As you may have already figured out, our goal in life is to get beer into damn near everything we cook, grill, bake, smoke, or burn. This of course includes some off the wall experiments like this one, that actually freaking worked.
This idea was kinda based on another recipe we recently created for The Great American Spice Company. A how-to on curing and smoking your own bacon. However, when I bought the pork belly for curing, I ended up buying a little to much (I know there no such thing as too much pork belly but you try and cram 5# of belly into a curing container designed to only fit 3#).
After much debate we decided to just do two separate batches. One was supposed to be sweet and one more peppery. So we opened up a beer (or 3), relaxed and debated just what did we want the sweeter bacon of the two to taste like? It hit us like a stray bottlecap. There has to be a way to get beer into the bacon! Honestly, is there a better thought than having bacon and beer at the same time?
A quick trip to the back room to stare at what bottles we had readily available proved to be successful. Which is a good thing because Indiana does not allow liquor sales on Sunday and nothing sucks more than to have to wait a day to start experimenting and delay curing.
After even more
beer debate we decided on the tripel (should have just looked in our hands at the damn beer we were drinking instead of reading damn labels and debating because we went with the same damn beer. Damn.) For those who are unaware, Tripels are awesome. They are a Belgian strong ale style of beer that has a lot of good spice and fruitiness to it, which plays very well with pork, along with many other types of meat.
Disclaimer: This recipe requires the use of curing salt #1 or pink salt which is salt and a 6.25% solution of sodium nitrate. There are some people who will tell you sodium nitrate is evil and the devil. The evil evil devil. (Heather is laughing and making devil horns at me right now…) I have no problem with sodium nitrate in fact I strongly believe bacon is not bacon without it. If you do not believe me buy uncured or nitrate free bacon. While you attempt to choke it down you will quickly realize it lacks that awesome bacon taste and more importantly that sexy pink look. That is what sodium nitrate brings to the table. Anyways back on track to the disclaimer… curing salt #1 should only be used for curing NOT for eating, and in fact we do not keep it (or any curing supplies) in the kitchen but rather stashed away in the backroom so none of the curing salts accidentally end up sprinkled over fries. (For more facts and debunked myths about Sodium Nitrate check out this link, this link and this link.)
As far as buying it any reputable spice store will carry it along with curing salt #2. Curing salt #1 and #2 are not interchangeable so make sure to get curing salt #1 (remember look at the label and you should only see salt and 6.25% sodium nitrate). If you ask the helpful person behind the counter for pink salt and they hand you Himalayan pink salt stare at them blankly and tell them you want the good pink salt, because you are making bacon! Beer cured bacon!
For this recipe you will need:
- Up to 5 lb of pork belly
- 750ml of a good Tripel beer (we used Boulevard Long Strange Tripel)
- 1 quart of water
- 1/2 cup kosher salt
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon garlic powder
- 1 tablespoon onion powder
- 1 tablespoon black pepper
- 2 bay leaves
- 3 tablespoons pink salt
Steps to success:
- Bring the water to a boil.
- Add in the kosher salt and brown sugar and stir until dissolved.
- One dissolved remove from heat and let it cool back to room temperature (if you want to cheat shove it in the refrigerator for a couple hours).
- Once cool add in the rest of the ingredients with the exception of the pork butt and stir to combine.
- Take a 1-2 gallon Ziploc bag, put the pork butt in that, and pour the liquid mixture over top.
- Make sure the pork butt stays submerged and shove in the fridge for a week. Check every couple of days to make sure it stays submerged.
- After a week remove, rinse the pork butt off under cool water, toss, the curing liquid, and pat dry.
Now comes the fun part of deciding how you want to cook the bacon and there are three options on the table (oven, hot smoke, or cold smoke).
For those of you who are not blessed with a smoker all you have to do is shove in a 200 degree suspended off the bottom of the pan until 155 internal. A roasting pan works perfectly or just put it on a cooling rack suspended over a pan/baking sheet. It will take about 1.5 hours per lb.
Got a smoker? Even better! Run your smoker about 200-215 until 155 internal. Expect 1.5 hours per lb.
Personally my favorite method is cold smoking because nothing freaks people out more than meat sitting on a smoker and the smoker is not above 100 degrees. Oh crap the lawyers wanted this disclaimer added in too. If you are planning on cold smoking you MUST MUST MUST use curing salt #1/pink salt. Besides giving bacon that awesome bacon taste, pink salt inhibits botulism that could form when meat is relaxing in the danger zone (40-140 degrees). Cold smoking spends its life in the danger zone so unless you want to serve your guests botulism infested bacon either hot smoke or make sure you use pink salt for the cure.
One of the best reasons I love cold smoking is because most smokers are not designed to run that low or else the smoker will go out. This means you really have to either MacGyver it up and put your meat in another grill and run dryer vent from the smoke stack into that grill or cheat (some awesome and easy setups can be found here) or buy a cold smoke injector. I really like the Amaz-e-n tube or pellet tray for the price. If you find yourself doing a lot of cold smoking there are more expensive models that I have never used but people swear by such as the Smoke Daddy.
I prefer to hot or cold smoke bacon with fruit wood like apple or cherry but hickory works great. If I am using fruit wood I normally cold smoke for seven hours and hickory I will cold smoke for six hours. After the time I will slice off a piece and fry it up. If I feel it needs more smoke then throw it back on for another hour and test it again by frying up a slice.
Sit back and make yourself a BBLT and enjoy life with the biggest smile on your face.