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Culinary Class: Bacon

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The Breakfast Cure

Don’t bring home the bacon, make it yourself

Written by Lia Grabowski | Photos by Jonathan Boncek

There’s nothing quite like the smell of bacon frying. Whether anchoring a BLT or sitting sidecar to eggs, bacon has amassed a frenzied following as one of America’s most beloved foods, yet few attempt to cure their own. While Charlestonians were heartbroken when cured meat haven Artisan Meat Share shuttered earlier this year, chef Bob Cook transitioned to Edmund’s Oast, another Holy City hot spot known for its charcuterie. We turned to Cook for his recipe for a simple dry cure that transforms pork belly into bacon slabs, along with a few tips for the process. Be sure to use cure #1 (also known as pink curing salt #1)—it’s a combination of sodium nitrite and table salt that’s ideal for quick cures. Exact measurements in the cure mix are crucial, according to Cook, so break out the kitchen scale. Don’t be shy when applying the seasoning mixture to the pork belly. Cook’s advice is simple, “If you’re going to eat it, season it.” You’re creating a brine that equalizes the salinity throughout the meat. While the meat cures, liquid will form in the baking dish. This liquid infuses flavor into the meat, and f lipping the meat each day allows the flavor to penetrate both sides equally. After two to three weeks, depending on its size, your pork belly will be ready to cook. If you don’t have access to a smoker, you can bake the meat for about three hours in a 275-degree oven. Come breakfast time, slice the meat and start frying. For less mess and evenly crisp bacon, bake strips of pork belly on a wire rack over a rimmed baking sheet.