Last we spoke, I was waiting for the pork belly to cure. In the mean time…I checked it and flipped the zip lock bag every day to spread the cure. On day four, the bag started leaking, so I made a fresh batch of cure and this time I added 1/4 cup of amber maple syrup to it and spread it on the belly and put everything into a new bag and tossed it in the fridge.
After 7 days I removed the belly from the bag, dumped the brine and rinsed and dried the belly on a rack in the fridge overnight. Next day I loaded up my homemade oven smoker! It took me all day to find any smoking wood chips in Manhattan. As New York is a seasonal city, and labor Day was fast approaching everyone had put away the smoking chips for next year…I finally found a guy at Whole Foods who went in the back and grabbed a dusty box of hickory wood chips…they cost 35 bucks! Yeah, I know but what could I do? I was commited at that point and the prospect of going all the way across town to search in Home Depo was not at all appealing, so I paid for them and ran home. I picked up a collapsable meat rack for $9.95 from Sur La Table and I was good to go.
FYI, I read a recent post in a food blog online in which one person said that this whole concept of smoking meat in the oven was ridiculous, dangerous and could not be done! Another person asked the question: Why would anyone want to make bacon at home? To these non belivers I simply reply “Why do you live?”, but I digress. I tented the meat with heavy tin foil and put it in roasting pan and got the wood chips started by heating the whole thing up on the stove top burner. I turned on the AC and opened every window in my place (my carbon footprint is as big as a dinosaur). I heated everything up until it started smoking…Got very concerned and popped it in my pre heated oven. My oven was set at 200 degrees. I set the timer for 3 hours and left the apartment. While on stage sometime during the second act, I heard a fire engine off in the distance and wondered if it was headed for my place.
When I came home after my matinee, I opened the oven and pulled everything out…
The oven was off and the belly had cooled, and the skin looked like shoe leather but other than that, it seemed alright. I removed the rind and had me some oven smoked, homemade bacon!
Now let me just testify for a minute…I’ve made bacon before, but never like this. It was absolutely PERFECT! The key is to test the meat at each stage. After I cured it, I cooked a small piece of the belly, but it was really salty, so I soaked it in my kitchen sink for 2 hours rinsed and tested it again. I did this twice until I got the saltiness down to where I liked it. The added maple syrup really sweetned the taste also…And finally I GOT BACON!!!!!!
*The internal temperature of the belly should reach 150 degrees before removing from the oven. also, my recipe calls for like 5 cups of wood chips, but upon inspection only about 1 1/2 cups really were charred. This was enough to give the meat a sweet and gentle smokey flavor. I kept the rest of my 35 dollar wood chips for next year…