In celebration of Sacramento Bacon Fest this week, we’re sharing some bacon curing and smoking tips from Chef Scott Ostrander at Esquire Grill!
What is bacon?
Bacon is a meat product prepared from the back and sides of a pig. It is first cured using large quantities of salt, either in a wet brine or in a dry cure; the result is fresh bacon. Fresh bacon may then be further dried for weeks or months in cold air, or it may be boiled or smoked. Fresh and dried bacon is typically cooked before eating. Boiled bacon is ready to eat, as is some smoked bacon, but may be cooked further before eating.
What’s the difference between a dry cure and a wet brine?
A dry cure is comprised of salt, sugar and pink curing salt. To dry-cure pork, you’ll need to press the dry cure into the pork and then let it sit uncovered in the refrigerator for about 5-6 days. Dry cures are ideal for pork belly and a drier finished product.
A wet brine is basically a dry cure that is boiled with water. Once the wet-brine has cooled, you submerge the pork into the mixture and let it soak for about 3 days in the refrigerator. Wet brines are ideal for pork shoulders and a moister finished product.
To add additional flavors and aromatics to your pork, Chef Scott recommends that you add a variety of herbs and spices to the dry cure or wet brine. Peppercorn, thyme, garlic, bay leaves, parsley, and juniper berry are some of his favorites.
Can I smoke my bacon at home?
Smoking bacon inside your home is dangerous and will leave your house filled of bacon-scented smoke for days. The ideal place to smoke bacon at your home is outside in a covered barbeque. Once the pork has cured, rinse it and let it dry for 24 hours. Depending on the size of the meat, it will need to be smoked at 180 degrees for at least one hour. Remove the wire grill rack and place hot coals and wet wood chips on one side at the bottom of your barbeque. The combination of the hot coals and wet wood will produce smoke immediately, so quickly replace the wire grill rack and place the meat on the grill rack. Make sure that you place the meat on the opposite side of the coals/wood so that the meat is away from direct heat. Once the meat has completely smoked, let it cool and enjoy!
Bacon Curing & Smoking Tips & Tricks
For saltier bacon, increase the amount of salt in your cure
For sweeter bacon, increase the amount of sugar in your cure
For alternative sweeteners, try using molasses, honey, maple syrup, pomegranate juice or orange soda
To add more aroma to your bacon, try using different types of wood chips. During the summer, peach and nectarine chips are great, and during the winter, apple, citrus and hickory chips are best. For more complex aromas, try soaking your wood chips in fruit juices rather than water.
I want to make my own bacon. Where can I buy fresh pork in Sacramento?
Try visiting your local Farmers’ Market for fresh, local meats. Also, the Sacramento Natural Foods Co-Op sells pork from Llano Seco Ranch in Chico, CA.
Posted on 01/22/2014 at 12:00:00 AM