I've cured my own pork belly! Straight from the butcher! I usually get a 3-5lb. slab...brine it in sea salt, peppercorns and maple syrup. Flip it regularly in the fridge---like once a day---for 7 days. THen---make sure you rinse it off after 7 days...this gets all that excess salt off---rinse it well. I dont have a smoker but I will then bake the slab in the oven on low ---200 degrees---for around 3 hours. Voila---it is ready to refrigerate and used liberally! The fat is amazing when you do it this way---as compared to store bought---and usually TONS cheaper too!
Drying it in an oven is a good idea for those who don't have a smoker! One of those simple things I somehow failed to think of before I made one.
A smoker really isn't that hard to make, though. A box to smoulder the chips in (over a gas burner or on a small fire), a connecting pipe/duct/flue, and a smoke chamber to hang the small-goods in. Keeping the smoke chamber cool is the hard bit, but you need to just make sure the connector is long enough. Mine runs in a suburban backyard and takes up less a cubic metre of space.
Here's another you can try, especially if you don't want to smoke: duck prosciutto. I tried it a year or so ago when I had a couple of extra duck breasts, and was surprised how good it came out.
The Institute of Culinary Education: About Us
and scroll to the bottom for Brian Polcyn's recipe (which was the one I used).
Reading through this thread made me really eager to finally get out of apartment-living and get a house... with a deep freezer... get a side of beef (and other delicious meats) and cure, cook, and otherwise enjoy more than I can hold in my teenie apartment at the moment!
I'm going to add that meat book to my "to-buy" list, too... just to torture myself as I save up for a home.
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I guess I must be pretty lazy. Or to scared to mess up a large amount of meat. The last hog we had butchered I got side-pork instead of bacon. I sprinkle/rub smoked sea salt on it before I cook it. It ain't pretty but it do taste mighty fine.
I've made my own bacon from pork belly. I laid it in a roasting dish on top of and covered by salt. Over the next two days I poured the released liquid out and added more salt. Then I put it in a ziplock bag and surrounded it by more salt for another 5 days, pouring the liquid out just once more. It didn't need it after that. Then I smoked it for an hour or so. The first time was better than the second as the second time I had the heat up too high and it partially cooked it dripping the fat down into the sawdust. The first time was VERY salty as I didn't wash the salt off enough. The second one was still quite salty but OK for me, though too salty for my husband. All up I must have used almost a kilo of salt for the two times I made it - for about 7lbs of meat.
I didn't use sugar or maple syrup as I'm sugar free.
Though salty I found it much more substantial than the bought stuff. A lot more expensive though as we get cheap imported bacon and fresh pork belly is expensive and filled with water.