In Curing and Smoking Made at Home (Firefly Books, 2012) by Dick and James Strawbridge, readers will learn new ways to smoke their own meat at home. There are a variety of meats and ways to process each variety. Find this excerpt in chapter 7, “Cold-Smoking.”
Once you’ve learned how to make your own bacon, it’s a natural progression to want to smoke it. Bacon can be made from lots of different cuts of pork, and the way the meat is cured and smoked can create subtle differences in flavor. Lean Canadian (back) bacon, which comes from the cured loin, is one of the most popular types of bacon, and side bacon (regular bacon made pork belly) is an economic option, but it is also worth considering the subtlety of collar bacon and remembering that side bacon has lots of culinary uses. Just as the cuts and cures are infinitely variable, so too are the possible ways of smoking it. Different woods will make the bacon taste different, and the smoking time will also have a huge effect on the finished product.
Choosing a Cut
The most popular cut of pork for bacon used to be the boned and rolled collar joint that comes from the shoulder area just behind the head of the pig. It used to be a family favorite. The “prime collar” weighs about 2.5 kg (5-1/2 pounds) and the smaller “end collar” weighs about 1 kg (2 pounds). There is also the “fore hock,” the front leg of the pig, which can be divided into the “prime hock,” which is a bit on the fatty side but adds amazing flavor to soups and stews of dried peas and lentils, and the “hock knuckle,” the meat of which is excellent in stews and casseroles.
If you want to be a bit adventurous, ask your butcher for a boned piece of pork that has the loin and the belly in one. It takes moments to prepare, and you then have the ability to taste both smoked Canadian bacon and smoked regular side bacon at the end of the process.
If you want to start with something simpler, try a piece of belly for regular side bacon or loin if you want to make Canadian bacon.
Curing the Meat
First you need to cure your bacon. Your decision is whether to dry-cure or to brine. Both methods will work, but if you are attempting this for the first time, a simple dry cure using a plastic container with a couple of drainage holes in the bottom and a lid is the easiest method. Keep the cure simple, as the flavor should really come from the smoke.
Drying the Meat
Remove the bacon from the cure, rinse it well and pat it dry with papertowels. Hang it in a cool, dry place for about 1 hour. When drying is complete, a dried salt/sugar coating will be left on the flesh (this is called a pellicle). This coating will help the bacon take the smoke much more effectively. The meat needs to be well dried so that it will color evenly and have an even amount of smoke throughout.
Preparing the Smoker
Light your smoker and allow it to reach a steady state of smoke production. It is hard to suggest what type of sawdust to start with, as they all have unique flavors. Oak or apple smoked bacon is what many people expect, but it may be worth experimenting with something like beech for your first batch. Over time it is also worth trying to source maple, mesquite and hickory to smoke
Smoking the Meat
The bacon can be placed in the smoker on a rack or hung from a special bacon hanger or even a meat hook. Check the temperature and monitor the smoker occasionally to make sure it remains lit. Smoke the bacon for approximately 8 hours or until you are happy with the color.
Finishing It Off
When you are satisfied with the smoked bacon, take it out of the smoker, wrap it in parchment paper or foil, and store it in the fridge for 24 hours to allow the flavor to permeate the meat fully. The bacon can be kept in the fridge for a couple of weeks if it is kept wrapped up.
Serving It Up
Once the bacon is ready to use, slice it up and away you go. Put your slice of bacon into a frying pan without any oil. Place on the heat, and as it heats up the bacon will render enough fat to cook it efficiently.
Regular side bacon is particularly good diced and can be used in numerous dishes. Large cuts of smoked bacon are magnificent, boiled and served hot or cold. They are especially good served hot with parsley sauce.
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