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There are very few cuts of meat that are as famous and as well-known as bacon is. Bacon is one of the world’s most popular cuts of pig, and because of this, many people enjoy learning how to make their own bacon at home.
Naturally, making food for yourself has quite a few more steps than it does when you buy the meat from the store, so there are times when it can be incredibly confusing. Bacon is one such food, as people have a tendency to not quite know how to get from the raw meat to the delicious and salty slices that they know and love.
Making bacon into the meat that it is known for has several steps in it, starting from cutting the meat to curing it, and depending on what you are planning to do with it, smoking it. The curing of the bacon is one of the steps that people tend to have the most trouble with, as it is not always clear what you should be doing or when the best time to stop curing the bacon is.
Before you can get a good sense as to how long you should be curing bacon, you first need to have a good idea of what curing is. Once you know what you are doing and how it used to be accomplished in the past, you will have a much better sense as to how to get the job done when you are making your own homemade bacon.
With the right understanding, you can make your own bacon the way you want and with the flavors that you want at a price far less than what it costs at the store, which is one of the many, many reasons why people make their bacon at home.
Understanding the Curing Process
Curing foods has been a process that has been around for ages, as people in times many centuries ago would want to preserve their meats so that they could keep feeding their families. This is part of where curing comes from, as it is a way to keep meats lasting a longer time while also adding flavors to it.
Curing used to be mostly for preservation, so it makes heavy use of salt. To help add to the flavor of the meat being cured, spices, sugars, and other flavors are added so that the bacon tastes exactly the way you want it to.
When it comes to bacon specifically, curing is the use of salts and smoke to preserve the slices of meat while adding flavor to it. Technically, all forms of bacon that you can purchase today are a form of cured meat, even if a package of bacon claims it is uncured.
Curing also makes use of a number of herbs, spices, and salts, allowing you to customize your meat to the taste that you have always wanted your bacon to have. The exact combination of spices you use depends on the overall flavor you are going for, ranging from sweet to savory and adding some degree of spice to it.
Some common spices used for curing bacon to have a sweeter taste to it include nutmeg, bourbon, apple cider vinegar, maple syrup, honey, and even coffee. Common ingredients used to give bacon the savory taste that it is most well-known for include thyme, garlic, paprika, and red pepper flakes.
The exact combination of curing agents you want to use is completely up to you, but the most important thing to remember is to include salt, cane sugar, and black pepper, as these will help give your bacon the taste that almost all bacon has.
Curing also makes use of other objects too, namely a thermometer and a dish large enough to hold the pork rind that you are getting your bacon from, so keep this in mind when you are getting ready to cure your meats.
Knowing How Much Time it Takes
The exact amount of time your cut of pig takes to cure depends entirely on the thickness of the bacon slices, what spices you are using, and what you want out of the bacon itself.
There is no one single answer to all forms of curation, and there is a plethora of recipes that you can follow to give you a good idea of how you can go about curing your bacon, if you need a place to start.
For the most part, curing bacon should take anywhere from three to 10 days, with three days being for a mild cure that doesn’t have a lot of salt to it and better used for thin slices of bacon and 10 days being for the thickest slices of bacon that have a notably salted taste to them. The longer that you cure your bacon, the saltier it will become as it picks up more of the salts and spices you are using.
As a rule of thumb, about five days is considered a good average for thin pork belly, roughly an inch and a half thick. This is a good starting point to use when trying to decide exactly how long you should be curing your bacon, depending on how salty you want it and how thick the belly is.
When you are curing bacon, you will want to turn the bacon over in your dish every single day so that all sides of the meat can have their soaking time in the curing ingredients. After those three to 10 days have passed, that’s when you can take the bacon out, wash it, and pat it dry.
From this point, you will want to allow it to dry out in the fridge for approximately 48 hours. By technicality, this does mean that the entire curing process, including this extra time to dry out, takes a minimum of five to 12 days, but this isn’t part of curing it in the sense of letting it soak in the salted and spiced mixture.
After you have allowed the bacon to air-dry in the fridge, you can either choose to cut and slice the bacon now for what is known as “green bacon,” or you can opt to smoke the bacon to give it the smoky flavor that bacon is incredibly well-known for.