Smoked Maple Cured Bacon Recipe
2 Oz Kosher salt (about ¼ cup)
1 Tsp Cure #1 (aka pink salt, InstaCure #1, Prague Powder #1)
¼ C maple sugar or packed brown sugar
¼ C maple syrup
5 Lb fresh pork belly
Makes enough for a 5 lb belly
Combine all dry ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Add syrup and stir until well combined. If the mixture is too thick, you can add more syrup to thin it.
Rub cure mixture on belly making sure to cover the entire surface. Place skin side down in a 2 gallon sealable bag, expel all air, and fold the empty end of the bag under, so that the belly is in close contact with the bag. During the curing time, the belly will release liquid, and it is important that this liquid stays in contact with the meat. Note - the skin was already removed.
Refrigerate at 34°F - 40°F (the closer to 40°F the better) for 5 - 7 days, until belly is firm to the touch, with no soft spots. During the curing time, turn the bag over once a day or once every other day to redistribute the cure; this is called overhauling.
When belly is fully cured, rinse it thoroughly, and pat it dry. Place it on an inverted Bradley rack set over a baking sheet, and air dry uncovered in the refrigerator overnight (12 – 24 hours). If you don’t have the refrigerator space to air dry the bacon, you can do this step in the Bradley. Preheat the Bradley to 100 - 120°F with vent wide open, and place your room temperature bacon in the smoker. To get these low temperatures you will need to use the ‘cold smoke setup’. Do not apply smoke at this time. You just want to dry the bellies until they are tacky when touched. Depending on the size of your load, this generally takes about 2 hours, but to be on the safe side, check the bellies after one hour.
The Smoking Process:
Once you have ‘air dried’ the bacon, place into a 120°F - 140°F preheated smoker with vent half open. The amount of smoke is up to you. I generally will only apply 2 hours, using maple.
If air dried in the refrigerator, set the bellies out in room temperature for 1 - 2 hours before placing them in the smoker.
If you air dried it in the Bradley, increase the temperature to 120°F - 140°F, close to vent to half open, and begin to apply your smoke.
After you have applied your smoke, increase the heat to 160°F, and smoke/cook the bacon until an internal temperature of 150°F is reached. Or increase the temperature to 150°F, and smoke/cook until an IT of 140°F is reached.
After the desired internal temperature has been reached, remove from smoker and allow to cool slightly. When cool enough to handle, but still warm pull the skin off (you may need a sharp knife to help) making sure you leave as much fat on the bacon as possible.