Here it is, the ultimate recipe for this blog — homemade bacon! We love the flavor it gets from smoking, but if you don’t have a smoker (or a charcoal grill you can turn into one), you can still make great bacon in the oven.

Beautiful. Just... beautiful.

  • 1 pork belly (about 8 lbs.) from a pastured pig, skin still on
  • 2 Tbs. black peppercorns
  • 1 tsp. fennel seed
  • 1 tsp. caraway seed
  • 1 Tbs. dried rosemary
  • 1 Tbs. dried thyme
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 8 Tbs. or ½ cup of sea salt (not coarse)
  • 3 cloves of garlic, finely minced

Using either a mortar and pestle, small food processor, or coffee grinder, combine the peppercorns through the bay leaves. Then mix that powdery blend with the salt and garlic.

Cut the pork belly into slabs small enough to fit inside large plastic freezer bags. Divide the seasoning mixture evenly among the bags and coat the meat with it. Seal the bags and lay them flat in the refrigerator. Flip them every day, redistributing the seasoning and the liquid that will eventually gather in the bag.

After three or four days, remove the meat. Gently rinse with cold water and pat them dry on paper towel. Set your smoker or oven to 200 degrees. If using a smoker, place the meat skin-side down on the racks; for the oven, place them skin-side up in a baking dish. Smoke or bake for a few hours, until the internal temperature has reached 150 degrees.

Let them cool a little, then remove the skin by carefully slicing with a sharp knife into the layer of fat directly below the skin. If you let the bacon cool longer, you might be able to start it with a knife and gently peel the rest of the way by hand, wasting less of the fat. The reason you want a pasture-raised belly is because toxins are generally stored in the fat of the animals (think mercury in fatty fish), so CAFO animals’ fat will not be as pure and healthful as the fat from animals raised properly. It pays to spend the extra few bucks here. Slice your bacon to the desired thickness and enjoy your masterpiece.

Some tips:

  • If your bacon is too salty, you can soak it in water for a few minutes, then rinse and pat dry again, before cooking it. Next time, reduce the curing time. Most recipes call for a week but we found that makes the bacon too salty for us.
  • Bacon freezes well. If you made a lot, cut the slabs into smaller hunks; vacuum seal them and freeze. It will keep for at least a few months, but really — who keeps bacon around that long?
  • Save the rendered fat after cooking the bacon; it’s a fabulous, stable fat that imparts awesome flavor onto everything it touches. It is wonderful on roasted broccoli, Brussels sprouts, asparagus, or as a fat in which to fry eggs or steaks.
Adapted from Tim Huntley, via Robb Wolf