacon, pancetta is not smoked. The curing process is done completely with your spice rub and letting the meat age (Aging is the process of allowing the enzymes naturally present in the meat to break down the muscle tissue, resulting in improved texture and flavor). We slice the pork belly thinly making a long piece that can be rolled up. Although its not necessary, pork belly's can be cured in the slab form.
Ingredients for Pancetta
- 2-3 lbs of Pork
Dry Rub Ingredients
- 2 tsp Pink Salt
- 1 tsp Kosher salt
- 2 tbs of Brown Sugar
- 1 tbs Pepper corn or Red Pepper Flakes
- 1 tsp Garlic Powder
- 1 tsp Onion Powder
- 1/2 tsp Thyme
- 1/4 tsp Rosemary
- 2 Bay Leaves
- 8 Juniper Berries
Grind all your spices together. Cover all sides of your pork belly with your rub. Massage it into the meat. Make sure here is a thick layer of the rub on the meat. Roll your pork belly into a log. You can either tie it together with butcher string or place it in a cotton butcher sock and tie both ends tight .
Image courtesy of: autonome
We tie our pancetta logs to the bottom shelf of our refrigerator, so they hang. Pancetta can age for several months, but allow at least 1 month of aging at a minimum. As an alternative, you can set the pancetta on a wire rack in your refrigerator and turn it occasionally so that it ages equally on both sides.
When its done aging, remove the butcher string or butcher sock and slice thinly. Although its not necessary to cook it, it does enhance the flavor of the meat.
Good luck and have fun making your homemade bacon and pancetta. Remember, it makes a great gift for the holidays and your family will love you for it. Not a bad treat to keep around your own house either!
Roxanne Newman is a 4th generation homesteader, trying to live a better life.
(Roxy's Homestead is written exclusively for Survival Chops by Roxanne Newman)
Until next time…
Take care and God bless
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