I thought that I'd write a follow-up post on David Shennan's Paddock to Plate blog, on making bacon given that I'm pretty keen on making bacon myself, and really, anything thing at all that involves pork belly.
The only real difference is that I live in an inner city apartment and don't grow my own pigs, lest I scare the neighbours and void my lease.
Globally, bacon is one of the few meats in the world that gets treated by the futures market as a generic commodity. Futures contracts for frozen pork bellies have been traded in 40 ton lots on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange since 1961 and was the first frozen meat to be treated as thus.
Due to the high fat content, bellies can be frozen and stored for up to a year before they're eventually processed, which makes them a good candidate for being traded. In December 2006, for example, there were 30.5 million pounds of pork belly in storage in America. The bulk of this belly is cured to become bacon. Prices of the belly fluctuates as Americans eat more bacon in summer and less in winter. Bellies make up about 12% of a pig's live weight.
There is something oddly grim about a single cut of meat being frozen and thoroughly outlasting the rest of the animal. It is an equally grim dividend of the industrialisation of the food system that the bacon you could be eating came from an animal that died one year earlier.
Being one of the processed meats that seems to inflame Western passions (there are innumerable websites that profess a single-minded love for bacon), there doesn't seem to be too much care as to where the industrially-made bacon is coming from. Although I'd like to say that the original driving force behind me starting to make my own bacon was fear of industrial bacon's origins and some deeper sense of ethical eating, it wasn't at all.
I was just curious to see if bacon was as easy to make as I had read. It really is.
All you need to make bacon is pork belly, 50 grams of curing salt (sodium nitrite, 6.25%), half a kilo of regular salt, a quarter of a kilo of sugar, a Ziploc bag, and a refrigerator (in a warm climate).
Mix the salts and sugars, then dredge the pork belly until it is covered, Ziploc the belly into the bag, then place in the fridge. Flip the bag daily for a week. Take the pork belly out of the bag, wash off the now slimy curing scum and bake in the oven (if you don't have a smoker) at 100C for around 2 hours.
Out comes bacon that you can trust.