massage the bacon

13 Oct

A few weeks ago, at the Mother Earth News Fair, my parents and I attended a very interesting workshop about home butchering, presented by Matt Wilkinson. At the end my step-dad entered a drawing to go out to Matt’s farm in New Jersey and learn how to butcher a hog. Luckily he was one of four people who got to go this past Tuesday. My mom brought three coolers of meat home yesterday and the thing I was the most excited about: bacon.

Now we have all the cuts from one half of a hog but none of it is processed (I was a little disappointed we didn’t get the head or feet). We looked up how to cure bacon and got to it. Here’s a shot of one of our four cuts of bacon:

Next you have to massage your curing mixture into both sides of the bacon. We used sea salt, brown sugar, black pepper, thyme, sage, and a dash of red pepper flakes. We didn’t use any curing agent because we’re going to freeze it when it’s done instead of hanging it to keep.

Now the skin is still on this pork belly, so it was a little awkward massaging the bit with the nipples still on it.

Then I had to find something big enough to store all 14 pounds of bacon in the refrigerator while it cures. The turkey roaster was the only thing I could think of that was big enough.

Next we just refrigerate and rotate the pieces each day so that they cure evenly and voilà! In five days we will magically have bacon. When I checked it this morning it already had a nice brine in the bottom and the bacon was beginning to harden.  I can’t wait for Monday!

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