Bacon is a cured meat prepared from a pig. Fresh bacon may then be further dried for weeks or months in cold air, boiled, or smoked. You can smoke bacon using different types of wood chips or sawdust for different flavors. For instance, applewood will give the bacon a mild, fruity flavor. Oak and hickory will produce a stronger, heartier flavor.
To smoke bacon, follow these steps:
Rinse the pork bellies with fresh water, and dry thoroughly with paper towels. Before you smoke the bellies, you must further dry them so that a pellicle forms on the outside of the meat. A pellicle forms as a result of the cure pulling water soluble proteins up to the surface of the meat. When these proteins dry, they form a shiny, sticky coating over the meat, which will absorb the smoke much better. The meat will not take smoke until the surface is dry. If the meat is smoked when still damp, it will be smudgy, not rich in color and not taste as good.
To achieve this, elevate the meat on cooling racks and set up a household fan to blow over it and help speed up the drying process. Turn the meat over halfway through the drying process. The length of time it takes to dry depends on the meat, the relative humidity and the speed of the fan. As a guideline about 30 minutes on each side should do it. You should notice the meat take on a surface sheen which is an indication that the pellicle has formed.
Hang the pork bellies on bacon hangers in the smoker. Bacon hangers can also be purchased from ‘The Sausagemaker’ (www.sausagemaker.com). Alternatively you can make your own, using a piece of non-resinous wood material about 2-inches wide, 1/2-inch thick, and 12-inches long. Space four or five No. 6 galvanized nails along the board. Make a hanger from No. 9 galvanized wire and fasten the one end to the middle of the piece of wood.
We like to cold-smoke the meat at a low temperature over a long period of time. This ensures that you get the maximum smoke penetration and gives you a rich color on the meat. Try to keep the temperature of the smoker between 80F and 100F. When you start going above this the surface of the meat will start to seal and the smoke will no longer penetrate the meat. Smoke the meat for about 8 hours, or until you are happy with the color.
Remove the rind if it was not already removed when you got the meat. This is made easier if you allow the bacon to sit in the refrigerator overnight and firm up.
Slice the bacon to your desired thickness. We use an electric meat slicer to yield uniform pieces, but if you have a lot of time and patience on your hands you can do this manually. This is made easier by slightly freezing the bacon first.
Bacon cured and smoked in this fashion is perishable and needs to be frozen or stored in a refrigerator until eaten.
Loose slices of uncooked bacon should be vacuum-packed or wrapped very tightly in cling film so that no air can get in. Do not use greaseproof paper, as the bacon will dry out. Loose bacon can be stored in the refrigerator for up to eight days and in the freezer for 3 months. If you plan on freezing the bacon, it will keep it’s fresh flavor a lot longer if it is not sliced.