24 March, 2011

Home-Cured Back Bacon

I had been thinking of making back bacon (also known in the US as "Canadian bacon") for some time. Though the cure and process is just about identical to the "regular" kind, back bacon is made from pork loin rather than belly.  I got an awesome deal on an untrimmed bone-in whole pork loin not too long ago, and after making a top-notch pork roast for dinner in the beginning of the week, I decided to use the center part of the cut for back bacon.  So, using a meat cleaver I took off a section of the whole roast that would yield about five pounds when the ribs were out.

The first step is removing the rib and chine bones from the loin. This is mad easy - using a long, sharp boning knife and the ribs themselves as a guide, cut between the loin and the ribs to remove them.

This shot is also a great way to look at the loin. That big round muscle on the left is the actual loin - the part you'd buy if you were buying a "boneless pork loin roast" (or, if you buy "bone less pork chops" you'd be getting that muscle cut into slices.)  The long muscle at the top of the cut, well sheathed in fat, is the "tail" of the cut and would normally be removed before curing back bacon.  I left it on so I could have a more UK-style bacon.

After the meat is trimmed of the bone, it's time for curing. For the five-pound loin, I used:

¼ cup Kosher salt
2 teaspoons InstaCure #1 ("pink salt")
¼ cup dry glaze packet swiped from a spiral ham (see  below)
3 tablespoons coarsely-ground black pepper
2 teaspoons dried thyme
3 bay leaves, broken up into tiny bits

The spiral ham glaze is made of sugar, dried powdered honey, and spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, and a hint of clove. I had bought a spiral ham at ALDI awhile ago and cooked it without the glaze, but when I read the glaze ingredients I thought it would be just the thing for a bacon cure and held on to it.  If I didn't have the glaze packet, I would have used a straight-up ¼ cup of brown sugar.  Mix the ingredients for the rub thoroughly together.

Put the loin into a plastic ziplock bag and massage it all over with every bit of the curing rub. Don't just dump the rub into the bag with the loin, either.  Put the cure in the bag a handful at a time and rub it into the meat as you go along.  When all the cure is used up, seal the plastic bag and set it into your refrigerator for 5 to 7 days.  It will look something like this when you first put it in...

...and it will look like this three days later when you pull it out of the fridge to give it a bit of a massage half-way through.  Notice how the rub has drawn some of the moisture out of the meat.  The cure is well underway.

Five days later, it's time to pull the meat out of the cure and finish it up.   Preheat your oven to 250 F.  Remove the meat from the refrigerator and take it out of the plastic bag.  Rinse it off well under cool running water, gently running your hand along the surface to knock off most of the clinging bits of herbs.  The meat might look a little grey, but that's nothing to worry about.  After rinsing, pat it dry with a paper towel and put it on a rack in a roasting pan.  Back bacon is usually unsmoked, so for this batch I just put it in the oven at 250 F with a temperature probe inserted in the thickest part of the loin muscle to indicate when the internal temperature got to 150 F.  This approximately five-pound chunk of pigmeat took about 3 hours.;  A nice low temperature is essential to cook the pork without melting out all of the treasured fat it contains.

The chunk of bacon is out of the oven and looks awesome.  This point, by the way, is the hardest part about making homemade bacon:  Not eating it before it's been wrapped and chilled.  Tightly wrapping the unsliced bacon and putting it in the refrigerator overnight sets the juices in the meat and makes it much easier to slice.  I cheated a little and cut off the barest sliver of bacon to taste it.  Cue choir of angels - it turned out incredible.  It was all I could do not to slice the whole thing up right then and there and NOM THE HELL OUT OF IT.  But no, I wrapped it up and quietly set it into the fridge to chill.

The next day, take the bacon out of the fridge and use a meat slicer or a sharp carving knife to pare off thin slices from the end.  On the rib side of the meat, the slices will look like wafer-thin pork chops, with a large round loin muscle and some belly fat and meat as a "tail." These slices were taken from the other side - the loin side of the cut - because I wanted some streaks of fat along with the big areas of lean.

 Brown the slices slowly over low heat in a dry skillet - the meat will caramelize and the fatty parts will brown and crisp up as some of the remaining fat is rendered.

My version, using the ALDI spiral ham glaze instead of brown sugar, was totally awesome.  The hints of cinnamon and clove in the glaze gave the bacon a flavor very reminiscent of Chinese char sui pork while still retaining the hamminess typical of back bacon.  It was a huge hit with the family (Huzzah! That gives me an excuse to do it again!)


EatinistBitch said...

WOW. that looks fantastic, and incredibly easy. most canadian bacon i see doesn't look anything like that!

Marc said...

Make this stuff all the time with whole boneless pork loins. (fyi/ With coupon at ShopRite 99 cents/lb with an additional $15 purchase). My first were always dry cured but the last couple of times I went with a wet (brine) brine cure and really like it.
With the dry, I almost always ended up doing a soak before smoking to bring down the salt level a bit. It seems like it's easier
to control the salt level in the finished product with the brine since it's basically going to an equilibrium.
However, I am doing a "five spice" dry cure on a half loin. Not sure if I'll smoke that one... Also have an Apple/Rosemary brine going on two others.
Great post Dave!

Michelle_Randy said...

That looks incredibly delicious.

scruffdog9 said...

Looks great i usually use the mortons tenderquick 1 tbl spoon per pound and 1 tsp per pound then make a varity of flavors wi them. I usually use a well trimmed pork loin.asaside note you can make a awesome breakfast fatty using a cb.
great blog btw always something to get interested in

scruffdog9 said...

tsp of sugar