This is also easy. Curing, back in the day, was the way people preserved meats without refrigeration. You see, cured cells exert osmotic pressure that prevents undesirable microâ¦ you know what? Nevermind. Point is that nowadays, since we have crazy inventions like electricity, curing is no longer used to preserve. Instead, itâs used as a way of enhancing flavor, as curing extracts much of the water content from the meatâs cells thereby intensifying the flavors. To cure your pork belly, rub that bitch down with something akin to the following.
cups Kosher salt
cups brown sugar (for flavor, cuts the salt)
You can add a variety of things to this rub: black pepper, garlic, ground bay leaves, mermaid tears, angel farts, whatever. Use your imagination. What flavors you add will come through in the meat. Now use ALL the rub to cover the pork belly, then stick it in a zip lock bag, and put it in the fridge. Then kick back, relax, check your email, watch the game, make a Bed, Bath and Beyond run, and just generally live your life for the next 7 days. Check on it periodically, maybe turning it over and draining any accumulated liquid.
After that week, pull it out, rinse it off, pat it dry. Youâll notice it looks a lot like, well, cured meat.
Now youâre going to leave it in the fridge, uncovered, for a day. Why? The pork belly needs to form a pellicle. âForming the pellicleâ sounds like a military assault tactic, but itâs actually way worse: the pellicle is a tacky, gooey layer that forms on the outside of the meat after curing. Kind of gnarly, but it is essential for the next step.
Smoking is the final step, and the trickiest one. It imparts that necessary smoky bacon flavor, and helps give the meat that perfect bacon texture. Good news is, if you have a BBQ, itâs fairly easy to accomplish. If you donât, well, use your friendâs BBQ. If you donât have any friends with a BBQ, use the internet to find a DIY smoker plan. If you donât have any friends period, well, Iâm sorry, that sucks. Maybe you should get out more.
The key here is that you are only smoking your bacon, not cooking it. You donât want your pork belly exposed to direct heat, so use about half the coals you normally would, move them all the way to the side, and toss a few pieces of wood (hickory, maple) soaked in water for half an hour on top to produce good smoke. You donât want the temperature inside the smoker to get above about 200 degrees (use a meat thermometer). Place the pork belly inside, rind side up. That sticky pellicle will help the smokey flavor adhere to the meat. Close the lid up, and keep the smoke coming out the vent nice and ample for the next two hours, by adding the necessary briquettes and wood chunks. Itâll take about 2 hours for a proper smoke, so hang out by the grill for a while and do something enjoyable, like drinking beer or watching bunnies mate.
After about 2 hours, pull it out, and cut the skin away while itâs still warm, taking care to leave as much fat underneath as possible.
Now, if you have done things correctly, you will be holding in your hand the something thatâs damn near divine. Cut slices off the pork belly to the thickness you prefer, cook over low heat to your desired floppy/crispy level. Itâll keep for a week in the fridge, or months if frozen.