C’mon. Surely I can figure out what to do with homemade bacon. I mean, it’s bacon. It’s salty, fatty, and comes from a pig. What’s not to like?
A lot, it turns out. I’ve been trying to come to terms with the fact that I wasn’t thrilled about my homemade bacon since mid-February, the Charcutepalooza deadline. (You’ll have to take my word for it that the bacon itself was completed on time). Having both missed the deadline and made lackluster meat, I just about threw in the towel, but since then, I’ve taken comfort in the bacon befuddlement of my fellow Charcutepaloozers.
Oh, my bacon, my bacon! What went wrong? For starters, the pork belly had nipples. Now, seeing as how I grew up around hogs, I don’t know why this came as such as shock, but it did. And then there was the sheer quantity of salt. Then I skipped the nitrites. And last but not least, the fat.
Now, this wasn’t just your everyday fatty bacon. Look closely at that picture up top. Do you see any meat on that fat, whatsoever? No. I didn’t think so. It’s one thing to eat pre-sliced strips of bacon. Somehow, when it’s in pieces, you don’t necessarily notice that most bacon is at least two-thirds fat. When you’re looking at an 10″ x 6″ slab of pork belly with an inch of fat on top, on the other hand, it’s pretty hard to miss.
And guess what? Fatty bacon is salty bacon, as I learned from Grow and Resist‘s post about her nearly identical challenges with the project. And since she explained her disappointment in nitrite-free bacon so well, I’ll spare you my version. Let’s just say that it doesn’t taste like bacon.
What it does taste like is salty, roasted, pork belly. Once I wrapped my head around that, I was in a better position to figure out what to do with it. I hacked it into about a dozen 4-ounce chunks, tossed them into a Ziplock, and threw the whole thing in the freezer. Because it’s so, so, so fatty, there’s no need to thaw it before cutting it up—if anything, it’s easier to cut when it’s frozen. Since then, I’ve used some in baked beans, some in a Spanish rice pilaf, and some in a lentil stew. It’s surprisingly good in stir-fried Asian noodles. Since it’s nearly unadulterated fat, it makes a great addition to venison sausage.
So: all in all, not a bacon disaster, but not a runaway success. I may yet try again with nitrites. We’ll see.