Last time I was in Russia, I was introduced to some great smoked pork belly. It looked a lot like unsliced bacon but my relatives would just cut off small pieces of it and eat it with crackers or bread uncooked. I was skeptical at first, but really got to like it once I tried it.
Frozen uncooked pork belly is readily available here in Dubai, but I have not been able to find smoked pork belly. Thus, I had to try to figure out for myself how I could create something similar in my home kitchen.
Picture
I did a lot of investigation online, but most recipes called for curing salt (aka pink salt) which I have been unable to find here. This put my project on hold for 8 months until I could get to the US and purchase some. The good folks at the Dayton Locker in Malcom, Iowa, patiently listened to my story and kindly sold me a couple of packets. Thanks to them, I have now been able to take my first steps in charcuterie.

[As a side note, the Dayton Locker has all kinds of great meat products. I especially like their jalapeño bratwurst]

Picture
I used a simplified version of a curing rub from a recipe by Michael Ruhlman. Plus I threw in some of my own touches. The ingredients I used for the rub were:
1/4 cup sea salt
2 tsps pink salt
2 tbsp ground black pepper
2 tbsp smoked paprika (bitter-sweet from Spain)
1/4 cup molasses (aka black treacle)

I tried to keep it very simple. The original recipe called for brown sugar or honey or maple syrup, but I thought the heavy flavor of the dark molasses would penetrate the meat well. This image shows the dry ingredients before mixing with the molasses.

Picture
The recipe makes enough rub for 5 pounds (4+ kg) of meat. The pork belly we find here in Dubai comes from either Spain or Kenya. I went with the Spanish. It comes in pieces roughly 5 cm x 5 cm x 15 cm (2 x 2 x 6 inches). For the most part, it has a pretty high meat to fat ratio as compared to bacon I see at the supermarket.

Picture
I rubbed the mixture thoroughly into each piece of meat.

It should be noted that I made a big mess of my kitchen during this part of the process.

Then I packaged the pieces into plastic bags and put them in the refrigerator for 7 days. Every day I would flip the bags of meat over so the curing mixture would remain evenly distributed.

Picture
On the 8th day, I took the meat out of the bags and rinsed it off thoroughly with cold tap water.

[Please note that pink salt is full of nitrites, which are poisonous. They color it pink so people won't mistake it for regular salt. The nitrites are necessary in order to keep nasty things like botulism from developing during the curing process. It is also what gives the meat its pinkish color (although this isn't related to the pinkness of the salt itself). After curing, the nitrites need to be washed off.]

Picture
The next challenge was figuring out how to turn my simple grill into a meat smoker. I bought some wood chips in the barbeque section of the grocery store. In order for them to smoke rather than burn, they need to be soaked in water for at least 30 minutes.

I then improvised a smoker from tin foil and set it on one side of my grill. I turned on the gas burner under the wood chips on high until they started smoking and then turned it down to low.

Once the smoke was going good, I put the cured meat on the other side of the grill and let it smoke for a little over an hour. The burner under the meat was never turned on. [The plan was for two hours but my wood chips didn't last as long as I thought they would]

Picture
The meat took on a much darker color from the smoking. When sliced open it had a pinkish color inside - rather like ham.

I was able to eat it like this (below). But it tasted best when fried (bottom).

I know I'm biased but this is honestly the best bacon I've ever had. The molasses added sweetness and a strong flavor that was enhanced by the smoke.

I ate some right away but froze the rest. Now I can have my own home-made bacon every weekend!
 


Comments

Phyllis Sheetz
01/02/2014 2:11pm

It was very interesting. I am copying it for reference.

Reply
01/02/2014 11:22pm

Thanks Mom!

Reply



Leave a Reply