Bacon Bonanza

Recipes courtesy of Catherine St. John
Director, Western Reserve School of Cooking

Home-Cured Bacon

(adapted from Charcuterie by Michael Rulhman)

  • Five pounds of fresh pork belly (skin on), from your grocery store, the pork guy at your farmers market, or from a local butcher shop
  • Buy a box of 2-gallon zip-top bags if you don’t have a container big enough to hold the belly.

Mix the following together in a small bowl:

  • 2 ounces (1/4 cup Morton or Diamond Crystal coarse kosher) salt
  • 2 teaspoons pink curing salt #1 (I use this DQ Cure from Butcher-Packer, $2)
  • 4 tablespoons coarsely ground black pepper
  • 4 bay leaves, crumbled
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar or honey or maple syrup
  • 5 cloves of garlic, smashed with the flat side of a chef’s knife
  • 2 tablespoons juniper berries, lightly crushed (optional)
  • 5 to 10 sprigs fresh thyme (optional)
  1. Put your belly in the zip-top bag or on a sheet tray or in a plastic container. Rub the salt and spice mixture all over the belly. Close the bag or cover it with plastic wrap, and stick it in the refrigerator for seven days (get your hands in there and give the spices another good rubbing around midway through).
  2. After seven days, take it out of the fridge, rinse off all the seasonings under cold water and pat it dry.
  3. Put it on a sheet tray and put it in the oven (put it on a rack on a sheet tray if you have one) and turn the oven on to 200 degrees F./ 93 degrees C. (if you want to preheat the oven, that’s fine, too). Leave it in the oven for 90 minutes (or, if you want to measure the internal temperature, until it reaches 150 degrees F./66 degrees C.).
  4. Let it cool and refrigerate it until you’re ready to cook it. But I know. You won’t be able to wait. So cut off a piece and cook it. Taste it, savor it. Congratulations! It’s bacon!

Notes: If you don’t have five pounds of belly, either guesstimate salt based on the above or use the equilibrium technique I mentioned.

Pink curing salt means “sodium nitrite,” not Himalayan pink salt. It’s what’s responsible for the bright color and piquant bacony flavor. You don’t have to use it, but your bacon will turn brown/gray when cooked (you’re cooking it well done, after all), and will taste like pleasantly seasoned spare ribs, porky rather than bacony.

If you have a smoker or a grill, you can smoke the bacon (strictly speaking, it needs to have the pink salt in the cure if you’re going to smoke because, in rare instances, botulism bacteria from spores on the garlic could grow; pink salt eliminates this possibility; but I never worry about this, you’re going to cook it again in any case).

 

Toast with Red Onion Bacon Jam
Serves 4

4 thick slices sour dough or multi grain bread
softened unsalted butter
1 recipe Red onion bacon jam

Toast the bread until golden brown.  While hot from the toaster spread on some of the softened butter.  Spread each slice with some of the bacon jam.

Red Onion Bacon Jam
Makes about 1 cup

8 oz. Bacon, cut into ½ inch pieces
2 lg red onions, thinly sliced
¼ cup Sugar
½ cup balsamic vinager

In a cast iron skillet slowly render out the bacon until crisp.  Drain the bacon on a plate lined with paper towels.  Pour off all but 1 Tbs of the bacon fat.  Add the onions and sprinkle them with a little bit of salt.  Saute the onions until they begin to caramelize, about 20 minutes.

Once the onions are caramelized return the bacon to the pan.  Add the sugar and the balsamic vinegar and bring to a simmer.  Continue to cook the onions on a medium heat until the liquid has evaporated and you are left with a jam consistancy.  Take care not to burn the jam.

Bacon Guacamole
Serves 6

3 rips Haas avocados, scooped out
3 strips bacon, cooked crisp and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1/4 medium red onion, minced
1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon ground chipotle
1/4 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
Fresh cracked black pepper, to taste
2 Tbs cilantro, chopped
1 medium tomato, seeded and diced

In a bowl, mash the avocado with a fork until it is nearly at your desired consistency. Stir in the bacon, red onion, lime juice, paprika, chipotle, salt, and pepper.

Gently fold in the tomatoes. Serve immediately or else press a piece of plastic wrap flush into the top of the guacamole, refrigerate, and serve preferably within 24 hours.

Serve with corn chips or if you really like put some extra crispy bacon slices with it as well.