|Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)|
Homemade smoked maple bacon is easy to prepare. Just remember that bacon is always cured with a sweet and savory mixture of sugar, salt and pepper. You can use a smoker for the finishing touch. And if you want to take your bacon from very good to great, use real maple syrup instead of sugar.
Why make bacon at home? You get to decide what goes into it (meat from pastured organically-fed animals) and what does not go into it (nitrites, which are added to most commercial bacon).
Nitrites are sold to the home cook in blends called "curing salt" or "Prague powder." They preserve the bright pink color of the layers of meat in bacon and similar meats. They also help to eliminate bacteria. In very small amounts they are considered safe to consume, but they are a potential health hazard.
If you opt to use nitrates, remember that the finished bacon will not keep as long in the refrigerator as bacon made with curing salt. Freeze any that you plan to keep for longer than a week.
Here is the basic method for curing maple-flavored bacon. The instructions include tips for getting the smoked flavor just right.
Rinse the pork belly under cold water. Pat it dry with paper towels or a clean dishcloth.
Combine the maple syrup, salt, pepper and curing salt (if using) in a small bowl.
Rub the seasoning mixture into all sides of the pork belly, using your scrupulously cleaned hands. Spend a couple of minutes massaging the seasoning/curing mixture into the meat.
Place the pork belly, along with any leftover curing mixture, into a plastic bag and seal it shut. Store it lengthwise in the refrigerator for 10 to 14 days, turning the bag over occasionally. The bacon should be fully cured at this point, with a firm texture and no soft spots.
Rinse the bacon and again pat it thoroughly dry with paper towels or a clean, dry dishtowel. Roast the cured bacon in a 200 F oven until the internal temperature reaches 150 F. This should take about two hours. Store the bacon in a tightly sealed container or bag in the refrigerator for up to a month or in the freezer for up to a year.
You may also add a smoked flavor to your bacon by using one of the two methods below.
Use Real Smoke:
If you have a smoker or want to make a simple smoker, you can use it to smoke your bacon.
Use hickory or apple wood shavings for the best flavor.
Skip the roasting described above, and smoke the cured bacon until it reaches an internal temperature of 150 F, which should take one to two hours.
Use Liquid Smoke:
Alternatively, you can "cheat" by using liquid smoke. If you opt for this version, be sure to buy liquid smoke made from natural (usually hickory) smoke and not one of the harsh-tasting synthetic versions. Roast the cured bacon in a 200 F oven until the internal temperature reaches 150 F. This should take about two hours.
Then, baste the cured and roasted bacon with the liquid smoke. Use a pastry brush to evenly coat all sides.
Place the bacon on a rack over a pan (to catch any liquid smoke drippings) and air dry for 30 minutes. Transfer to a tightly sealed container or bag and refrigerate for up to a month or freeze for up to a year.
Tip: Cut the bacon into several pieces and freeze them individually.