The art of home-made Bacon

| Cooking, Pigs, Preserving | comments | Author :

bacon 14

As promised, here is Rose’s nitrate-free, home made way of making bacon from scratch.

I say ‘way’ rather than ‘recipe’ because it’s still in development in terms of quantities. But if you too are a tinkerer rather than a straight-up recipe follower, then come on down and join us in the glorious land of home made, DIY, no nasties, bacony goodness.

bacon 01
Curing bacon with celery juice – salt – herb mix

In the lingo of 19th Century cookbooks, ‘first catch your pig’. And transform your pig into sides of pork, whether by your own hands, your friends hands or the local butcher’s hands.

We went through a butcher for the last round, but are planning to go farmstead meatsmith style from here on in.

Obviously a healthy, happy life for the pig is integral to good bacon, so make sure that’s sorted.

We used all the pork belly to make this round of bacon, though you could use the side of the pig also.

From Rose’s research, the crux of the nitrate and bacon thing is this: if you don’t use nitrates when curing your bacon, the bacon tends to go grey. To avoid this in conventional bacon making, there is a product called ‘pink salt’ which is used.

‘Pink salt’ contains both nitrates and food coloring in copious quantities, assuring that your bacon will in fact be pink regardless of its age.

So we were going the natural bacon road, but time (and the hot outside temperature) was of the essence so we decided against building and tending a smokehouse for this round of bacon. Instead, Rose concocted the following recipe based on her favorite cookbooks, online research and her inherent chefery:

bacon 02

The trick with this recipe so far is the celery juice. Celery contains high levels of naturally occurring nitrates so we figured that was a good path to try, to give us a bit of extra natural preservation without the pink salt saga. I rekon I’d be fine with eating grey bacon (heck it’s still beyond-organic, pastured, fresh bacon) but Rose’s aesthetics said maybe not, so naturally occurring nitrates, forward ho.

The celery juice became the binding agent. As you can see, the main thrust of this recipe is to coat the bacon in salt, herbs and friends. The bacon with its attendant coatings was then put in a vessel in the fridge for 7 days, then washed and cooked very slowly for 2 hours at 100 degrees Celsius.

pork belly
pork belly ready to rumble
Assembling the herbs
Assembling the herbs
Salt curing mix with liberal amounts of celery juice
Salt curing mix with liberal amounts of celery juice

bacon 07

halfway through the curing process, with lots of juices coming out of the meat
halfway through the curing process, with lots of juices coming out of the meat
The flipside of that same piece
The flipside of that same piece
A week later - bacon!

The result? Beautiful home-made bacon, done without any fancy tools or processes, at home.

The ocean of possibilities for future bacon recipes is deep and wide. We can’t wait to try making honey-cured bacon, or maybe maple and coffee cured bacon.

The smoked bacon option is also yet to be explored, once we can get some nice wood to use – not much hickory or apple wood hereabouts, but there’s surely many indigenous woods that are great, we just need to ask around (un-ratified suggestions currently include banksia and sheaoak).

It aint grey
It aint grey
And here is why...
And here is why…
Everyone approved
Everyone approved
Wwoofer Issaco giving the bacon a try. Belissimo.
Wwoofer Issaco giving the bacon a try. Belissimo.

The art of making home-made bacon is something I hope to be involved with for the rest of my days. A little bit of this incredible food, flavoring lunch or complimenting crisp greens at dinner is what it’s all about.

Any favorite bacon recipes out there? Preferred smoking woods? We’re all ears.

Just a note that if you’re not of piggish inclination, this recipe would work well for lamb or goat belly also, which you can source from butchers. I doubt any vegos would read this far down, but if so (hello you legend) I’m also going to try this recipe with pumpkin instead of pork, cause i think it would rock.

>> More posts about Pigs and Preserving at Milkwood

Cheers to Rose Newberry for her bacony ways and for her photos of the curing process.

See the comments

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29 responses to “The art of home-made Bacon

  1. How much antibacterial action are you getting from your herb mix. I noticed several are antibacterial.

  2. The amount of nitrate in plants is determined mainly from its genetically based metabolism, the age of the plant, and the amount of available nitrate in the soil. Leafy green vegetables and some root crops contain the highest concentrations of nitrates. Among commonly eaten vegetables, beetroot, celery, lettuce, spinach, and radishes have the most nitrate. There is often a tenfold variation in nitrate levels of the same variety of vegetables sampled from supermarkets. This is largely a function of the age of the vegetable when picked and the amount of nitrate fertilizer used to grow the crop. Nitrate levels of vegetables have gone up significantly in recent years because of increased use of nitrate fertilizers. Nitrate levels in carrots, lettuce and spinach, for example have roughly doubled since the 1970s in the US.

  3. Been making bacon for a while now and yes it so good. Plan is to do a batch soon in red neck pot smoker 🙂 , I will continue to use the comercial nitrates as having a wife who is chemist (the scientist type) explain that nitrate is nitrate on a molecular level and the danger with using celery for nitrates is you are not sure what the molecule is bound to and the levels of nitrates will not be constant. Having said that this is an awsome looking recipe and will give it a shot 🙂 I was using the 100 degree for two hours to and was happy with it but was advised by a boutique maker of bacon that he only does his at 50 – 65 degrees as 100 can start to affect the fat. I did my last batch like this and to be honest will stick with the 100 degrees for two hours much better result.

  4. Looks great! I have made my own bacon for the last 2 years, but hang it in a fly proof cage to air dry for a week or 2 after it has been curing. Can you please clarify that step for me? It goes into an oven at 100C for 2 hours? I must admit, I thought that this would start to render the fat (and take all the goodness out!)…
    Regardless, it looks the goods and that is halfway there!

    I notice you cunningly cut off Rose’s cottage cheese recipe from the image – could yo please pop that up too one of these days (Rose allowing, of course)?

    Thanks and Regards


    p.s. – Michael – am starting to harvest tomatoes and planning the rotations for the year – who’d have thought the kids would have such fun from working out what o grow where? The Serious Backyard Vegies course keeps on delivering!

  5. BLT sandwiches all round for the next shindig at Milkwood eh?
    looks delish!
    My Juniper bushes are fruiting now…
    the dilemma is to use them to make bacon or gin 😉

    wood for smoke, I use some of the harder-wooded Eucalypts , but I would be cautious with any of the bloodwoods.
    I often use local redgum for smoking meats, chiles, paprika etc.

    It’s as good as hickory or mesquite, but quite a different flavour.

    take all bark off and leave out any bits with kino (resiny stuff).
    make sure its really dried out well, no rot etc.

    Pecan is from the same genus as hickory (Carya spp.)
    and so I save any pecan prunings for that.
    I particularly like it for barbequed pork

    Casuarina spp. are good , low in ash and no resins.
    some Acacias are good.

    I’ve heard of people using almond shells and other nut shells, but not tried it.

    Chestnut, any fruit wood,
    I often use bay wood (Laurus nobilis) in the Barbeque pit when
    cooking ‘flat chooks’ – a Saturday arvo specialty here.

    I’ve used citrus (lemon) wood for barbeque and it was good too

    just steer clear of any really resinous type woods like Cypress, Callitris,
    Pinus, Cedar etc.

  6. yes the Veggo read to the end and is interested in what you do with the pumpkin. I’m not much of a pumpkin lover (or eggplant for that matter… I know… veggo’s don’t always like ALL the vegies) but maybe this process might add something to the pumpkin for me. Also, the other half is the dead-icated meat eater so I was interested from his point of view. Might actually have a go at this as it seems simple enough!!

  7. Just because I’m vego don’t mean I don’t like meat! I just choose not to eat it because it suits my body much better. I might try that pumpkin receipe. I wonder about sweet potato and tofu too…

  8. As far as BLT goes. I would recommend a BNT being bacon nasturtium leaves and tomato the peppery flavour of the nasturtium leaves just seems to work with the home made bacon and tomato. Homemade sourdough of course 🙂

    Damn I am hungry again 🙂

  9. Sheoak works well for smoking fish, I can attest to that. It needs to be long dead, and preferably have been waterlogged once or twice. Tha bacon recipe is very similar to a pancetta I once made, only I hung the cured article in an airy cellar for a few weeks after curing. Cheers,


  10. OK Anthony , gin it is then.
    Dry Martini with homemade Gin will be a little while off yet ..
    … but not too far mind you. 😉
    Right now it’s freezing Morello Cherry Daquiri (while barbequeing flat chook)
    my cherry tree is loaded with the sour little buggers
    so I have to get rid of them somehow…
    Highly recomended 🙂

    after dinner I’m goin to kill and de-hair two of piglets for next weekend’s party.

  11. Nice speedy 🙂 (very jelous) I have suggested a couple of pigs would go well in my urban back yard but for some reason my wife doesnt think so 🙂 might need to think about it with dad up country on his 3 acres. We eat a couple of suckling pigs a year at parties (cooked by my wifes Croatian dad) so would be cheaper for us.

  12. Dream bacon recipe – smokey bacon cooked in caramel until sticky and a bit crisp served with a very dark chocolate ice cream (not too sweet)

  13. Mmmm home-made bacon. I can’t wait to start home-curing meats. Thing for us is our tiny house is too tiny (and electricity too scarce for us to have a proper fridge). Any tips on meat-curing sans fridge???

  14. Hi there – I’m definitly going to try this and it looks like the best recipe I can find on the intergraph so far! I will report back in two weeks after I have tried to do it.

  15. Hi Kirsten,

    Yes, agree with Gavin… Could you post Rose’s cottage cheese recipe in the photo that was cut off?

    Thanks in advance! The bacon looks awesome.

  16. Just a heads up: you are confusing Nitrites and Nitrates. That is a very big difference!!! Also, the dye in cure salt is there to stop people from confusing it with regular salt. It is the Nitrites that turn the meat that red/pink color not the dye. Also, you seem to think the nitrites in celery are better for you than the ones in cure salt. Why?

  17. leave out the sugar, to reduce amine production,leave out the celery and other high nitrate ing. to reduce production of nitrosamines when heated and when in high acid of stomach. allium family and herbs great,inhibit amines from forming during cooking.(apparently,cherry,apple,citrus,&olive oil also inhibit amine formation when cooking.
    keep below 482*F/250*C(our bacon turned out great) (i’m glad to have found this out, now i will put the maple syrup on after cooking, for example)
    after reading a ton online, i am satisfied that it’s the combinations that i need to be careful of, the chemical reactions. and eating fresh food, of course.knew that 🙂

  18. You can use mulberry tree wood as smoking chips. Just remove the bark before doing so. I’ve been using the branches from my tree here in Brisbane for years and it works a treat. I’m sure once my food forest fruit trees mature they’ll be harvested for smoking wood too during pruning season. Eg tropical peaches/nectarines/plums/pear.

    I do all my smoking in a small weber kettle and no issues so far. As much as I’d like a bigger smoker it suits my purposes and only cost me $25 second hand.

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