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Red Cup Cooks: Bacon

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This is the offseason content y'all #crave.

This is a real photo of real bacon that I really made.
This is a real photo of real bacon that I really made.

Bacon is pretty popular food. In the United States, "bacon" refers to cured and smoked pork belly. In other countries, the term refers to cured pork loin. I don't live in those countries.  Bacon is often eaten in the United States as a part of a breakfast with eggs and toast, but it can also be used in making soups, stews, salads, sandwiches, hamburgers (which, unlike hot dogs, are a type of sandwich), pizzas, salads, appetizers, hors d'oeuvres, wraps, sauces, pastries, desserts, and even some drinks. When cooked in a skillet, much of the bacon's fat renders out. Bacon fat, which is essentially flavored lard, is a solid at room temperature that stores well and makes a great medium for pan frying.

I made my own bacon recently. Here's how I did it.

  1. I acquired a 5-ish slab of pork belly. I have a friend of a friend who is a pig farmer in Maryland. Her pigs have all of the super hip adjectives attached to them like "organic" and "free range," plus they live on a farm with a bunch of walnut trees. Pigs love walnuts, and walnuts add a lot of good fat flavor to the meat of animals that eat them, so this pork is especially porky, for the lack of a better adjective.
  2. I cured it. One could use a wet cure (a brine, which I've done for corned beef), but I went dry because it takes up less space in the fridge. My rub was made up of salt, brown sugar, and a hodgepodge of spices. To make your own, go with a half cup of salt, a quarter cup of packed brown sugar, a teaspoon of smoked paprika, a teaspoon of ground mustard, a half teaspoon of roasted and ground cumin, a half teaspoon of dried thyme, and healthy few grinds of black pepper. Or get creative and make it however you choose, just make sure that you use enough salt to actually cure the meat. Liberally sprinkle that all over the belly and gently rub it in. I then wrapped the whole thing in shrinkwrap a few times and left it on a baking sheet in the fridge for a week. You'll know it's actually cured if it shrinks a bit.
  3. I smoked it. I used applewood. The smoker was just over 200 degrees inside, and I let it go until the meat reached an internal temperature of 151 degrees. It took about three hours, I think.
  4. I baked it. I wrapped the whole thing in foil and put it in a 250 degree oven for two hours. I then let it rest, in its foil, for an hour before I sliced it.
  5. I sliced it.
  6. I ate it.
  7. It was delicious.