Summer 2021 bacon


I ordered a big pork belly last month — over 13 pounds! It was big enough that the butcher asked me whether I was really sure I wanted the whole thing. Oh yeah. Broke it down into three batches of bacon.

Batch 1 — Austrian flavors

For the first batch I revisited the Austrian cure recipe from a few years ago.

  • 2,583g pork belly
  • 65g basic cure
  • 13g juniper
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 22g black peppercorns
  • 8g caraway seeds
  • 12g granulated garlic
  • 6g brown sugar


For all three of the batches here I used the same curing technique: first spread the cure all over the belly, then all of the flavoring spices, in a big zip-closed plastic bag that then goes into the refrigerator (not the freezer — that was a typo!). Every few days I rub the spice around and turn the slab over.

I ended up letting this one cure for about three and a half weeks, instead of just two, due to life happening as it sometimes does. Then I smoked it (just in a Weber grill with a small fire off to the side) up to 160°F.


It's delicious. Right now I've only tasted little trimmings, but I'm really looking forward to having this at breakfast.

Batch 2 — Fresh herb

It's the time of year for fresh herbs, and they can flavor bacon just as well as winter spices.

  • 2,112g pork belly
  • 52g basic cure
  • 16g fresh sage
  • About 5g fresh majoram
  • 6g fresh thyme
  • 3-4 inches lemongrass stalk
  • 3 cardamom pods
  • ½ tsp. yellow mustard seed
  • ½ tsp. corander seed
  • 2 bay leaves


Grind all of the spices together into a paste, and rub it onto the belly after the cure.

The herb flavors would be drowned out by smoke, so instead of smoking I heated this one very gently in the oven: on low heat, door just slightly ajar to let moisture out, up to 180°F for a few hours. I pulled it right when the center reached 180°F.

The fat that leaks out from this one is exceptionally nice, and worth saving for stovetop cooking.

Batch 3 — Pancetta

With the parts I trimmed from the two big batches to get them to fit in their bags for curing, I made pancetta.

  • 1,377g pork belly
  • 34g basic cure
  • 20g black peppercorns
  • 18g brown sugar
  • 11g granulated garlic
  • 14 juniper berries
  • 4 bay leaves
  • ¼ pod nutmeg
  • 1-2g dried thyme

Traditionally after curing, pancetta is coated with additional course spices and hung to dry. I don't have a good place for drying — our basement is too dry, so the moisture on the interior would get trapped and rot — so I oven-dried it with the herbed bacon, and left it for a few hours after the herbed bacon had reached 180°F.

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