See part 1 – Charcuterie – Bacon and Pancetta
See part 2 – Bacon and pancetta finished curing – part 2
The pancetta looks lovely after a day of hanging, it has a nice fat sheen on it and smells heavenly. Thirteen or so days to go.
On to the bacon. I let it sit in the fridge for maybe 19 hours. The book, Charcuterie, by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn, says 12 – 24 hours. Then, it is to be hot smoked at 200 degrees F until the internal temperature is 150 degrees F. Unless you have a proper smoker, this is not as easy as it may seem. I have an old gas grill, so I figured I would fire up half of it on low and see it I could get the temperature stable at 200 degrees F.
Very difficult to control the temperature in a very old gas grill. Adding to that is the thermometer probe setting, which moves regardless of if it is stuck through the hole or just laid so the lid will not crush it. It is not going to be where you really want it. I also realized pretty quickly that every spot is going to have a different temperature. Not exact science, here, folks.
I finally got to a little over 200 degrees F and figured I had to put the damn bacon in. I put a square metal pan on the grill and laid the bacon slab on top of it. This kept the slab off the grill and father from the heat source. I had previously soaked some hickory chips in water and put a few on the lava stones above the flame source. I had it on a very low setting. I was quite cautious with the wood chips, as I have ruined steaks before with too much smoke from mesquite chips.
It was essentially impossible to truly regulate the temperature. I just went with it, varied the flame and moved the temperature probe around. I was pretty close. Finally, I inserted the probe into the meat to monitor internal temperature, the bacon must come to an internal temperature of 150 degrees F. I got it up to 140 degrees F after about 2 1/2 hours. I had added more wood chips a couple of times and there was smoke coming out of the enclosed grill. The bacon slab had colored up nicely and was looking very good. I decided to finish it up in the oven.
I set the oven to 200 degrees F and inserted the temperature probe into the thickest part of the slab and waited until it hit 150 degrees F. I checked a few other places to make sure the temperature was good. I waited until the slab had cooled. I was worried about skinning it, as skinning the raw pancetta slab was difficult. In this case, the smoked and still warm slab was much easier to gracefully skin. A good sharp knife helps. I pulled the skin up with one hand and sliced as close to the skin as possible, to keep the fat.
I cut it into three smaller slabs, two for freezing and one for the fridge. I couldn’t resist two thick slices to cook and try out. It smelled so good, I had to try it. The bacon will last three weeks in a fridge and a few months in the freezer. I cooked the two thick slices in the oven at 350 degrees F for about 25 minutes to try it out.
This bacon is without a doubt the best I have ever had. It is hard to describe. It is nothing like American grocery store bacon, but just as wonderfully fatty (much better, actually). I should note that I love American grocery store bacon, although it will never be the same. I can’t compare it to Canadian or English bacon as it had more fat and was, therefore more tasty and moist. The maple flavor was definitely there, very nice sweet hint. And the salt came through, but not too salty like country ham. The smoke was not as pronounced, I will use more wood chips in the future. But, this was a glorious bacon.
Lynn said we will have the best breakfast possible this weekend, homemade slow cooked stone ground grits, homemade Southern biscuits, eggs from our chickens, and this bacon.