I love bacon, and I read a post on Michael Ruhlman's site about how to cure your own bacon at home, so I decided to try it. I bought a pork belly at Garrett's butcher shop in Algood, TN. It weighed about 3.5 lbs. I followed Ruhlman's directions, which involved making a cure of salt, honey, black pepper, bay leaves, thyme, and garlic. You rub this cure all over the pork belly and put it in a big plastic ziploc bag, and store it in the refrigerator for a week.
The pork belly shrinks some during the week, because the salt is drawing some of the moisture out of it. When you get it out at the end of the seven days, it's smaller. You rinse the cure off, and then you bake the pork belly at a low temperature in the oven until it reaches 150 degrees internally, which took about two hours in my oven.
At this point I removed the skin on the underside of the pork belly. I froze some of it, for seasoning soups later, and Molly the Border Collie ate some of it. It is very tough, like shoe leather, but she just swallowed it whole.
I sliced up some of it immediately and fried it, but it was hard to slice when it was warm right out of the oven. A day or two later, after it had chilled in the refrigerator, it was much easier to slice.
This bacon is very lean, compared to the bacon we buy at stores. I think the reason is that many pigs these days are bred to be lean rather than fatty. I learned from the ever-useful Oxford Companion to Food that in the 19th century, when bacon was the main meat for working class and rural people of the British Isles, there were many breeds of bacon pigs. Now most bacon pigs descend from Yorkshire Large Whites and Danish Landrace pigs. ( Some of my ancestors were from Yorkshire; maybe that's why I like bacon so much!)
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