's an honorary vegetable.


Cut off rind (use rind to make chicharrón or a football) After rind removal, you will probably have about 12 lbs. of belly. Cut into 6 slabs, approx. 8 or 9 inch square.

Process, short version

Mix  the salt, sugar, pepper cure and rub on the slabs. Refrigerate for 7 to 10 days. Rinse, pat dry and smoke.

Process, long version

OK, here is the problem. Within a few hours those slabs are going to produce a sticky, salty brine that, if not contained, is going to make a mess in the fridge.  And do you want to use up the fridge space with 12 lbs of pork belly for a week?  The day before you start this project put two 1 gallon plastic water or milk jugs, or four 2 liter plastic pop bottles  3/4 filled with water in the freezer.  Remember, water expands when it freezes so do not fill them all the way up. Now you can use an ice chest to store the belly.  Put one 1 gallon or two 2 liter containers of ice in with the belly and swap out a new ice container(s) every 12 hours. 

OK, but do I just throw the bellies in the ice chest? 

Assuming that the interior of your ice chest has a rigid plastic liner it might work.  But you want the brine held up next to the bellies so its best to have them in some container.  Plastic, glass, or stainless steel (not aluminum) would work but you need something that will hold the brine up against the bellies and still fit in the ice chest.  A good solution is a plastic bag.  You can use 6 individual 1 gallon zip lock bags or  three 2 gallon zip locks or one large "food grade" plastic bag.  The "Oven bags" used for turkey roasting or "Ziploc Big Bags XL" would work.  I used to use 13 gallon "tall kitchen trash bags" but these are not "food grade" and you would not want to do something unhealthy while making 6 slabs of bacon!  Whatever you use, morning and night, when you swap out the ice container(s) move the bellies around a little so the brine circulates.

After 7-10 days (I've gone as short as 5 days), rinse thoroughly with cold water and dry with paper towels. The rinsing and drying is important.  During the brining process the right amount of sugar and salt has entered the meat.  If you leave the brine on, it will be much too salty.  Put the slabs on racks and set in cold air (fridge or garage if winter) for 2-3 hours. This allows proteins to move to the surface and forms the pellicle which helps the smoking process.

Smoke in electric “cold smoker”, 3-4 hours (2 pans of hickory sawdust, also from Butcher & Packer) should be enough. The temperature in a cold smoker only gets to 80-90 degrees so the bacon is still "raw" and needs to be refrigerated or wrapped and frozen.  You can also smoke them in a "hot smoker" like your Weber kettle grill.  Use a very low fire and indirect heat so the fat does not render out while smoking.  They are done when the interior temp of the bacon reaches 140 degrees.  At this point, they are "cooked" and can be eaten without further processing, or sliced and fried.

But this recipe is kind of...plain.  Can I jazz it up?

No, you must make it exactly as I have said.  OK, you can jazz it up but try to keep the ratio of salt and sugar the same.  You can use 1 cup white sugar with 2 Tablespoons molasses (this makes "super dark brown sugar") or honey or maple sugar.  Trying to rub molasses or honey on to the slabs is a sticky mess.  Add some fresh rosemary and thyme, see if I care.  Here is a picture of some honey/cayenne/black pepper bacon. All these extra flavors are fine but by the time the bacon is smoked, they will be very subtle.  Also, this bacon has a relatively high sugar content so fry it over low heat so it doesn't burn.