My Pork Belly: 22 inches long, 10" wide and approx 9 pounds. Soon to be BACON.
Charcutepalooza's tag line is "The Year of Meat. It's a challenge amongst food bloggers (across the world!) to make one stellar charcuterie project every month for one year. The competition is tough; about 300 passionate -- and some might say "obsessed" -- food bloggers battling it out to create stunning examples of cured meats. Sure there are prizes, including a trip to France. There's also the possibility of fame & glory, as well as advancing a few rungs up the "ways-to-prepare-meat" ladder in your kitchen. But I think most of us are doing it simply because it's fun. The fact that you end up with some incredibly tasty charcuterie as a result is a bonus too, of course.
I decided to slice the Pork Belly into 4 pieces, and will use 2 different cures on 2 pieces each.
December and January were hectic for me, so I didn't really commit to the project until January30. (The deadline to enter was February 1st.) I need to have my February challenge completed by February 15th, but it's all good. Bacon (pork belly) takes about 8 days to cure, and guess what? It's in the fridge right now. It's already day 2 of the makin' bacon project. Boy do I feel smug about it too!
As for making the curing mixture, you might already have everything you need. You can make your "rub" as simple or as complex as your palate desires.
My savory cure mixture included sea salt, bay leaves, garlic, fresh thyme and juniper berries.
I was first inspired to cure bacon years ago, after reading Victoria Wise's 1986 book "American Charcuterie", yet until now, I hadn't really cured any meat other than brining beef brisket to create corned beef. For the competition, Michael Ruhlman's book "Charcuterie, the Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing" is considered the "go to" manual for Charcutepalooza. In fact, the guidelines for Charcutepalooza are called "The Ruhls". Cute, huh?
I decided to stick close to Michael Ruhlman's home-cured bacon recipe for my savory mixture, because the ingredients are quite similar to those listed in Victoria Wise's book, and I was already leaning toward that flavor profile.
If you cook fairly often, you probably already have everything you need to make this mixture except for one thing -- Pink Salt. No, not Himalayan Pink Salt either. Totally different thing.
Pink Salt, also known as "SPEED CURE WITH NITRITE WITH COLOR" (6.22% Sodium Nitrite)
Savory cure mixture, with pink salt added, ready for rubbin'.
The 2 largest pieces of my pork belly, after being rubbed with the savory cure mixture.
I put the two biggest pieces in a plastic container, sealed it tightly, and put the whole shebang in the fridge for a nice nap. So far, the active time for curing bacon seems pretty short, about 15 minutes from start to finish making the spice blend and rubbing it onto the meat. Then the pork belly needs a little time in the fridge to cure -- about a week (and then another stint in an oven or smoker) before it's bacon.
I think I mentioned that I did the 2 smallest pieces of pork belly with a sweet cure mixture, which is basically brown sugar, sweet sorghum, pink salt and sea salt.
Rub the pork belly with the brown sugar/sea salt/pink salt mixture, and then pour on the good stuff...sorghum!
Rub the sorghum into the meat, put it into a 2 gallon Zip-Loc bag or plastic container, and put it in the fridge.
I'm super excited about making bacon, and really curious to see how the batch with Bourbon Barrel Sweet Sorghum turns out...
(I wasn't able to find any info on curing bacon with sorghum, but I think it will be similar to maple bacon, but more intense.)
So now all I need to do is check my pork belly once a day, which means I'll turn them over and make sure the cure mixture is still coating the pork belly/bacon nicely. I plan to blog again in a week, at which time I'll go over the way I decided to finish this project.
For those of you who can't wait, here are Micheal Ruhlman's instructions for Home-Cure Bacon, including his recipe.
What started as two friends curing meat together has exploded into a much-talked about project, all over Twitter, Facebook and the gazillion food blogs across the Internet. When I Googled it just now, there were almost 28,000 results.
Just so you know....I'm hoping for some impressive results of my own, so please check back soon for the finished product.
Want to see how it turned out?