I took another shot at Charcuterie, this time branching out from the basic cure. Once again I ordered an 8.5 lb pork belly from Niman Ranch and split it into 2 slabs of bacon. With one half I made a sweet maple cured bacon and the other half, savory. Maple sugar and syrup are added to the basic cure for the sweet and the savory takes garlic, bay leaf and black pepper. The curing went much better this time because I used the saltbox method, dredging the bellies in plenty of cure and shaking off the excess before sealing in Ziploc bags and refrigerating.
The other big improvement in the process came in the smoking. I think I am getting this process down. I placed a tray with water underneath the bacon, the moisture from which helps the fire to burn at a steadier rate so the lid doesn’t need to be opened as often to add coals. I also used apple wood chips soaked in water instead of the stupid pellets from my first go around. The chips worked much better, although I think wood chunks will be the real way to go. I feel I am almost there with the smoking, a little more tweaking and I will be able to present a detailed method that gives consistent results here.
As far as the bacon goes, both slabs came out awesome, as you can see by the accompanying pictures (actually, these are all pictures of the savory bacon, but trust me the maple came out just as good). Of the two I think I prefer the savory, especially, for cutting thick and cooking on the grill. If you have never had thick cut bacon on the grill you have to try it. My wife’s stepfather turned me on to this; he starts off every barbecue he has grilling some up for people to snack on while he prepares the rest of the food.