Wednesday, September 19, 2012


Hey, I'm back already!

In case you haven't already guessed, I get a pretty puffed chest when I make my own bacon from scratch, as described in this post.

Now, as time goes on and I keep having fun with this specific form of curing/smoking, I find a need to stretch my creative wings and experiment a little with ingredients and flavours. My first attempt was already going beyond the 'normal' salt and sugar cure by using a smattering of Sriracha salt. Later attempts threw in maple syrup, Steak Spice and Thai Spice Rub.

But last week, I think I may have truly broken through the creative barrier of bacon making. I'm not sure where the idea came from, maybe from the need to look for other sources of sweetness than sugar and maple syrup, maybe because it's one of my favourite new experimental flavours. But it hit me like a bolt: VANILLA BACON!!!!!!!

I had the pork belly sitting in the fridge, ready for some salty-sugary love. So, all I had to do was come up with how to get the cure together. Well, it wasn't really complicated:

Spicy Vanilla Bacon Cure (for about 1 lb of pork belly)
- 1/3 cup kosher salt
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- (at least!) 1 tsp berbere spice (or some other source of spiciness)
- 3 tbsp maple syrup
- 1 tsp high quality vanilla extract

- Stir all ingredients together with a fork and coat meat well with cure.

Getting the cure going
I left it in the fridge for about a week, tossing in a bit more salt and sugar on the last day.

When ready for smoking, I washed off the remaining cure, dried the bacon with paper towel, and smoked it for 3 hours with mesquite charcoal and pecan wood chips for smoke.

Freshly smoked! Mmmm, vanilla...
Now, like any good cook, I had to sample the wares, so I sliced off four small pieces (nice and thick!) and fried them up, put 'em on toast, spread some mayo, took a picture, added some tomato, and lunch was served!

Tasty lunch!

The verdict? The boozy, fragrant quality of the vanilla was definitely apparent and totally delicious, if a little understated. I'd have liked it to be more pronounced. Maybe I'll try a combo of curing with salt and sugar, and injecting vanilla right into the meat (still need to get into that whole 'injecting' style of prepping meat for smoking). The spicy element of the berbere really didn't come through very well, I'll use more next time. But, it's still tasty, tasty, TASTY bacon!

How much more fun will I engage in as part of my explorations into unique forms of bacon? I will definitely keep you posted!


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