Bringing home the bacon

It’s been awhile since the last batch of home smoked bacon. I’ve been saying for months now that I would do another batch, but something always seemed to get in the way. Since I was feeling particularly energetic last weekend, I went ahead and broke out one of the pork bellies from the freezer, chopped it in half, set it to brine (pink salt, maple syrup, brown sugar, black pepper), and stuck it in the fridge for a week, turning it every day.

Today was smoking day. The wood of choice for this round? Apple. Last time it was hickory, but I thought the applewood and black pepper would go together pretty well.

Three hours at 200 degrees gave me this.

The left slab is meat side up, the right is skin side up. I’ve seen arguments back and forth about leaving the skin on versus taking it off before smoking, but quite honestly, taking it off before smoking is more of a pain than taking it off after, so around here it stays on.

The side view.

Are you ready for your closeup?

I removed the skin with as thin as possible a fat layer attached, and then started slicing – some thick, some thin, and some in a mini size. After all, sometimes you want big loads of bacon and sometimes you don’t.

Of course, no smoking day is complete without taste testing. The ends and the weird shaped pieces – since the bellies are not just uniform square slabs – go into the pan.

If I were truly devoted, I’d save that bacon grease for cooking: making up a batch of collards, or to use for browning some onions and garlic as the base for baked corn. But I don’t like collards, and we don’t have any corn at the moment, so away it goes. Unfortunately, I also can’t eat bacon since my treatment, so I enjoy the smells that go along with it while everyone else wolfs it down.