Dr Porklove, or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Sodium Nitrate

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  1. Post

    Dr Porklove, or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Sodium Nitrate

    Warning: Epic post to follow. Due to the potent nature of this thread it is recommended you do not view it more than once in any 24 hour period. This thread is not suitable for those with heart conditions, women who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant. Allergy sufferers should consult their physician before use. Not intended for persons under 18. Those prone to bouts of nervousness are advised to close this thread and stare at this calm blue ocean Potential side effects include: Hunger, Mind = Blown, Sudden gripping urge to buy pork bellies.

    Everyone loves it. The problem is that most store bought bacon is to some degree, ****. The problem is that most bacon these days is wet cured, this means injecting a brine solution into the meat. Check the ingredients next time you are in a supermarket and you will see that in some cases your "bacon" is less than 70% pork. All that water suspended in the meat then comes out while cooking, which if frying can lower the pan temperature to the point where you are broiling the meat instead of frying it. A common result is that the bacon smells great but doesn't cook up the way it ought too.

    Two thirds of a cup of water squeezed from only 1 slice of bacon?! If i wanted water i'd turn on the tap, some bastard is having a laugh while selling this. While some fancy bacons can deliver, these can cost upwards of $30-50/kg. Clearly drastic action needs to be taken to correct this terrible situation.

    Now what would your reaction be if I told you that you could have bacon, better bacon than you have ever tasted, for around $12 / kg?
    Cries that I must be mad? Since bacon costs so much it must be hard to make right?
    Threats of violence for getting your hopes up?



    So what's the bare minimum you are going to need?
    • Pork belly - these go on special at Pak'n'Save for $11/kg regularly. Look for ones with even thickness and meat at both ends, basically the bigger and thicker the better but skip ones with a bit mound of fat on one side (it's cheaper to buy lard if you want the fat).
    • Pink salt - Not the flash Himalayain salt, pink salt contains 6.3(ish)% sodium nitrate. Also known as Prague Powder, Curing Salt #1. While not essential to making bacon, I strongly recommend it. It fixes the pink colour in the meat, prevents spoilage and aids in that 'bacony' taste. Available on TradeMe very cheap.
    • Non iodised table salt - works with the pink salt to cure the meat and prevent spoilage.

    Depending on the taste profile you want the sky is the limit, but typically the only other ingredients I use are fresh ground black pepper and garlic powder.
    A boning knife makes this job easier but isn't essential as long as you have a proper sharp knife.
    Those black mats are also very handy for stopping cutting boards slipping on bench tops, available from Moore Wilsons by the roll for less than $10.

    The cure mix i've been using is as follows:
    100g Non Iodised Salt
    100g Brown Sugar (i've been using the darkest kind I could find)
    20g Garlic powder
    20g Fresh cracked pepper
    12g Pink Salt
    This creates enough mix for 5kg of bellly, at around 55g/kg. So a 1.8kg belly would need around 94g of cure mix.

    The first thing we need to do is prepare the bellies by removing the corner of bone that is often present. (pic1) Place the belly skin side up and while pulling up on the corner, slide the knife along the bone leaving as much meat as possible on the belly. (pic2) Turn over and slice under the flap of meat at the point indicated to peel it back and expose the cartilage that runs diagonally (pic3). (pic4) completely remove the bones, save if you happen to be doing a slow cook at some point as they would cook up pretty awesome (much like ribs but faster i guess)

    Weigh out the amount of cure you need based on the weight of the belly and then coat the belly, making sure to get into all those meaty nooks and crannys. Rub some on the skin but use the majority on the meat, making sure not to forget the sides. Using a roasting pan lined with baking paper keeps this process relatively tidy (I only have a pic of the first time i did it when i used a container that was a bit too small)

    Cure sprinkled on, about to rub in.

    Then promptly place the belly in resealable glad bags since a brine will start forming immediately as the salt draws liquid from the belly, then chuck it in the fridge. Use a vivid to note the date that you started the process on the bag, this is especially important if you do a couple of batches at once that started on different days. Here i've also noted the cost of each belly since i'm selling some on to people.

    All you need to do now is turn the bags over every 2 days, on the 7th day check the meat and if it feels firm you are done. If it still feels squishy give it another day or two. Take the meat out of the bag and rinse it under cold water, dry with paper towels removing as much moisture as possible. Slice off a bit, fry it up (medium / medium low heat) and check if it is too salty, if it is soak in water for an hour, drain and check again. You now have bacon that tastes frickin' amazing and it would be a perfectly rational act to cut cook and eat slice after slice until it is all gone.

    Removing the rind before slicing makes it easier to slice, so does chilling the meat to near freezing to firm it up. If you only have a knife to cut it with it may cut a bit thick, but that's hardly a bad thing


    "There's more?" I hear you cry. There's more. We can take something that is already amazing and turn it up to 11, with smoke.

    After you've removed your bellies from the bags, rinsed and dried them they need to go back in the fridge skin side down on a cake rack, this allows the outside to dry and form a pellicle (the bacon will feel sticky or tacky). The pellicle helps smoke adsorbtion. The ones in the middle have been out of bags for 2 days, the others are fresh out of bags.

    Ideally if you are cold smoking you want to keep the temperature below 36C or so, you can hot smoke if you like but it is unnecessary if you have used curing salt.
    In the cold smoker, getting the treatment. (HowTo post on doing this on a weber is coming)

    For the amount of effort that goes in to making this (barely any really) it's absurd that the result tastes so good, and yet it does. Best of all when sliced thick the depth of flavour really comes through when used as an ingredient in a dish or as lardons for salads, unlike regular thinly sliced watery bacon.

    I'll leave you with the best tasting Fettuccine Carbonara that i've ever cooked, thanks totally to this bacon.
    Last edited by Egor; 24th May 2014 at 3:07 pm. Reason: Removed image from memegenerator.net which was throwing malware warnings

  2. Post
    Keen as **** to try this, thanks heaps.

  3. Post
    Great write up. I throw so much money at beehive streaky bacon, this looks even nicer.

  4. Post
    This single thread is justification for this subforum

  5. Post
    Holy fark man! Great thread! Love the title too.

    Saw the smoker build one first then this I haven't even read it all yet, just had to post to instantly say how cool this is!

    I have a piece of pork belly in the freezer earmarked for an attempt at bacon for a long time, but have never got round to it. I think I may have to get onto it. Inspired!

  6. Post
    yeah I'm definately trying this on the weekend

  7. Post
    keen as

  8. Post
    Everyone should come and buy some bacon from the butcher shop I work at, its epic. Also, [shameless advertising forums]

  9. Post
    ErAd wrote:
    Everyone should come and buy some bacon from the butcher shop I work at, its epic. Also, [shameless advertising forums]
    which is?

  10. Post
    Win thread! So going to try this, nice one!

  11. Post
    awesome stuff, will be making some sometime.

  12. Post
    Wow, great thread and salivating already. Yes, the name Pavlov does ring a bell.

  13. Post
    linkdown wrote:
    which is?
    Better Butchers of Mt Eden, Auckland.

  14. Post
    Conebeast wrote:
    This single thread is justification for this subforum
    this is easily the best sub-forum on gp

  15. Post
    Bought my Prague Powder off TradeMe for $5.50 for 100g. Now to keep and eye out for cheap pork belly.

  16. Post
    Good on ya spanked Thanks for the great feedback everyone.
    Don't get too caught up waiting for a special, most places charge ~$15/kg for pork bellies when not on special and that's still an excellent price for some of the best tasting bacon ever. Get one in the fridge now, then stock up when it's on special

    I also found out that the two middle 'bellies' in the fridge shot were what moore wilson call "belly cut shoulder" and in my haste i'd bought it thinking it was proper pork belly. Instead I ended up making shoulder bacon, which has a different texture but still tastes pretty excellent. It is also a bit leaner so something to keep in mind if you are wanting to make health-concious(ish) bacon.

  17. Post
    I'm going to be giving this a go tomorrow, I'm pretty excited

  18. Post
    Jesus, this definitely can contaminate my precious bodily fluids any time it wants to.

  19. Post
    Another thing worth noting, because this is dry cured if you cook the bacon with the rind on it can turn into crackling rather than the typical inedible rubber from wet cured bacons. I only discovered this with this batch as the first lot I took the skin off.

    Place the strips in a cold pan and turn the heat to low/medlow, then as the fat is rendering well, turn the heat to about medium and finish cooking. Use your judgement since you can see it crackling as it cooks and the lower the temp the more margin for error.

    For this reason i'll probably experiment next time with scoring the rind before rubbing in the mix to get better salt penetration. I'm not sure if it'll have an effect so i'll do a side by side test. I've got 2kg of bacon to eat my way through first though

  20. Post
    Deadm3at wrote:
    Good on ya spanked Thanks for the great feedback everyone.
    Don't get too caught up waiting for a special, most places charge ~$15/kg for pork bellies when not on special and that's still an excellent price for some of the best tasting bacon ever. Get one in the fridge now, then stock up when it's on special
    Excellent idea. The salt arrived today, so nothing to stop me, lol.

  21. Post
    too much work.

    better ways to save money

    honey cured bacon bought from the supermarket tastes good enough for me

  22. Post
    fr0za wrote:
    too much work.

    better ways to save money

    honey cured bacon bought from the supermarket tastes good enough for me
    Go ahead, tell us, oh wise one.

  23. Post
    There's simply no accounting for peoples' taste. Some people think instant coffee is good.

    Deadm3at wrote:
    i've also noted the cost of each belly since i'm selling some on to people.
    I'm intrigued and wish to sign up to this newsletter, please tell me more.

  24. Post
    have started my first baconing. Looking foward to next weekend when I get to try my first cold smoking

  25. Post
    The person that said 'as good as gold' was talking about bacon, give people free samples and they'll beat a path to your door. I had a problem with my car, took it unbooked to my mechanic and he spent the next 20ish minutes fixing it, dropped him off half a kilo of bacon the next day that cost me $7 or so and he was a very happy man when I spoke to him next.

    Next time I do it, rather than noting the price per belly i'll make a note of the initial weight (probably write it directly on the rind for easy reference, once sliced you won't notice it) and compare it to the weight of the initial product to see how much shrinkage there is. Some weight is lost when you remove the bone/cartilage and some liquid is lost in the brine although that's probably negligible. How much you dry it before smoking it will also change things a small amount. Work this out for half a dozen or so bellies and you ought to be able to come up with an average figure that can be used in the future to calculate the final $/kg that the meat cost.

    Adding to the cost of the meat is the cost of the cure ingredients, this will be pretty low due to them all being pretty cheap and only needed in small quantities/kg.

    Add the cost of the materials used for smoking, if you use a bag of heat beads to smoke 10kg of belly, then the cost of those bellies has gone up by ~$1.40/kg. I probably used about half a bag for 9hours smoking, but that's a guess since I used recycled coals for this round. I need to do some experimenting around what the least number of coals/vents you can sustain a snake burn with.

    Packaging, if you're selling bacon to your friends and putting it in plastic bags that cost adds up and should be accounted for. I used glad wrap this time to save a few cents and told people to break it down themselves. i presliced it at my local deli on their slicer, you want it near frozen but still bendable, I of course bribed the deli owner with bacon (make a note of roughly how much you give away, defray that cost over the rest that you are selling). Even if using gladwrap you still need to account for the bags used to cure.

    Lastly get an idea of how much time you are putting in. For example the 6 bellies (about 4kg) pictured in that 'mise en place' pic took me about an hour to get into the fridge. That's mixing up the cure, deboning, curing and bagging. Now that i've 'built' my smoker, the next time I do a batch it won't take much time (of actual hands on work time i mean) to smoke. So if it took me about 2 hours at say $20/hr for the 4kg it adds $10/kg. There is an excellent chance for economies of scale here, enough that next time bellies are on special i'm considering going large and doing a _lot_.

    So if we use 5% shrinkage as a guess:
    1kg @ $12 becomes around 1kg @12.6
    cure ingredients (at a guess) $0.20 /kg
    smoking ~$0.70 /kg
    packaging (another guess) $0.30 /kg

    So the rough total per/kg might be $14/kg, selling at this price means you've covered the cost of buying and processing the bellies into bacon. I've told a mate that shops at Pak'n'Save i'll supply him bacon at this cost price if he keeps an eye out and alerts me to when bellies go on special.

    If i add time at the rate I mentioned for this batch and sell it at $24/kg, it means anyone buying it from me is paying me $20/hr of work. At $30/kg it's $32/hour.

    Be careful about selling too blatently of course lest you fall foul of the Food Bill, since you probably need a commercial kitchen if you intend to make any real money.

    Not everything is about saving money, that is just a nice side effect. Taste and quality aside part of what is satisfying about this is reconnecting with something that used to be commonplace in kitchens prior to the advent of refrigeration.