Sunday, July 8, 2012

The Baconing: Part 1

After trying my hand a fresh sausages and some cured beef products (namely corned beef and pastrami I'm finally headed over to porkville to try my hand at cured and smoked pork happiness.  A week or so ago ago a got my hands on a 10 lb duroc belly from Salmon Creek Farms and a 10 lb belly Asian cut belly.  The Asian cut is new to me but it turns out it's a pretty cool product.  The Asian cut includes the meat from between the ribs so it makes for a thicker belly.  The Asian cut belly is actually quite a bit thicker than the duroc if you take a look at the picture below.  The Asian cut belly is the upper belly in the picture and fit almost perfectly in the half-sheet pan which makes it about 18 x 13 inches.  The duroc is on the bottom and as you can see it’s a bit thinner, not a wide but quite a bit longer.      

Here’s a picture of the duroc belly halved.  I decided to cut them to make the overall handling of the bellies a bit more manageable.  
The first thing to do is to mix your basic cure.  I highly recommend using a scale to weigh your ingredients as it’s a much more accurate method.  I also like to do a lot of my recipes in metric as it makes adjustments a little easier.

450 grams kosher salt (not iodized table salt)
225 grams sugar 
50 grams Cure #1

Mix everything together, can be stored indefinitely.  

If you’re new to the idea of curing meats I’ll take a moment to talk about Cure #1.  Meat products that will be spending any appreciable time out of refrigeration need to have some protection against nasty microbes and in the case of charcuterie products sodium nitrite is the way to go.  Cure #1 is a mix of 93.75% regular salt, 6.25% sodium nitrite and a smidge of red food coloring to turn it pink so you don’t mistake it for sugar or salt.  It's most often referred to as 'pink salt' as it's mostly salt and tinted pink, go figure!  Sodium nitrite is very strong stuff as the small amount used in the mix is sufficient to cure at least 20 lbs of meat and you wouldn't want to mistake it for something else.  Besides it’s antimicrobial properties sodium nitrite gives cured meat products such as bacon, corned beef, salamis and the like their pink rosy hue.  Without pink salt cured products would look like regular meats, grey and not very visually appealing.  They also add a bit of tang to the flavor...basically Cure #1 is the linchpin for curing.  Cure #1 goes by many names such as Tinted Curing Mix, T.C.M, DC #1, InstaCure #1 but in the US it’s all essentially the same.  The European version has a much lower concentration of sodium nitrite and shouldn't be substituted.  You might find Morton’s Sugar Cure and Morton’s Quick Cure in your area and I personally don’t use them for a couple reasons.  First, it includes both sodium nitrite and sodium nitrate.  The first we want for this application, however, the second is typically used for longer cures and is not necessary.  The second concern is the inclusion of ingredients to keep the mixture “uniform”.  The way I look at it is that I’m making my bacon so that I know exactly what’s going into my food and to use a pre-mix such as Morton’s I’m releasing some of that hard-earned control.  Cure #1 is quite inexpensive and can be purchased from many sources, my preferred place is Butcher-Packer: 
Remove the bellies from whatever packaging and if they are wet-packed give them a good rinse and pat dry.  Now take a handful of your basic cure and spread it all over one side of the belly and give everything a good rub.  Repeat the process coating all sides of the belly with your cure solution.  Size permitting I prefer to use restaurant bus tubs for my curing as they’re inexpensive, light and hold a lot of product.  
Here’s a picture of the Asian cut bellies after their massage and rub down:

Now place your bellies in the refrigerator.  Every other day you’ll want to overhaul your bellies which means rotate them top to bottom, upside to downside, so on and so forth and toss them back in the fridge.  Some recipes state to remove any liquid that has accumulated at the bottom, other’s state to add more cure every overhaul.  I decided not to add additional cure mix and leave the liquid.  Because the liquid is a combination of the cure and liquid extracted from the bellies I wanted there to be good contact between the bellies and the liquid.  If you notice in the picture below the liquid doesn't reach the top belly so I diluted the mixture with cold tap water, moved the top belly to another bus tub and added some of the diluted liquid so everyone had the same channce for a dip in da' pool as it were.    
Here are the bellies after a couple days in the cure.  As they continue to cure you’ll notice that they’ll get harder and less pliable.    

I let these bellies cure for seven days, stay tuned for the second half of The Baconing where we get into the smoking and resting then the taste testing! 

Edited: This recipe is based off the one in the book Charcuterie by Ruhlman and Polcyn.  While the dredge method is quick and easy the bacons were very salty and there is too much Cure in the recipe.  I have since revised my methodology in more recent postings.  


Anonymous said...

Hi, I believe you have used twice the amount of cure no1, it is normally 2.5 grams per kilo (2.2Lbs)of meat, bearing in mind it is a very dangerous substance maybe more care should be taken before publishing amounts.
Regards Gary.

Jered said...

Thank you for the heads up Gary. I have updated the posting with a caveat. I agree that there is too much Cure #1 in this mix and that too much sodium nitrite can be dangerous. However, if a person were to eat every single bit of the published cure recipe by itself (assuming they could get it all down as it's nearly one pound of salt and a half pound of table sugar) they would still be under the lethal amount for sodium nitrite.

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