Bacon.

You know when you finally do something you’ve been wanting to do for a long time but for whatever reason you kept not getting around to it, and then when you finally do get around to it you feel so silly for having waited all that time?

For me, the thing was bacon. Homemade bacon, which I always knew you could do but put off because for some reason the thought of finding curing salt was rather daunting, even though I knew you could buy it literally three blocks from my apartment. I don’t know. I think I figured once I had the pink salt, I’d have to commit, and then what if I wasted my money and half a kilo of pork belly? There was a lot to consider, and the threat of failure and food poisoning put me off.

Then a couple of weeks ago the director at work told me about a butcher shop that her French cooking teacher recommended and I went there to buy something else, and there, in its fatty, rosy glory, I found just over two pounds of local pork belly, just the right amount to make my first batch of bacon. I found a Michael Rhulman recipe, and bought my pink salt, and in about ten minutes I had done everything I’d need to do to the meat to make it bacon. After that, it would need seven days, and to be mostly left alone.

I feel silly for having waited all this time.

The result was impressive, meatier than regular bacon and not as salty, with a pronounced garlickyness that was thrilling – garlic and bacon go almost as well together as bacon and cheese. I cut it thick, about an eighth of an inch (my parents have a meat slicer they let me use … *mental note: add meat slicer to wish list*), but it would last longer in thinner strips (some of us never learned when to say no).

Bacon might just be a gateway charcuterie. One cannot simply stop at a slab of cured pork belly; there’s pancetta to think about, and guanciale, and corned beef, and sausage … I already have plans to convert a wine fridge I got as a wedding gift to a climate-controlled curing chest, and even though our apartment is already crowded with kitchen tools and the hydro bill grew exponentially with the addition of the deep-freeze, Nick is okay with this – he stopped just short of encouraging me. For him: salumi.

I’m asking for Charcuterie for Valentine’s Day, which we don’t usually celebrate but neither of us has a greater love than cured or smoked meats – I am not exaggerating when I say Nick would trade me for my weight in bressaeola, and I’d happily swap him for a lifetime’s supply of jamón ibérico de bellota – and I can’t quit now.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Big plans, no direction: story of my life. Have you done this before? Have you cured, smoked, dried, or otherwise preserved meat and made it more wonderful with salt and spices and air? Have you done it at home? Can you teach me? At this point I fear nothing, not food poisoning or living in an apartment that smells like a delicatessen, and there’s no going back to store-bought bacon.

And if you haven’t made bacon at home? Don’t wait any longer. Start your first batch today.

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14 thoughts on “Bacon.

  1. Salty Seattle did that with an extra wine frig. Maybe you should get down for a visit and ply her with the fat red wine!!!! Then go over to Salumi and cover yourself in lomo.

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    1. Mojgan: Do it! And do keep me posted – I’d love to know how it goes for you!

      Marisa: ALL OF THOSE THINGS YES. I have a huge crush on Salty Seattle and would happily, if lasciviously, ply her with all the red wine I could. I’m coming down to Seattle in mid-March for a conference – are you there? I’ll need directions to Salumi.

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  2. I had no idea this was even possible, this bacon making, despite knowing people cure meats at home all the time. I must immediately email my meat lady and see if she has pork belly.

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  3. Oh, Salumi!!!! They had free wine on the tables. FREE WINE. I don’t know if they do that anymore, though…

    What is this butcher shop you speak of?

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  4. Dani: DO IT! And while you’re at it, ask her if she has curing salt – I’ve heard a rumour that some butchers will give it to you if you ask.

    Grace: Free wine? I will get to the bottom of this. It’s the butcher just north of 1st Avenue on Renfrew, I think it’s called “Continental Meats” or something like that. They went into the back to grind my pork and beef on demand. I like them.

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  5. I wish I was there. Lived there for 12 years and miss it everyday. Ms. Salt visited me in LA before we moved up to Northern California. She’s terrific.
    Some folks are over Salumi, but I still think it’s the best. Reminds me of a storefront in a european village and has the best oxtails ever. it’s on 2nd across from seattle lighting. get there early so you can sit and order as much as you can eat. take the salami with you so you can eat porchetta and lentil soup and the afore-mentioned oxtails. skip the meatballs.
    If you ever get to San Francisco, we could go scope out Chris Cosentino’s empire. I’ve been dying to! Go on a salumi tour!!!!!

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  6. I have been making sausage for over a year, but haven’t tried making bacon yet. Emily, have you candied bacon yet? Rubbed it with sugar and spices, put it on parchment paper, and baked it until it caramelized and got crisp? Because that seems like THEEEE THING to do with homemade bacon. (Don’t do what I did Thanksgiving-before-last and light your kitchen on fire by putting into an oven still too hot for parchment paper… once the paper catches, the fat starts burning and aieee, what a mess I made.)

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  7. Whoa great job! Every time I think of doing things like this with meats I just find it daunting and too much. I guess some people feel that way about bread. Btw, I wanted to tell you congrats on all your blogging successes. I’ve been following you for a long time now and you just keep becoming more and more awesome. It’s very inspiring. Keep up the awesomeness.

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  8. Rootie: I’m totally smoking it next time – let me know if you try it, and what wood you end up using 🙂

    Marisa: Skip the meatballs? The oxtails and salami must be fabulous if their meatballs are worth passing over. I’m hoping to make a trip down to Seattle in the next couple of months – I’ll add salumi to my list. And San Francisco is my favourite place in the whole world – I was there last spring, but would love to go again; when I do, I’ll let you know! You’ll need to pack your stalking shoes, however, as Chris Cosentino is on my list.

    Linda: I candied bacon a few weeks ago! Loved it. I have a friend who’s still talking about it! But it’s a dangerous thing for me to get too into … I would be eating it every weekend if I hadn’t warned mysef “JUST A TREAT NOT EVERY DAY NO.” I didn’t know parchment could catch fire … how hot does the oven have to be?!

    Allie: You should try it! It’s so easy, you’ll see. And worth it. Think of the bacon caramel cupcakes! Also, thanks – you give me warm fuzzies 😀

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  9. Emily, I’m assuming it’s Fahrenheit 451, but what do I know how accurate Vonnegut was? 🙂 What I did was to pop it in the oven right after I took something out of the broiler. Oops. No, Linda, no. It was 1) Pat’s first kitchen fire and 2) the day I got to be both “the scary crazy lady who lights the kitchen on fire omg” and “my hero, the one who knows that you can put out a grease fire with baking soda instead of just standing and screeching at it, which was my plan all the time” for Pat. Fun times! Took forever to get parchment soot out of the oven.

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    1. Quoting Vonnegut at me can do no good, and I sure hope you know doing so means you have to run away with me to a place where we will never have to clean any ovens ever.

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