The thick strips of bacon hawked by the likes of producers such as Allan Benton in Madisonville, Tennessee (Benton’s Hickory Smoked Country Bacon) and Sam Edwards in Surry, Virginia (Edwards Hickory-Smoked Sliced Bacon) beat their grocery-store equivalents handily. Their only real competition is bacon made from scratch, which has one definite advantage: when you’re the one starting with a slab of pork belly, you can customize the seasonings to suit yourself. Here sorghum syrup lends a sweet nuance to the salt and grease of freshly crisped pork. You’ll need some curing salt and—ideally—a smoker, although you can get by without one. This recipe does take a bit more time than just frying a skillet full of strips. But you know what comes to those who wait? Really good bacon.
Food & Drink
Home-Cured Sorghum Bacon
Turn that slab of pork belly into the best bacon you’ve ever had
photo: Peter Frank Edwards
2½ pounds pork belly, skin removed
¼ cup dark brown sugar
½ cup kosher salt
1½ teaspoons pink curing salt (See Note)
½ cup sorghum syrup
Rinse the pork belly and pat it thoroughly dry with paper towels. Mix the brown sugar, kosher salt, pepper, and curing salt in a small bowl. Sprinkle the mixture evenly on both sides of the pork belly, pressing with heel of your hand to help the salt mixture adhere.
Place a piece of plastic wrap twice the length of the pork belly on the countertop. Drizzle ¼ cup of the syrup evenly on top of the fatty side of the pork belly, then place the pork belly in the center of the plastic wrap syrup-side down. Drizzle the meaty side of the pork belly with the remaining ¼ syrup and bring the sides of the plastic wrap up and over the pork belly to wrap it tightly. Place in a zip-topbag and refrigerate for a week, turning halfway through the week.
When you’re ready to smoke, remove the pork belly from the bag and rinse thoroughly to remove all traces of the salt mixture. Pat dry with paper towels, place on a wire rack set over a baking sheet, and return to the refrigerator unwrapped to air-dry for 24 hours.
Remove the pork belly from the refrigerator and let it sit at room temperature for 30 minutes. Prepare a smoker with wood chips according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Place the pork belly directly on the rack of the prepared smoked and smoke for 1½ to 2 hours, until the pork registers 150° F on an instant-read thermometer. Remove from the smoker and let cool. Refrigerate overnight before slicing lengthwise into strips. The bacon will keep, tightly wrapped, for 1 week in the refrigerator or 3 months in the freezer.
Note: Pink curing salt is available at Williams-Sonoma stores and online from retailers like Weston Products. It is indeed pink and contains sodium nitrite and/or nitrate, which helps preserve the meat’s color as it cures.
Tip: This recipe works without a smoker, although the result will skew more on the Canadian side of bacon—deliciously porky but lacking that depth of woodsy flavor true Southern smoked bacon delivers. Unwrap the cured pork belly, rinse and dry it, and place it on a wire rack set over a baking pan and bake at 175° F for 2 to 2½ hours, until it registers 150° F on an instant-read thermometer.
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