Making Local Bacon

A few weeks ago we got an email from a farming friend of ours. Her fellow farming husband had raised some pigs that were ready for harvest and would we like a whole or half? Why YES! We could only commit to half a pig now because our freezer was still full from this summer’s beef order. While we are far from perfect in our eating habits, we do try our hardest to ‘vote with our dollars’ by buying as much of our food as locally as possible. There are a thousand and one reasons why it’s beneficial to eat locally and I’m sure you know most of them yourselves. But lately for us it’s been mostly about the health and safety of our food (too many recalls and ‘outbreaks’ lately!) and supporting local people in their business and agricultural enterprises. In our small community there are many entrepreneurs and it only makes sense that we buy from each other, we’re all in this life together after all. Buying pork raised about a mile away from people we trust fell right into that line of thinking.
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As soon as we hit ‘send’ on that email Scott started researching. He had a flurry of lists spread all around him, cookbooks open, websites up, youtube videos running of all things pork. He used to be a chef, as I’m sure I’ve mentioned, so to get a project like half a pig on his hands was like Christmas morning. Our first meal was of ribs, then homemade sausage for the Thanksgiving stuffing, and then pork chops. All preparations were delicious. So much more flavorful and juicy than any store bought pork we’ve ever bought. We brought home about 140 lbs. of pork from the butcher and one of the biggest packages was of the pork belly. Our first big project was, oh yes, bacon!
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It was quite a process. First Scott rubbed the pork belly with generous seasoning and put it into a brine (he used this bacon recipe) for three days.
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Then it was onto cookie racks to dry in front of a fan for an hour. This apparently makes something called pellicle develop on the skin which makes the smoke better adhere to the surface.
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While this was happening Scott was busy out back trying to get his homemade smoking contraption rigged. He has a little smoker but that produces hot smoke and what you need for bacon is cold smoke. Growing up he spent his summers at his family’s cattle ranch deep up in the Sierra foothills. There they had a smoke house and over the years I’ve heard many a story about the smoked sausages that were produced there. He was all too eager to set up his frugal smoking get up using bricks we found around the property, a $10 dryer vent pipe, an old grill and an old piece of tin from the bottom of an old barbeque we once had.
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Despite the extreme wind that day, he got a good fire going and once we could see that the tunnel of smoke was working, in went the pork belly. Over the course of six hours, he kept the fire going with a combination of fruit wood trimmings, charcoal and soaked hickory wood chips. That evening we took the bacon out and sliced it up and cooked it.
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This recipe has a fair amount of sugar so it cooks up dark, but boy is it good! This recipe is more sweet than salty, but it’s delicious and what a great thing to eat bacon that Scott cured and smoked from a pig that was raised and tended to a mile away from good people we know! I’m sure there will be more pig stories to come. Next up on the project list, three kinds of linked sausages!
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18 Comments

Filed under in the kitchen, recipes

18 responses to “Making Local Bacon

  1. you two make an AMAZING TEAM and I am gratified to see old school ways making modern people happy! You guys ROCK!

  2. Boy, does that look good. I’m thinking we may have to order a peeeeeg next year. Yum.

  3. Very neat! I love buying local!

  4. Wow! What a process! Way to go supporting local meat producers, and bring ambitious enough to make your own bacon.

  5. Alexis

    I have been thinking about making bacon for the last few months! I live here in Sonoma too. I was so excited to find your blog. Did you/Scott use nitrates? That has been my big hesitation, I dont want to.
    Thank you so much!
    Alexis

    • asonomagarden

      Alexis, great to hear from another local! Nope, no nitrates. We try our best not to buy meats with nitrates, so we certainly didn’t want to add them to ours. We froze our bacon, so hopefully that will do the trick on preserving it.

      • Alexis

        Thank you for the reassurance! Every recipe I have looked at says to so I am so glad to hear from someone who has actually made it. I am gonna do it!
        Thanks again,
        Alexis

      • Alexis

        I mean make bacon, not add nitrates lol

  6. Michelle

    I’m so impressed with the whole process, wow!
    And what a great way to get rid of that stump, too. ;)

  7. This looks WONDERFUL. So much work. Your husband is, like Whoa. We buy a lamb each year, get local pork sausage (*sadface* never bacon) and bison, ground and tenderloin. This with the occasional free range chicken make up our meat consumption for the year. LOVE shopping local.

  8. nixchix

    your blog is way better than mine. I think people actually read yours. thanks for buying the pig from us. I’m glad you are enjoying the meat as much as I enjoy raising them. It’s good to see them go to good homes that appreciate the animal. I’ll let you know when we have some more pigs for sale.
    next project for scott- the head!

  9. Scott

    Note: I “altered” Alton’s recipe a bit. I rubbed it down with 1/2 teaspoon gound allspice in addition to the pepper to give it a somewhat pancetta (italian bacon) touch and used maple syrup in place of the molasses because, well I love maple syrup:-)

  10. Love this and bacon. Going to have to try this.

    E.A.T.

  11. I can’t believe you guys made bacon!! So envious :)

  12. Sweet! So glad you posted this! We just got our first pig yesterday. He’s only 24 days old and as cute as he is drinking his bottle in my duaghter’s lap and I can already taste the bacon!!!!!
    Stevie@ ruffledfeathersandspilledmilk.com

  13. Pingback: Weekend in the kitchen | A Sonoma Garden

  14. Pingback: The Art of Pork – Making Sausage, Bacon and Ham on the Farm | The L.A.N.D. Line

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