Pay homage to old ways, and try making this bacon recipe inspired by Appalachian home- steaders. The salt content is set in relation to the weight of the meat (3.5 percent) so feel free to use this recipe as a template for the creation of new flavors. You might choose to use this salt cure on a boneless ham as easily as on a pork belly.
5 pounds pork belly, with the skin on 2.8 ounces kosher or sea salt
1.4 ounces brown sugar
0.4 ounces rubbed sage
0.6 ounces fresh ground black pepper 0.6 ounces ground red pepper
0.4 ounces minced fresh garlic
Combine the salt, sugar, herbs, spices, and garlic and mix thoroughly. If the brown sugar is clumpy, send the mixture through a sieve to dissolve the clumps. Apply the mixture over all the surfaces of the piece of pork belly, focusing especially on the parts not protected by skin. Ensure even coverage of the meat with the cure mix, and then place the belly in a nonreactive container or a zip-top bag. Label with the date and the weight of the meat. Place in refrigerator and allow to cure for about 7–10 days, turning the meat over each day to ensure even curing. Salt is drawing water out of the cells of the meat during this time, an important step in preservation.
After the 7–10 day curing time, remove the meat from the bag and rinse it. Dry as thoroughly as possible, then smoke the bacon at 150–200° until the internal temperature is at least 130°. Slice and fry until crisp, and enjoy.
Note: If you don’t have a smoker, you can roast the cured belly in a 250–300° oven until the internal temperature reaches 130–140°. Then slice and fry as normal.
For more on the art, science, and safety considerations of making cured meats at home, check out my book, Pure Charcuterie, which takes the reader through the processing of sausages, pâté, whole-muscle cures, and fermented meats.