I've been using this recipe (via Neo-Homesteading, via Alton Brown) for the last couple months to make homemade bacon.
What can I say, we love bacon.
To make said crispy, chewy, salty, smoky, pork-y goodness at home, all natural, with no preservatives is pretty danged awesome. I love being awesome,and experiencing awesomeness (who doesn't?) so making my own bacon is perfect.
I've tweaked the recipe for my own use, and it is simple enough. You'll need:
10 lbs pork belly, skin on
1/4 cup crushed black pepper
1 cup kosher salt
12 oz molasses
6oz liquid smoke (we like hickory)
4 quarts of water
Brining: In a large pot combine half of the water with the salt and sugar. Bring to a boil and whisk to dissolve. Remove from heat and combine with remaining water. If you use extra cold water/and or ice it will cool the solution much faster.
I can only find pork belly in my area in 4-5lb pieces, which works well, since my poor, tired, abuse grill will only hold 2 sections of that size at a time.
Cut pork belly in half to make it more manageable, if you get larger sections. Rub pepper liberally onto all sides of the meat.
If you brine for more than 4 days, your bacon will have lost some of the pepper. I rub another layer on while it's brined, drying and waiting to be smoked.
Smoking- (you will need charcoal, wood chips and a smoker)
Prepare your smoker, If your using a charcoal grill or other standard hot smoker you will prepare the hot coals and soak wood chips. Place wood chips onto the hot coals. If possible monitor the temperature. Ideally you want it to be under 200 degrees at all times, but not below 140. (140 and below is cold smoking) Smoke bellies 3-4 hours. If your smoker/grill drops too low in temperature you can finish them off in an 180- 200 degree oven. The internal temperature should be about 160 degrees.
I have a gas grill that can also be used as a charcoal grill. The thing is so old I've modified it for my own use, and removed one side of the grates. I don't bother with many wood chips …I use twigs, branches that have fallen out of our big oak tree during storms that I've cut or broken to size. I put them in an a couple of old plastic dishpan full of water while the pork bellies dry off. I put the bellies on the grate and leave that burner off,on the other side I turn the flame on low and use the soaked branches, along with a couple dry ones, to slowly and steadily feed the fire and create smoke. I have to keep the hood cracked, to allow some of the heat to escape, but I put foil around the sides with the fire to direct the smoke around the belllies. Not very classy, but it works.
I hate to waste anything. so..why not put the fat and skin to good use?
Dog Treats- The skin I removed was made into dog treats. I do not have a dog and if you don't either, I'm sure you know someone who has a dog who would LOVE YOU forever. Simply slice the skin into reasonable sized pieces. Scrape off excess fat using the back of a spoon…although I love my pups so much I sometimes leave it on.
Dry the skin out in an oven by baking them in a 300 degree oven on a cooling rack. This can take up to an hour.
Love Jar (totally stole this phrase, by the way)- The excess fat can be melted slowly over medium-low heat in sauce pot until it's melted. Pour it in a jar and voila! Bacon love.