Makin’ Bacon

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Almost seven years ago, I taught myself how to perserve. Since then, I spend almost every Saturday in summer pickling something after hitting up the Jackson Hole Farmers Market. My kitchen currently has two dozen jars of pickled green tomatoes, corn relish, dill pickles, pickled beets, dilly beans, raspberry jam and raspberry syrup (the product of jam that never set). I love the science behind this simple process: measuring exact amounts of ingredients, processing the jars for certain amounts of time. I think I like the precision.

So it was natural when one recent day I looked at my husband and said that I wanted to cure our own bacon. And on our last visit to Trio two weeks ago, I told owner Will Bradof about my latest kitchen quest. (Bradof has his own interest in curing meats. Make sure to get his house-made pate next time you’re in the restaurant. It’s part of the charcuterie plate, which seems to keep getting bigger and bigger. Not that I’m complaining.)

“Come in tomorrow afternoon,” he said.

So in I went the next afternoon, and he gave me a slab of pork belly, some juniper berries (ensuring I owned a spice grinder), some pink salt (it’s to prevent botulism, don’t worry about that, he said) and a book. Then, he sent me on my way with a few tips, like using brown sugar (instead of white) and fennel.

At home, I used the cure recipe from the book and did as Bradof told me with the fennel and sugar. Every day or so, I repacked the cure around the slab as the liquid seeped out. While the directions said I only needed to let it cure for one week, lots of powder skiing meant little time to cook dinner. So it ended up sitting in the fridge a few extra days.

When I took it out Saturday, I baked half of it in the oven for 2 hours at 200 degrees Fahrenheit, then diced it to make carbonara.

We found the first half too salty, so I let the second half soak in water for 24 hours to leech out some of the salt before I baked it. The result was a perfectly flavored piece of pork, with hints of brown sugar and fennel in every bite, more like a pancetta than a bacon. The other night I diced few pieces, sauteed them and threw them in with our arugula salad.

It was really quite easy, much easier than standing over a steaming pot of jars on a hot summer day. I’ll probably never buy bacon from the store again. And I think I’ve found a new hobby.

Notes: You can’t find pink salt in town. It has to be purchased online. This place looks reasonable. Find pork belly at Aspens Market.

 

 

 

 

Basic Dry Cure

Ingredients

  • 1 pound/450 grams kosher salt
  • 8 ounces/225 grams sugar
  • 2 ounces/50 grams pink salt

Instructions

  • Mix ingredients.
http://dishingjh.com/makin-bacon/

I ground black pepper, juniper berries and fennel and added them to this cure. Though normally I am a measurer, I just eyed amounts on these. Then, I packed the cure around the pork belly, putting a layer on the bottom and packing it around the sides.

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About Author

Also originally from the South, Cara Rank discovered cooking was a creative outlet that helped her relax after long days writing magazine and newspaper articles during the past eight years in Jackson. Really, she just missed Southern food. A lot. During a 12-year career as a journalist, Cara has won numerous awards for her work and has written about everything from rodeo queens to Dolly Parton tomatoes. She spends her weekends making jars of pickles and jam and amazing dinners for friends. She loves shishito peppers, Chicago-style hot dogs and elderflower-spiked cocktails.

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