This isn’t the way I intended to start this blog. I imagined my first post would be pictures unveiling huge boxes of soon-to-be bacon and describing the mouth watering ways I would convert it into bacon, but my pork belly order has yet to arrive. It was supposed to leave Iowa on Monday, August 21 and get here in Illinois the following day. It’s now Wednesday, August 30 and the magical box of pork belly has yet to appear. I’m hoping for the best and a call to the farmer did reassure me.
In the meantime, this delay gives us the chance to cover some background info. I’ve been a DBA for 15 years and met Bob working together at Morningstar. But you are here for the bacon, so let’s focus on that. Roughly 9 years ago, my dad cleaned out and welded an old oil drum into a smoker and presented it to my husband for a Christmas present. We joked that it was the largest smoker in our Chicago suburb. It’s huge and we could smoke 4 turkeys at once on it. My husband used it a lot and I assisted.
When my husband died, I ignored the smoker for a good year. I had plenty of other things to manage and it wasn’t on my radar. I finally resurfaced and started using it again for the customary brisket, hams and ribs.
About 4 years ago, I had an epiphany. I wanted to smoke something different and I decided to try bacon. I was surprised how easy it was and how much better it tasted than store bought. You just put the bacon in the cure, let it sit for a week and then cook it to about 140 degrees. That’s it. So simple and so much better than the stuff you get from Oscar Meyer.
At some point in my bacon adventures, I started researching heritage hog breeds and that lead me to the following article in the New York Times about the work Carl Blake was doing establishing a heritage hog farm in Iowa. The description of the pork was mouth watering.
I contacted Blake begging for a pork belly. That was about three years ago. Last week he posted on his Facebook page that he had boxes of Mangalitsa bellies for sale. If you’ve not heard of Mangalitsa hogs, they are a Hungarian breed, rare in this country as the hogs don’t grow well in industrialized farm settings. Google “fuzzy pigs” and you’ll also learn that they are the Kobe beef of the hog world. Their high fat content means much more flavor than regular hogs and makes for excellent bacon.
As soon as I saw Blake’s post, I called him asking to buy 2 boxes of pork bellies. That’s 100lbs and is probably excessive but I’ve waited three years to get a chance to do this.
Knowing how much bacon is revered in DBA circles, I asked Bob if I could use his blog to share this bacon adventure and he obliged. My plan is to to walk you through the entire curing and smoking process complete with photos of every step and the final product. I hope you will stick around for the whole bacon process.
Postscript: I came home yesterday to two huge boxes on my porch. My next post will show you exactly what 100 lbs of pork belly looks like.