Everybody is a fan of bacon these days, but I’d like to consider myself a notch closer to fanatic than your average fan. When people aren’t sure what to get me for a small gift, they resort to bacon-related items like bacon chocolate from Vosges in Chicago (seriously delicious) or bacon-salt, one of the few spices I brought with me to Korea. For special occasions, mega-packs of bacon from Costco are cooked and consumed in a single night.
Bacon is a mysteriously delicious and versatile meat, as has been demonstrated by the craze of putting bacon in anything and everything. Volume also counts too. If your dish has enough bacon to give a moose a heart attack, it’s sure to be popular.
But it turns out that this magical meat is relatively simple to make. I took some inspiration from Saveur and Menu In Progress for my dry cure. As Menu in Progress says, the basic ingredients for a dry cure are “kosher salt, sugar, and pink salt (in a ratio of 2:1:1/8th by weight).” As you may imagine, everything is in Korean in Korean grocery stores so I wasn’t exactly sure what salt I was buying, and I wasn’t able to find pink salt (which is salt with saltpeter mixed in). Instead I went with “natural salt”, which is a coarse ground salt similar to kosher and more importantly not iodized salt.
I liked the spices added to the Saveur rub, but I wanted to try and make some bacon true to the flavors of Korea. For the Korean rub I decided to use some of the basic dry ingredients in Korean cooking: garlic, ginger, chili powder and sesame seeds. Many other Korean flavors come in paste form, and I plan to experiment with those later. Crushing the sesame seeds lets out a lot more of their nutrients and smell and helps them get into the meat better. I think the Korean bacon flavor should be pretty strong, but I hope it retains some of character of classic bacon. We’ll see.
1/4 kg pork belly, skin on
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp natural salt
1 tsp fresh ginger, minced
1 tsp garlic, minced
1 tsp mild Korean chili powder
1 tsp crushed black sesame seeds
1. Wash off the pork belly and pat dry.
2. Combine the salt, sugar, ginger, garlic, sesame seeds and chili powder in a bowl.
3. Cover the pork belly thoroughly with the spice mixture. Make sure to get it everywhere.
4. Place the pork in a heavy duty sealing bag or in a Tupperware container. (For people in Korea, don’t settle for plastic bags from corner stores. Find a Home Plus for Ziploc brand bags. Double zipper.)
5. Refrigerate for 7 days, turning the bag over everyday to distribute the juices and mixture. The salt will suck a lot of liquid out of the pork, don’t worry about it.
6. After it’s done curing, wash off all of the spice mixture and slice into strips. Refrigerate or freeze and then cook like normal. Now is also where you would smoke it, but we don’t have an oven or a grill, so we can only cure it.
1 kg pork belly, skin on
2 tbsp natural salt
1 tbsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp ground white pepper
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
Instructions are the same as for the Korean bacon. Wash, mix, cover, refrigerate, turn, wash, slice, cook, eat.
The bacon is curing in the fridge right now. One day in and plenty of juices are starting to develop in both bags. Check back for curing updates, flavor comparisons and brand new recipes.
For even more photos of this magical process, check out our Makin’ Bacon set on Flickr.