Late last year we were hanging out with the butcher at Shank Charcuterie here in New Orleans, and doing what we always do, talking about where the best pork bellies are coming from these days.
We’d been making the 860 mile drive up to Madison, Alabama to buy pure Duroc hog meat from Henry Fudge of Fudge Family Farms but the meat cutter at Shank claimed he was getting pork that was ‘just as good’ from Black Hill Ranch over in Texas.
Time to place an order.
Two weeks ago we took delivery of a 10.9lb Iron Age pork belly sourced from Black Hill.
Iron Age is not a true breed, it’s a cross between a male, Eurasian wild boar (Sus scrofa) and a female Tamworth sow.Eurasian wild boars are known for producing a lean, gamey meat that to our palates tastes like slightly-funky beef roast. We ate hundreds of pounds of wild boar when we lived in Texas. Wild hogs are abundant, and our hunter buddies were always gifting us packets of their flesh.
The Tamworth breed originated in Central England and is a fine eating pig with Tamworth bacon being especially appreciated. Sometimes known as the ‘Irish Grazer’ these animals first made their way to the US in the late 1800s. Adult Tamworths can hit the 800lb mark in two years and young Tamworths can be brought to slaughter inside one year and weigh well over 200lbs.
Here’s how we cured our big Iron Age pork belly
1 10.9lb pork belly, Iron Age or other good breed (4944.157 grams)
12.34 grams Sodium Nitrite (156 Parts Per Million (PPM) Nitrite)
87.31 grams Salt, kosher
49.44 grams sugar, optional (we did not use it)
* Combine salt and sodium nitrite
* Sprinkle over pork belly
* Place in fridge
* Cure for at least 7 days (we cured our Iron Age belly for 10 days)
* Flip belly daily
* Wash thoroughly
* Place back in fridge and allow to dry (we put our belly on a wire grid inside a hotel pan and dry for two days)
* Build fire in smoker (we use cherry wood)
* Smoke for 2-3 hours til meat is of a nice hue
* Place back in fridge
* Allow to cool overnight
* Carefully slice (we use a friend’s pro-grade, electric Hobart slicer)
Iron Age bacon is delicious and worth seeking out.
We still prefer our Fudge Farms Duroc bacon but Iron Age has a distinctive flavor that could best be compared to beef navel bacon.