Are you a fan of bacon and other cured meats? Have you ever wondered how to make your own salt pork or bacon at home?
Look no further than curing pork belly with salt! This simple and easy process involves rubbing a spiced salt mixture onto the pork belly and allowing it to cure in the refrigerator for several days.
The result is a flavorful and firm meat that can be sliced thinly and fried like bacon or used as a flavoring in dishes like chowders and baked beans.
In this article, we’ll explore different methods for curing pork belly with salt, so you can enjoy delicious homemade cured meats anytime.
How To Cure Pork Belly With Salt?
There are several methods for curing pork belly with salt, each with its own unique flavor and texture. Here are some of the most popular methods:
Why Cure Pork Belly With Salt?
Curing pork belly with salt is a traditional method of preserving meat that has been used for centuries. The process involves rubbing the pork belly with a mixture of salt and spices and allowing it to sit for several days or weeks. During this time, the salt draws out moisture from the meat, which helps to preserve it and intensify its flavor.
One of the main reasons to cure pork belly with salt is to extend its shelf life. When properly cured, salt pork can be stored in the refrigerator for up to two weeks, or frozen for even longer. This makes it a convenient ingredient to have on hand for a variety of dishes.
Another benefit of curing pork belly with salt is that it adds a unique flavor and texture to the meat. The salt draws out some of the moisture, making the meat firmer and more concentrated in flavor. This makes it a great addition to soups, stews, and other dishes where you want a rich, savory flavor.
Curing pork belly with salt also allows you to control the level of saltiness in the meat. By making your own salt pork, you can adjust the amount of salt used in the curing process to suit your taste preferences.
Choosing The Right Pork Belly
When it comes to curing pork belly with salt, choosing the right cut of meat is crucial. Look for a piece of pork belly that is well-marbled with fat and has an even thickness. Avoid any cuts that have a lot of connective tissue or are too lean, as they may not yield the desired texture and flavor.
It’s also important to consider the quality of the pork belly. Look for meat that is fresh and has not been previously frozen. If possible, choose pork belly from a trusted source, such as a local butcher or farmer’s market.
When selecting pork belly for curing, keep in mind the type of dish you plan to use it in. If you’re making bacon, for example, you may want to choose a leaner cut of meat. On the other hand, if you’re using the cured pork belly in a stew or soup, a fattier cut may be preferable.
Preparing The Salt Mixture
Before you start curing your pork belly with salt, you need to prepare the salt mixture. This mixture will not only add flavor to the pork belly but also draw out moisture, making it firmer. Here’s how to prepare the salt mixture:
– 1/2 cup kosher salt
– 1/4 cup sugar
– 2 teaspoons pink curing salt (also known as Prague powder)
– Spices of your choice (such as peppercorns, cloves, allspice berries, juniper berries, hot red pepper flakes, bay leaves, thyme, and garlic)
1. In a bowl, combine kosher salt, sugar, and pink curing salt. Mix well.
2. If using whole spices, grind them in a spice grinder or mortar and pestle until coarse.
3. Add the spices to the bowl with the salt mixture and mix well.
4. Rub the salt mixture all over the pork belly, making sure to coat it evenly.
5. If using additional flavorings like garlic or wine, rub them onto the pork belly as well.
6. Place the pork belly in a zip-top bag or on a tray and cover it with any remaining salt mixture.
7. Seal the bag or cover the tray with plastic wrap and refrigerate for several days (depending on the thickness of the pork belly), flipping it over daily and pouring off any liquid that accumulates.
8. After the curing period is over, rinse off all the seasonings under cold water and pat dry with paper towels.
By following these steps to prepare your salt mixture, you can create your own customized cured pork belly with just the right amount of saltiness and flavor. Whether you prefer it sliced thinly and fried like bacon or used as a flavorful ingredient in soups and stews, cured pork belly is a versatile ingredient that can add depth and richness to many dishes.
Rubbing And Curing The Pork Belly
One popular method for curing pork belly with salt is by rubbing it with a mixture of dry ingredients. Start by selecting your desired blend of spices, such as peppercorns, cloves, allspice berries, juniper berries, and hot red pepper flakes. Grind them in a spice grinder or mortar and pestle until coarse. Mix the spices with nutmeg, kosher salt, and curing salt.
Take a 10-pound piece of pork belly with the skin still on and rub the spice and salt mixture all over it. Then, peel and coarsely chop one head of garlic and combine it with 1/2 cup red wine. Rub this mixture onto the meat as well. The wine helps the salt penetrate the meat more effectively.
Next, place the meat on a metal rack on a sheet pan with sides to allow airflow. Leave it in the refrigerator for a week, turning it over daily and pouring off any liquid that accumulates. The curing time may vary depending on the thickness of the belly, but it usually takes one to two weeks for the salts to penetrate to the center.
After curing, rinse the belly under cold running water and pat it dry with paper towels. You can then refrigerate it tightly wrapped for up to a month or freeze it. To cook, slice it thinly and fry it up as you would bacon or pancetta. It’s especially delicious as crisp lardons in a salad.
Another method involves mixing brown sugar, maple syrup, whiskey/bourbon/apple juice, salt, curing salt, and peppers together in a medium mixing bowl. Rub this mixture all over the pork belly and place it in a 2-gallon zip-top bag. Massage the rub and juices that will develop around in the bag daily for seven days. Flip the bag daily to ensure even curing.
Regardless of which method you choose, be sure to follow food safety guidelines and keep the meat below 40°F (4°C) during curing. With some patience and attention to detail, you can cure your own delicious pork belly with salt at home!
Storing And Using Your Homemade Salt Pork Or Bacon
Once you have successfully cured your pork belly with salt, you may be wondering how to store and use it. Here are some tips for storing and using your homemade salt pork or bacon:
1. Refrigeration: Salt pork and bacon should be stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container or wrapped tightly in plastic wrap. Properly stored, salt pork can last up to two weeks in the refrigerator, while bacon can last up to a week.
2. Freezing: If you want to store your salt pork or bacon for longer than two weeks, you can freeze it. Wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and then place it in a freezer-safe container or freezer bag. Salt pork and bacon can be stored in the freezer for several months.
3. Slicing: When you are ready to use your salt pork or bacon, slice it thinly against the grain. This will help it cook evenly and make it easier to chew.
4. Cooking: Salt pork and bacon can be used in a variety of dishes, from soups and stews to pasta dishes and breakfast foods. When cooking with salt pork or bacon, keep in mind that it is already salty, so you may need to adjust the amount of salt you add to your dish.
5. Soaking: If your salt pork or bacon is too salty for your taste, you can soak it in cold water for a few hours before cooking. This will help remove some of the excess salt.
By following these tips, you can enjoy the delicious flavor of homemade salt pork or bacon in a variety of dishes.
Tips And Tricks For Perfectly Cured Pork Belly
Curing pork belly with salt is a delicate process that requires attention to detail and patience. Here are some tips and tricks to ensure that your pork belly turns out perfectly:
1. Use high-quality pork belly: The quality of your pork belly will greatly affect the final product. Look for pork belly with a good balance of fat and meat, and try to source it from a reputable butcher or farmer’s market.
2. Dry the pork belly thoroughly: Before you begin the curing process, make sure to pat the pork belly dry with paper towels. Any excess moisture can lead to spoilage or uneven curing.
3. Use the right amount of salt: It’s important to use the correct amount of salt when curing pork belly. Too little salt can lead to spoilage, while too much salt can result in an overly salty product. A good rule of thumb is to use about 1-2% of the weight of the pork belly in salt.
4. Add flavorings for extra depth: While a simple salt cure can be delicious on its own, adding additional flavorings such as herbs, spices, or even alcohol can take your cured pork belly to the next level.
5. Flip the pork belly regularly: To ensure even curing, it’s important to flip the pork belly every day or two so that it bastes evenly in its own liquid.
6. Monitor temperature and humidity: During the hanging process, it’s important to keep the temperature and humidity at optimal levels. Aim for a temperature of around 50-55°F (10-13°C) and a relative humidity of around 65%.
7. Be patient: Curing pork belly takes time – typically 5-7 days in the refrigerator and several more days hanging to dry. Resist the temptation to rush the process, as this can result in an under-cured or spoiled product.
By following these tips and tricks, you can create delicious, perfectly cured pork belly that will impress your friends and family.