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Maple-Cured Smoked Bacon

Updated April 08, 2016
This image courtesy of Yevgeniy Solovyev

Editor's Note: We're pretty fortunate in this day and age to not have to preserve our own meats every time we want a taste of bacon, but if you have the time, no store-bought variety tastes quite as good as this homemade bacon recipe. This Maple-Cured Smoked Bacon has a sweet and smoky taste that's mouthwatering on its own, and when paired with your Sunday typical breakfast it delivers a burst of flavor that you won't soon forget. Curing bacon takes several days so you'll need to prepare in advance, but it's well worth the wait for this maple bacon recipe that you need to try.
Today, when people no longer need to preserve food to survive, this recipe is a powerful reminder of America’s rich culinary history. Likely made popular by English settlers in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries (all manner of cured pork sides were, writes Alan Davidson in The Oxford Companion to Food, “peculiarly a product of the British Isles”), cured or smoked pork has long been a part of our cooking, essential in regional specialties from New England chowders to Southern succotash. Making your own bacon embodies all the reasons we should take the time to do it at home. There maybe no better flavor than good bacon, and even if you only have a charcoal grill, you can achieve excellent results. Many small producers make excellent versions of bacon in this country, varying with time of the cure and the seasonings used. This recipe is for a sweeter bacon. There should be some sugar or sweetness to balance the salt, but if you prefer a more savory taste, omit the maple syrup. If you like black pepper, add it to the cure. Seasonings can very infinitely, but it is the curing and the smoke that make bacon one of the greatest flavors on earth.

Serves4 pounds/2 kilograms smoked slab bacon

Cooking MethodCuring, Smoking

CostInexpensive

Total Timea day or more

Make Ahead RecipeYes

Dietary ConsiderationEgg-free, Gluten-free, Lactose-free, Peanut Free, Soy Free, Tree Nut Free

EquipmentSmoker

Five Ingredients or LessYes

Taste and TextureMeaty, Salty, Savory, Smoky, Sweet

Ingredients

  • 2 ounces/50 grams kosher salt (about ¼ cup)
  • 2 teaspoons/12 grams pink salt
  • ¼ cup/50 grams maple sugar or packed dark brown sugar
  • ¼ cup/60 milliliters maple syrup
  • One 5-pound/2.25 kilogram slab pork belly, skin on

Instructions

  1. Combine the salt, pink salt, and sugar in a bowl and mix so that the ingredients are evenly distributed. Add the syrup and stir to combine.

  2. Rub the cure mixture over the entire surface of the belly. Place skin side down in a 2-gallon Ziploc bag or a nonreactive container just slightly bigger than the meat. (The pork will release water into the salt mixture, creating a brine; it’s important that the meat keep in contact with this liquid throughout the curing process.)

  3. Refrigerate, turning the belly and redistributing the cure every other day, for 7 days, until the meat is firm to the touch.

  4. Remove the belly from the cure, rinse it thoroughly, and pat it dry. Place it on a rack set over a baking sheet tray and dry in the refrigerator, uncovered, for 12 to 24 hours.

  5. Hot-smoke the pork belly to an internal temperature of 150 degrees F./65 degrees C., about 3 hours. Let cool slightly, and when the belly is cool enough to handle but still warm, cut the skin off by sliding a sharp knife between the fat and the skin, leaving as much fat on the bacon as possible. (Discard the skin or cut it into pieces and save to add to soups, stews or beans, as you would a smoked ham hock.)

  6. Let the bacon cool, then wrap in plastic and refrigerate or freeze it until ready to use.

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