Charcutepalooza: Makin’ Bacon Part I

For a gal whose love of bacon and bacon flavored items (chapstick, chocolate, donuts, vodka) has been well-documented – I am ashamed to admit that I have never cured my own bacon.

Well, that changes this week.

In fact, this year will have me salting, smoking and curing many an item. Inspired by a post shared by Boisean & fellow foodie blogger Lynn Marshall, I’m jumping on the Charcutepalooza (“shar-coo-ta-pa-loo-za”) challenge created by Mrs Wheelbarrow and The Yummy Mummy and guided by the bible for Charcuterie by Michael Ruhlman & Brian Polcyn.
Come on, how could a foodie NOT want to be involved in something known as 12 Months of Meat?

And after reading the forward from Thomas Keller, I was hooked.
A final reason Charcuterie is important: it recongizes the pig as the superior creature that it is. From a culinary standpoint, the pig is unmatched in the diversity of flavors and tetures it offers the cook and the uses it can be put to-from head to tail, from ham to tenderloin, it’s a marvel. A pieve of pork belly can be brined, roasted, grilled, sauteed, dry-roasted, braised, or confited, with widely varying results. This is a very hopeful time for the pig in America, and this book underscores that fact.”

Charcutepalooza began with duck prosciutto as the January challenge. I’m a bit late to the meat-wagon so I’ll be playing catchup on that challenge (once I figure out how to configure a curing locale in my tiny house!)

But it is kind of fitting that I begin in February – the Salt Cure – and with the apprentice challenge option – fresh bacon.

A simple list of ingredients and not too difficult directions made me a bit overconfident. One of my toughest challenges? Finding the pink salt needed for curing (Ruhlman said I should order it online, but my instant-gratification-self didn’t want to wait). After hitting all my Bench grocery stores and Cabela’s cooking section I found Himalayan pink salt at the Boise Co-op. Is it the right pink salt? I have no idea. But it did look pretty and it is doing its salty-curey thing in the fridge right now.
Salt
The recipe did mention ‘high quality pork belly’. We made a round of calls to all of our familiar meat stops – Smoky Davis, Porterhouse, Boise Co-op. No such luck (though Smoky said they were ‘out’). Amusingly, searching ‘Boise pork belly’ on Google pulls up several Idaho Foodies posts :-) So we went to our Pork Belly standby of the Orient Market which carries it and many other fascinating meat items on Saturdays. It was slightly frozen so I may have misstepped again with not getting totally fresh belly. 
Porkbelly
Me rubbing the belly with the cure mixture. (Warning: there will be many references during the 12 Months of Meat to rubbing, massaging, working my meat – so get the giggles out early!)
Bellymassage1
Although I’ve read chapters from the wonderful non-fiction book Salt: A World History, I didn’t quite realize the amazing qualities of a salt cure until I saw what happened within hours to my belly.  Here’s the Day Two view – juicy bacon-curing deliciousness as the salt cure works its magic extracting moisture.
Bagobacon1
Looking forward to seeing if I’ve screwed up my first challenge – or stumbled on a delicious foodie skill I can replicate over and over again.
Stay tuned for Makin’ Bacon Part II in a week! 

- Jess