Question about home-cured bacon
We bought a 2.5 lb pork belly from a local farmer (organic, pastured) over the summer and it had been sitting in our chest freezer. I decided to make bacon with it using the recipe from the NYT (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/28/dining/home-cured-bacon-recipe.html?_r=0
)I have multiple dietary restrictions and in fact, this was my first time trying pork again after nearly a year avoiding it. I used only the 2 1/2 Tbsp of kosher salt to cure it - nothing else. I followed the rest of the recipe, turning it daily in the fridge, rinsing and letting it dry in the fridge, cooking in the oven, then slicing and oven-baking the slices at 350 for about 30 minutes.
I realize that what I made wasn't actually "bacon" in the true sense of the word, but it tasted pretty legit to me! Even the fat crisped up. It was fantastic.
Anyway, the major problem was that it was pretty salty. Bordering on "too salty". We took to rinsing the slices before baking them, which helped.
I am wondering if next time I can reduce the amount of salt? Or should I soak the whole belly in water after the week curing time to reduce the saltiness?
I am also confused about the safety of how I prepared it and the fact that I didn't use curing salt (I cannot have nitrites or nitrates due to my dietary restrictions). I cooked the belly to 150 before slicing and baking the slices in the oven. Is food-borne illness or botulism a concern with preparing it this way?
Here is a picture of how it turned out: http://i.imgur.com/ueEN1.jpg
Thank you for the advice!
BTW, if it was in your chest freezer (assuming a temp of below -10 degrees), if it was in there for more than 1 month, there's no chance of botulism. In fact, that's a method of killing the spores. I forget the timing, but there's established time periods depending on the temps. I learned about these years ago when dry curing saucisson at home.
2.5 tbls of salt isn't enough salt to cure the bacon. It's a good thing that you baked it at such a high temp.
I use probably 3-4 times that amount, mixed with other things and then smoke it on a really cool grill (200-225 degrees) for probably 2 hours.
Anyway, really surprised you had a salty product. Then again, it's bacon. It should be a little salty, right?
I make the bacon with pink salt (and sometimes Ruhlman's maple cured version) and smoke. If you don't smoke, it's more of a pancetta; nothing wrong with that.
As for saltiness, curing is more art than science, and consistency is impossible. Each piece of meat is different; fat content, muscle density, etc. I try to compensate with a cure towards the long side, then a 12 hour soak in fresh water. Air dry for another day, then smoke.
Adding sugar to the cure will reduce the saltiness of the finished product- tons of online resources and recipes are available.
To save the product you already have, blanch the belly briefly in boiling water. Should do the trick.
So long as while the belly was being cured it was at a temp of below 4C, there shouldn't be any risk of food-borne pathogens. Salt cures fine on its own, even without nitrites or nitrates.
I recently made this as well for the first time. I did use the pink salt and used the savory cure. I did not find it salty at all and I am usually pretty salt sensitive (and was considering not using the pink salt next time). I will say that I really rinsed the bacon before air drying - more than I thought I should - because I used the pink salt. That might be worth a try! Also, not to be a salt snob, but did you use diamond kosher salt or mortons? measure for measure, Morton's seems much saltier to me and I prefer Diamond. Just thoughts from one newbie to another : )
The way I see it is that you made salt pork, not bacon. For me, bacon is smoked or has a smoky flavor. However, delicious is delicious. :-)
To reduce saltiness, you can try a couple things. Cure for 5 days instead of 7, or you can add other flavors (a little sugar or try the variations listed in the recipe) so your taste buds have other flavors other than salt.
In regards to nitrates, they do two things - keep the cured meats pink and prevent microbial growth, especially botulism. If you were making sausage or other ground meat preparation, I would highly recommend using pink salt, but since you're not grinding, salt is a decent preservative.
You may have to play with the recipe to suit your taste buds. Maybe you're not use to a a lot of salt while I other people are.