This recipe comes from The Paley's Place Cookbook. There are loads of recipes for bacon out there, with longer ingredient lists, but I've found no need to improve on this combination of spices and time; the key is to begin with a high quality pastured pork belly from Carman Ranch or another trusted producer. Patience is all that's required to make the best bacon you've ever eaten!
- One 7 to 8 pound fresh pastured pork belly, skin removed
- 2 teaspoons pink curing salt (sodium nitrite)
- 1/2 cup freshly ground black peppercorns
- 1/2 cup freshly ground bay leaves
- 1 cup packed brown sugar
- 1 cup kosher salt
Cut the belly into 2 pieces and place each one in a nonreactive container such as a stainless steel or glass pan. Rub 1 teaspoon of curing salt into each of the pieces of belly, trying to spread it evenly across all of the cut sides. Next, rub 2 tablespoons of the peppercorns on the surface of the 2 pieces of belly. Follow with 2 tablespoons of bay leaves, 1/4 cup of brown sugar and finally, 1/4 cup kosher salt. Turn both pieces of belly over and repeat, spreading the exposed surface with peppercorns, bay leaves, brown sugar and salt. Any ingredients that fall from the top of the belly can be pressed into the exposed sides.
Cover each pan tightly and refrigerate for 2 days. After 48 hours, turn the bellies over, cover tightly again, and refrigerate for 3 days. After 72 hours, turn the bellies over on more time and refrigerate for 2 more days, or a total of 7 days.
Remove the bellies from the pan, discard the curing liquid that has collected, and brush or lightly rinse any remaining cure off of the belly pieces. Thoroughly pat the bellies dry with paper towels, place on a rack set in a baking sheet and return to the refrigerator for 1 to 2 more days. When the surface of the belly is tacky, it means a pellicle has formed and the bellies are ready to smoke, or to use as is. (A pellicle is a skin or coating of proteins on the surface of meat, fish or poultry, which allow smoke to better adhere to the surface of the meat during the smoking process.)
Smoke according to the manufacturer's directions (I have the smallest Little Chief electric smoker, and it usually takes 3 to 4 hours), or tightly wrap and store in the refrigerator for one week, or in the freezer for up to 3 months. Smoked bacon can be cut into smaller pieces, vacuum-sealed and frozen for up to one year.