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The recipe for maple-cured smoked bacon

March 18, 2009

Times staff writer Jason Song's piece last week about taking on the Food Stamp Challenge was a hit with readers -- it was one of the most viewed and e-mailed stories of the week -- and generated plenty of reader e-mail. Almost all of it asked Song about his recipe for making bacon. Here it is, adapted from "Charcuterie" by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn:

Maple-cured smoked bacon

Note: This has not been tested by The Times test kitchen. For an unsmoked version, the meat can be cooked on a rack in a roasting pan in a 200-degree oven until it reaches an internal temperature of 150 degrees. It will take about 1 1/2 hours. Makes 4 pounds of bacon. Pink salt (a preservative, not the Hawaiian kind) is available via mail order or from specialty stores such as Nicole's Gourmet Foods in South Pasadena.

1/4 cup kosher salt (50 grams)

2 teaspoons (12 grams) pink salt

Maple syrup or packed dark brown sugar

5 pounds of pork belly, skin on

1. Mix together the kosher salt, pink salt and one-fourth cup maple syrup or packed dark brown sugar. Stir in another one-fourth cup maple syrup. Rub the mixture over the meat and put it skin-side down in a 2-gallon plastic bag slightly bigger than the meat. (The pork will release water into the salt mixture, creating a brine; it's important that the meat keep in contact with this liquid throughout the curing process.)

2. Refrigerate, turning the belly and redistributing the cure every other day, for seven days, until the meat is firm to the touch.

3. At the end of the week, remove the meat from the cure, rinse it clean, and pat it dry. Put it back into the refrigerator uncovered on a rack set over a baking sheet and let it dry for 12 to 24 hours.

4. Hot-smoke the pork belly until it reaches an internal temperature of 150 degrees. Cool slightly and when the belly is cool enough to handle but still warm, cut the skin off by sliding a sharp knife between the fat and the skin, leaving as much fat on the bacon as possible. (Discard the skin, or cut into pieces and save it to add to soups, stews or beans, as you would a smoked ham hock.) Let the bacon cool, then wrap in plastic and refrigerate or freeze until ready to use.

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