October is National Pork Month. Here in North Carolina, second only to Iowa in pork production, we take this sort of thing seriously. What better way to celebrate than by making bacon! I don’t mean frying up bacon (although I assure you, that’s happening too). I mean making bacon. From scratch. Pork bellies, curing salt, the whole deal. If that sounds daunting, you’ll be shocked to learn just how easy it is to make fresh, pink, bacon-y deliciousness at home without much effort and using no special equipment.
Bacon is made by curing pork belly, a fatty boneless cut of meat from the underside of the pig. Although this inexpensive cut of meat is widely used in pork products, it is usually not found in grocery stores. Butcher shops often carry the cut and it is readily found in many Asian markets that carry meat products (pork belly is used extensively in Asian cuisine). I picked mine up for about $3 a pound at a nearby Asian supermarket.
The other piece of the puzzle likely missing from your pantry is pink curing salt. A blend of regular salt and nitrite, the bright pink ingredient is inexpensive and can be ordered online for a few dollars. The pink salt can be left out and you’ll still get something nice, but this ingredient gives bacon its familiar color and distinctive taste. Without the pink curing salt, the result is a meat that is brown rather than pink and tastes more like spare ribs than everyone’s favorite breakfast meat (not bad, but not bacon).
Once you have the ingredients, curing bacon at home is a snap. It takes about ten minutes to prepare the meat, a week to cure, a little cook time, and fresh homemade bacon is ready to devour. Easy peasy. This stuff is so good I forgot to put the L and T on my BLT.