At 11.35lbs the pork belly was of a good enough size for us to conduct an experiment in dry-curing vs wet-curing.
We’ve been making bacon for years but this project marks our entrance into wet-curing a belly.
After some rudimentary butchery we began the project with two bellies: each weighed just over 5.5 pounds.
We did our normal 10 day cure on each belly with the primary difference being that belly one was left uncovered in the refrigerator for the duration of the cure while belly two was mummified in plastic wrap.
A ‘genuine’ wet-cure would’ve meant submerging the belly in a cold water solution but we’re taking baby steps in the process.
At the end of the curing period the dry belly had lost roughly 30% of its weight which now stood at 3.85lbs. The wet-cured belly weighed 5.5lbs.
We smoked each belly over Pecan wood on our antique Weber for two hours then chilled them overnight to get them ready for the slicer. After cutting the meat we continued our custom of farming out packets of the bacon to our friends and family to garner opinions on which curing technique was superior.
The dry received high marks for intensity of flavor but the eaters loved the wet version nearly as much. We feared the wet-cured belly would have a “flabby” or “watery” flavor but neither trait was evident. The bacon was appropriately salty and smoky with a good chew and nary a trace of ‘grocery store bacon’ flavor.
It’s no secret that the bacon you buy at Rouse’s has been so pumped full of water it’s practically good for you. Supermarket bacon is rife with salt, sugar, fat, and artificial flavorings; there is no artisan work being done with it. It’s merely a product meant to separate you from your hard earned cash.
How much would you be willing to pay for hand-cured bacon made from hogs that have been raised and slaughtered humanely? We used to buy bacon from a producer in Austin who charged $15 per pound. Ten strips come to a pound of slab-cut bacon while 20 strips come to a pound of grocery store bacon.
Per pound you can expect about 1/3rd more meat on your plate after cooking dry-cured bacon vs bacon made from bellies that have been submerged in water during the curing process. That popping and spitting that grocery store bacon does in the pan? It’s because the water molecules are colliding with the hot fat that’s rendering from the belly.