Smokehowze’s Honey Cured Pork Belly Bacon Using Equilibrium Cure Method
This bacon was 11 pounds (~ 5 kg) of skinless pork belly from Costco. After much study, I choose for this bacon to employ an immersion cure using the equilibrium cure method. This was a sweet pickle cure as it involves a sugar component. The flavor profile in this bacon was honey and brown sugar with a hint of black pepper in the cure followed by low temperature smoking accomplished using a cherry, hickory, and maple blend.
The Final Belly Bacon Slabs
Gotta Hand Cut Some First Slices for a Treat (yes.. that is a jar of pickled eggs in the background)
Need to cook at low heat because of the honey or it will burn
The Equilibrium Cure Method
An Equilibrium Cure is an immersion brine cure method where the initial salt brine and the sodium nitrite percentages (PPM) from the Cure #1 (pink salt) are based on the amount of water by weight for the covering pickle solution brine (i.e., 8 quarts in this case ~ 7.5 kg) ) PLUS the weight of the water in the meat (65% meat weight less any major bone weight) or about 3 kg effective water. Thus in this case, the percentages for salt and the nitrite PPM (as well as other seasonings) are calculated on 10.5 kg of water.
The way it works is that the solution equalizes over the cure time and settles at the final desired ratio where all the water both in and around the meat reaches an intermixed equilibrium state through diffusion/exchange mechanisms in terms of salt and nitrite (as well as seasonings). Hence, there is no over or under cure and as long as the meat is in solution for sufficient time for equilibrium to be reached with full penetration into the meat there no issue for leaving it there longer (up to a point).
Thus, it is a more accurate curing method than a dry rub cure or even certain other immersion or injection curing methods – however, because the initial solution percentages are lower than other methods this immersion cure will take longer for proper meat pickup.
If the meat is near 2 inches thick or greater, then the same covering pickle solution must be injected into the meat so that there is curing from the inside out and from the outside in.
This method differs from certain other immersion methods that utilize a high concentration of brine and nitrites (excess cure solution) and presume about a 10% inflow/pickup into the meat or the use of an injection only cure at a certain percentage by meat weight (e.g. 10% pump) of a 10 times concentrated amount of nitrite by PPM where there is potentially a greater end result variability. This equilibrium method cannot exceed the PPM nitrite of the solution, which is from the onset quite close to the final desired PPM. It works similarly for the salinity component which will closely match the solution salinity.
Per USDA information, the PPM of nitrite on the belly bacon was set to be 120 PPM at the end of curing. As I wanted a lower salt bacon, the salinity of the brine was established at 1.75% for final cure.
Prep of the Meat and Building the Brine
The belly trimmed as required and rinsed plus soaked in a mild solution of water and vinegar for about 15 minutes to cleanse it. After soaking rinse and set aside in fridge while the brine is prepared. At the same time, the amount of water used for the cleansing soak was measured to determine how much water would be required to fully immerse the meat with a couple of inches above it. This is needed for the proper salinity and PPM calculations. The brine mixture was prepared with the salt and all seasonings and heated to boiling. It was then cooled some and the Cure #1 (pink salt dissolved into the solution). Finally it was put in the fridge until well chilled. After that the belly was placed in the brine (I used a large meat lug with a lid) and weighed down with an inverted dinner plate.
A Nice Belly
Cure Time & Smoking
Cure time was 14 days in the solution at 38 degrees. Every few days I stirred the solution and flipped the meat but since I had the full belly on a perforated plastic support rack to hold it off the bottom of the container I really did not need the flip. Another 1.5 days was spent uncovered on a drying rack in the fridge before smoking to form a pellicle and permit final equalization of the solution in the meat now outside the immersion. This levels out any gradient in/across the meat. As this is a low salt cure, I would not do an extended drying phase beyond 1 or 1.5 days lest the bacon sour or go rancid. Smoking was performed for 7 hours with smoke the full time in my converted electric kitchen over smoker starting at 130 degrees smoker temperature increased over time to 150 degrees smoking temperature. The smoke was a mix of cherry, hickory and maple food grade smoking sawdust. The belly was set out at room temperature and let warm up for about an hour prior to introduction into the smoker.
Out of the Brine and Ready for the Drying Step (At this point I cut the full belly into three appropriate size slabs)
The finished belly was removed from the smoker at 130 degrees internal temperature – at this point the meat had changed in character externally and became tenderer when probed. As this is not taking the meat internal temperature to at least a 155 degrees internal final cook point, the bacon is still considered “raw” and requires cooking before eating. I purposefully chose not to make this a fully cooked bacon in the production step. Going to a minimum of 125- 130 internal temperature also sets the meat protein and makes for better handling of the bacon in the slicing and in its uses in cooking.
Just Out of the Smoker (The aroma is outstanding)
Post Smoking Phase
After smoking, the bacon was wrapped and placed in the fridge for 1.5 days to mature the flavor. It was further chilled in the freezer (but not frozen) for a short period of time before slicing to make slicing cleaner and to avoid fat smear. I took advantage of my Berkel 827A commercial meat slicer and sliced and vacuum packaged the bacon in 1 pound portions using my Vacmaster VP215 chamber style vacuum sealer. I would not have enjoyed hand slicing that much bacon. Final meat yield was 9 lbs.
Ready for the Freezer
My Smokehowze Labels. I print labels on Waterproof (so they do not come off in the freezer or later) - #5524 Avery Shipping Labels for all my Charcuterie - handy for us and especially useful for the ones you give to friends.
The end result was a nice bacon with a good flavor and the family has confirmed this. Because of the honey (1.75%) and the brown sugar (1.5%) the bacon needs to be cooked at a lower temperature or it will burn. There is not a heavy honey element at this percentage – more like a subtle note. This pork belly was also leaner than what you get in most off the shelf bacon probably 40 % fat instead of 50+ percent.
I now have completed my bacon trifecta with this Belly Bacon, with my Buckboard Bacon (pork butt) and with my Canadian Bacon (pork loin) all utilizing variants of immersion curing.
Pork Butt Buckboard Bacon Recipe Post
Pork Loin Canadian Bacon Recipe Post
I really like this equilibrium immersion cure method for its preciseness of the salinity and PPM on the nitrite (which must be carefully controlled) and the ability to not have to worry about over curing and having the meat end up too salty. This may become my preferred curing approach on any of the above bacon types.
I hope you can get some ideas from this. Enjoy!
Fat to Meat Ratios for Various Pork Bacons
Listed below are several common categorizations for pork bacon based on the cut of meat and the approximate fat to meat ratio:
· Regular Bacon (American Bacon) - using pork belly where the fat to meat ratio is 3:1
· Buckboard Bacon – using pork shoulder or pork butt where the fat to meat ratio is 1:3
· Pork Loin Bacon (Canadian Bacon) – using pork loin where the fat to meat ratio is 1:10
Buckboard Bacon Breakfast
This is one good way to do breakfast.
Get out from the fridge the slab of homemade buckboard bacon from my last batch and slice up some.
Oil the Pan and Fry It Up
Add some sunny side up eggs and homemade biscuits.
Then savor and enjoy with New Orleans style cup of coffee & chicory with warm milk.
Fish Night Detour
Today was too busy with work and things ran over well into the dinner hour so cooking the planned chicken meal on Joe did not work out. This was a quick detour that turned out quite nice and was diet friendly and good for you.
Six IQF skinless cod fish filets (2 lbs total) cold water quick thawed and lightly seasoned with a Cajun blend and pan sautéed on high heat in a ceramic pan in a small amount of Nutiva organic red palm fruit oil. When the fish had browned nicely on both sides and was just shy of being done I squeezed some lemon over it (not too much) and it was removed to the serving dish to finish its cooking.
To make a special sauce (a capers-dashi-white wine reduction), I deglazed the pan with some nice chardonnay (not too much) and added chopped green onion, a good amount of capers and cooked that down adding more chardonnay as needed. The secret flavor ingredient idea I had (that worked really well) in this sauce is adding Hondashi dried bonito granules. It makes this more than just a wine reduction. I wanted just enough sauce to coat the fish and have some on the serving platter. To tighten the sauce, a pat of butter was swirled into the pan. Turn off heat and add a large measure of chopped flat leaf parsley into the pan and mix well. Spoon over the fish and serve immediately. Enjoy immensely. The sauce was plate lickin good - I wish I had made more of it.
The primary side was cooked fresh spinach. I used my homemade buckboard bacon (http://www.kamadoguru.com/topic/14885-smokehowze’s-pork-butt-bacon-buckboard-bacon/?p=173493) as the main flavoring. Chopped onion and garlic were sautéed with the bacon cut into cubes and some olive oil as needed. Add the spinach, some water and let it wilt and cook down – fresh ground black pepper as needed and a dash of bitters (optional). The flavor with the smoked homemade bacon was beyond expectation.
Despite the butter in the pan sauce for the fish, overall I rate this as a healthy meal as the buckboard bacon is much much lower fat than belly bacon. The red palm fruit oil (not palm kernel oil) contains the highest amounts of vitamins A and E of any plant-based oil through its high content of carotenes and numerous tocotrienols. It tastes good too on the food and contributes to the rich color.
Sauteed Cod & Fresh Cooked Spinach
The Smoked Homemade Buckboard Bacon
The Spinach Fixings
Pretty Looking,Tasty, and Good For You
Thanks for looking.
Smokehowze’s Pork Butt Bacon (Buckboard Bacon)
This bacon is made with a boneless pork butt and is a moderately lean bacon. It is wet (brine) immersion cured for 12 days with salt, maple syrup, seasonings, and Prague Powder #1 (pink salt) and then hot smoked at 225 degrees to 145 internal with hickory wood.
I bought this 8 lb 9 oz butt at Costco. Cutting it up, I wound up with (and used them all) the following pieces:
· a 5 lb 6 oz - 3 inch+ thick slab, >>> After smoking 5 lb 3 oz
· a 2 lb 13 oz - 1.5 inch slab and >>> After smoking 2lb 12 oz
· a 6 oz remnant ( AKA cook’s treat) >>> After smoking ~ 6 oz.
The buckboard bacon journey from start to finish in photos:
The Raw Meat Before Cure
After Curing for 12 Days, Equalization and Then Maple Syrup Coated and Peppered For the Hot Smoke
The Final Buckboard Bacon After Hot Smoking
Sliced Homemade Buckboard Bacon
A Close Up of the Slices (It is good to eat just like this)
Frying Some Up (add a small touch of butter)
Fried Up (And even better tasting like this)
This bacon utilized a 2.5% salt brine as I wanted a lower sodium bacon. I think this salt percentage resulted in a nice balancefor what I wanted to achieve.
The flavor of the bacon, sliced and eaten right off the Kamado after hot smoking is outstanding.
After an overnight in the fridge the just sliced strips were quite nice. Frying some up in the pan was a very tasty and pleasing culinary experience. A good melding of smoke, salt, flavorings and the maple touch enhanced by the black pepper.
You really do need to try your hand at bacon. It is a simple process.
The Detailed Recipe
I have posted a detailed recipe for this buckboard bacon that includes full information of the immersion cure solution and the start to finish process on the Forum in the Pork section: