One expression of my distinctly non-kosher upbringing is that I developed early on a great appreciation for bacon. And while I haven't developed bacon-mania to the degree some people have -- with their bacon-wrapped everything and bacon explosions and for heaven's sake bacon ice cream -- it is still my favorite partner with breakfast foods such as eggs, pancakes and french toast, an awesome topper for many sandwiches and a great addition to myriad dishes.
Yet throughout my entire life, I have never attempted to cure bacon at home.
My inspiration for my latest kitchen adventure is a book called Ruhlman's Twenty by Michael Ruhlman. Although Ruhlman, the author of several cookbooks, includes numerous recipes, the book is structured as an exploration of 20 principles of cooking. And in Chapter 2, titled "Salt: Your Most Important Tool," are instructions for how to cure bacon at home.
The instructions are really very simple. Whether the finished product is good is something we won't know until next week, because the slab of pork -- which I coated with a combination of kosher salt (yes, I get the irony), brown sugar, garlic cloves, black pepper and red pepper flakes -- is supposed to rest in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for seven days. I will then roast it for about an hour at 200 degrees. After it cools, it will then be ready to be sliced and cooked as bacon.
The Ruhlman recipe calls for a five-pound slab of pork belly. Since I am not making bacon for an army, and since this is a first-time experiment, I decided to go with a piece of a bit less than two pounds that I obtained from Jake's Country Meats of Cassopolis, Michigan, which has a stall at Chicago's Green City Market.
Now here's what the meat looks like when coated with that curing mixture.
Placed in a one-gallon Ziploc bag, it is now resting in the fridge. I'll keep you posted on the changes wrought in the curing process, and of course will let you know how this all turns out next week.