Nother opinion on BACON !!!!!!

Discussion in 'Smoking Bacon' started by polarlys, Jan 4, 2010.

  1. Hi, new to the forum. Been reading some interesting write-ups from different people making bacon. I've been making bacon for 7 or 8 years or so and I'd like to tell y'all just how I do it. I suppose there's as many ways to make it as there are people out there doing it. But it all began with salt. I suppose in the early days before reefers salt was all they had to do something with pork to preserve it. Beef and most game meats could be dried into jerkey but pork presents other issues. Anyhow salt it was at that time. Somewhere down the road someone thought to spice things up a bit and the various flavorings went into the mix. I've tried the maple flavor and just don't care for it. Never tried honey but I think that might be good. Personally I just use brown sugar, salt and a little tender quick. Just last week I made some without the tenderquick. I wanted to make some for my nephew. His kids have allergie issues and I thought I'd avoid the nitrates for him. Never made it that way so it will be new territory for me. I don't expect any trouble with the cure though but I'll find out when I slice it up.

    I usually do a dry rub of 50/50 salt & brown sugar and with about 1 lb. of each I add 1/4 cup or so of tenderquick. That's it. I rub it in and stack the bellies into a plastic container with a cover. I set it out in the shed for 2-3 days and then cover with a brine. Let it set for 6 days total then rinse them off and smoke. I see some here drain the liquid off as it's extracted. I leave it in and just add the brine to it. I hang them to dry in the smoker then smoke for 6-12 hrs. I then hang them in the shed to dry some more for 2 wks. This time I varied this a little by not adding the brine. I just used the dry rub and overhauled them 3 times ( every couple days ). I left them to soak in the liquid that develops for a total of 10 days. That's a bit longer than when I brine them but I'll see if it's necessary when I taste them. The rest of the handling is the same. I'm curious to see how things come out and how it compares with past years. I order a case of medium bellies from a local Amish market. Their quality has always been very good and the price is fair. I do pay a bit more to get bellies with skin removed. Just makes my life a bit easier. I just hate removing them myself. Of course I loose out on some cracklin's but then my heart is thankful for that. When I hung them out in the shed this morning I was thinking about the drying time a bit. Not sure why I do that but the quality in the past has been very nice so I just continue doing it. I don't think it would matter a whole lot to not dry them either. If you do it you just have to make sure the temps. don't rise to much. Colder is better.

    I use a homemade smokin rig. It's an old commercial reefer and an outside smoke generator. I use a small gas burner inside to heat things up a bit with a thermometer on the outside to moniter things. I don't have a thermostat so I just regulate things with the burner valve. Not a very good method but I use what I got until I get something better. I have an old aluminum traffic signal box for the generator. I put a small squirrilcage blower motor on the outside and rigged two tubes to direct half the air downward to a tray. I put hardwood sawdust in the tray and start it up with a propane torch and with a speed controller I regulate the air blowing on it to just get a slow burn. When I get it just right it will burn 4-5 hrs. before needing to be refilled. The other half of the air is directed into a drier flex tube and blows the smoke into the reefer box. Works pretty good except when I use the burner to heat things up the door warps a little and doesn't seal tight. Gotta work on that. So far so good.

    Curious to see how others do it. Maybe I can get some ideas and modify my methods. Always lookin for a better mouse trap.

    Thanks, Happy New Year. Things are a bit chilly here in New Jersey.

    Roger in NJ [​IMG] Retired USAF reserves. Just like the tank.
  2. markf

    markf Newbie

    I'd enjoy seeing pics of your smoker sometime. I just made my first bacon this past weekend, never had any idea how to do it or even that it could be done. I used a tablespoon of Tenderquick per pound of belly and a teaspoon of maple sugar per pound (didn't really taste any maple in the finished product though). One half of the belly sat in the fridge for 7 days and the other half sat for 9 days with each being flipped and massaged daily. Washed, soaked, and smoked in my sausage smoker. Chilled, sliced, and had BLT's for dinner Saturday. Actually wife and kid had BLT's, I had BBB's because I didn't want to corrupt the taste of the bacon with salad fixins. [​IMG]
  3. que-ball

    que-ball Smoking Fanatic

    Polarlys--it all sounds very interesting, but with no qview it didn't happen! Welcome to the forum, and stop in at Roll Call to say hi.
  4. Sorry Tim. Have to learn how to put pix up. Trust me, it did happen. Haven't tasted this years product yet but it did happen.

    Mark, I tried the maple flavor a few years back. Didn't care for it enough to try it again. In fact I picked up some store bacon recently and got the maple flavor by mistake. Still don't care for it. I would be interested in the honey flavor though if I ever had a cheap enough source of honey.
    Do yourself a favor sometime and do the BLT thing. I understand where you're coming from but it is the best BLT ever. You won't regret it. I save the ends ( that don't slice well ) for other things like baked beans. I would like to re-do my smoker. I'm happy with the smoke generation part. I need to re-do the meat box and find something that closes securely and find a reliable thermostatically controlled heat source. I make smoked salmon occassionally and have no problem with that cause I use cold smoke but when I crank the burner on and heat things up the door warps and makes it hard to control the heat. With bacon it really doesn't matter much since we cook it before eating but with other things I do as best I can and often bring them into the inside oven to finish things up, like ribs, brisket, turkeys etc.

    Keep things smokin,
    Roger in NJ Retired USAF Reserves ( and USA active duty )

    [​IMG] ( I still like the tank)
    maybe we can turn it into a meat smoker ????
  5. fatback joe

    fatback joe Master of the Pit OTBS Member


    I would encourage you to try the honey cure just for the sake of knowing what it tastes like.........but I would not make a big batch, from what you posted, I would be surprised if it was something that you cared for.
  6. mgwerks

    mgwerks Smoking Fanatic

    My only concern is using a 'rough guess' when measuring the TenderQuick. If too little, it dopesn't do the job - if too much it can be dangerous. I'd sure stick to the proportions listed on the bag.
  7. Hey MG. I'm with you on that but I think the proportions on the bag are for using only TQ. I'm not sure how that translates into using it with something else. I guess I'm on untried ground with this. I don't like the TQ only cure. I've tried it making Canadian Bacon. It was OK but just not what I wanted. So far this has worked well and I like the results. Not sure if I'm achieving max effect of the nitrates though. I do get nice color throughout and nice flavor too.

    Thanks for the input.
  8. bearcarver

    bearcarver Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    The method you describe sounds too confusing to tell how much nitrites/nitrates you're actually putting into your product. The way many of us cure bacon seems so much easier, and it comes out perfect.

    With the following dry cure, you are quite safe:

    One half ounce (one tablespoon) of TQ per pound (NO ADJUSTMENTS ON THIS !)
    The rest can be played with:
    One Tsp of brown sugar per pound
    Garlic powder
    Black Pepper
    Whatever else you'd like

    Weigh each piece that goes into each individual bag, and use the right amount for that bag.

    Put in fridge for the right amount of time, depending on the thickness of the pieces:
    Find the thickest part of the meat. Divide that thickness in half. Count how many (1/4") there are in that "half-thickness". Add two days.

    Belly thickest part-------3"
    Half of that is 1 1/2"
    There are 6 (1/4"s ) in 1 1/2"
    That would be 6 days curing PLUS 2 days
    Total-----Cure for 8 days
    Could be longer, but no shorter to play it safe

    Keep them between 36* and 38* for those 8 days.
    Below 34* cure might not work.
    Over 40* is in danger zone.

    Turn them over & massage each package every day (if you can).

    I leave the juice in the whole time, because I don't want to dump any cure out, weakening the mix. Usually after a couple days I have quite a bit of juice in the bags, but near the end I have very little, which tells me it went back into the meat.

    I got this from comparing many many comments on this forum. It seems to me to be about the best way. All of my bacons have been GREAT.

    Hope this helps,
  9. smokeguy

    smokeguy Smoking Fanatic OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    It looks like you can simplify this even a little bit more even by just doubling the thickness and calling that the first number of days....
    Belly thickest part----3"
    Double that and you get 6, so that would be your 6 days plus 2. Seemed to work on all the measurements I tried...
  10. bearcarver

    bearcarver Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    You're right smokeguy. That seems to work on any size. It kinda removes the thoughts of "curing 1/4" from surface per day", but it works just fine.

    Good tip,
  11. Hi Bearcarver. I like your method. The only thing I'm not comfortable with is using so much TQ. In the batches that I add the brine to I also added 1/4c of TQ to the brine of 3/4 c kosher salt per gallon of water. That makes 1/2 c TQ in a batch of 50lbs or so. I understand where you're coming from though. I have far less TQ than 1 tbs per pound. I just prefer the salt over the TQ as the major curing agent. The nitrates required to accomplish the cure are very tiny amounts. I guess I'm on shakey ground as to whether I get enough and by following your plan would be on better turf. Of course for many years meat curers used only salt. I guess they would just have to eat ( pun intended ) the losses. Nitrate additions would help lessen the loss. I have a batch in progress as we write so have to see how it comes out. I varied my usual methods slightly.

    Thanks, I do appreciate your input. Maybe I'll try a small batch sometime using the TQ only and see how I like it.
  12. Hey Bearcarver, I just looked up on google maps just where Macungie, Pa is. Not far at all. Anyhow, you ever been to Peter Brothers meat store in Lenhardtsville, Pa. Just off of 78 west of Allentown. Good stuff there. They make great lebanon baloney and jerkey. Don't get out that way often but stop if I can.

    If you've never been there, give them a visit. You won't be disappointed.
  13. bearcarver

    bearcarver Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    No I was never there. Have to check it out.
    One my son frequents often is Dietrich's Meats-----not far from Peter Brothers meat store in Lenhardtsville, Pa------Great place for PA Dutch stuff!
    Check it out:

    Note: It is my understanding that the salt in TQ is put there to let you know if you used too much nitrite/nitrate. When you only use TQ, the salt lets you know if you used to much TQ. If it's too salty, you must rinse until it is no longer too salty. When it is not to salty, there is not too much nitrite/nitrate. If you mix TQ with salt, you will never know if it's safe too eat.
    At least that is my understanding.

  14. I've heard of Dietricks and seen their signs on Rt. 78 but never been to their shop. Heard good things about their place so I'm sure their quality is equal to Peter Bro's. I'll have to stop and check them out on one of my trips out that way.

    That sounds reasonable, the salt taste test. Never thought about it but I like that method. I'm not ready to abandon my mix quite yet but you give me food for thought. ( pun intended). I'm curious to try the bacon I made using only salt/sugar. Have never tried that so I want to see how it compares. I make a special type of sausage with a friend sometimes. He uses nothing but salt, garlic, paprika. We have had some losses though but he will not comprimise his traditional methods. Mostly though it comes out fine. It cures for a year so it takes a long time for the taste test.
  15. bearcarver

    bearcarver Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    If you get there before the Super Bowl, look to see if they have the bag sausage that looks like a football, laces & all.

  16. arch_cpj

    arch_cpj Newbie

    I have a brother in law who gets migranes from nitrates so Im always interested in non nitrate ways of doing things... I think one key point we all may tend to forget is we have refrigeration and freezers now so we are not really looking for the nitrates to preserve or aid in the preservation of our awesome bacons.... Back in the day and maybe still with the amish everything done from curing to smoking played a role in helping the product not spoil in the pantry etc... Today unless you plan on holding the product in a shed etc you are really using the nitrates to keep the red color.... I think you will find with a salt sugar mix that your reall difference will be that it wont be red but a bit grey still taste pretty close to the same but color will be off no diff in quality I would think post pics Im curious how yours turns out....
  17. I agree with you Arch. I do get the same pinkish color throughout even though I use such a small amount of the nitrates. I'm not so concerned with how much nitrate I use only that I use some and that it's distributed throughout. So far I've been very happy with the end result in every way. This time around I'll have a piece using no nitrate at all to compare. But like you said ( and I also ) it was done for a long time with only salt. And we are much better prepared to deal with it with modern refrigeration. My batches run in the 50+ lbs range. I buy a case of bellies and do it all in one batch. I give some to family and friends but the remainder freezes very well since I dry it somewhat and it has so little water weight to it compared to store bought bacon. I figure I loose about 20% in weight during the whole process.

    I'll give the pix a try next week when I slice it up. Never tried to but I will.
  18. bearcarver

    bearcarver Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    I hope you guys realize I don't "push" using cures because I have some kind of stocks in the companies. I'm going by a lot of research I have done & most others on this forum have done for years.

    Those who say Indians & others in "the old days" only used salt don't realize that the "salt" in the old days had nitrates in them. Sodium Nitrite wasn't isolated until 1925 (see link below).

    I also read that Clostridium botulinum is tasteless---You won't know it's there, because the meat won't taste bad, so nothing will keep you from consuming it.

    There are hundreds of guys on this forum who know a heck of a lot more about this than I do. I am surprised many of them didn't chime in to this thread. I see some red flags in your discussions. Maybe it's none of my business, but I don't want to see anyone get sick and/or die, when it could have been stopped by a little information.

    Please read:

  19. bearcarver

    bearcarver Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Bump for safety concerns

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