Adapted from Charucterie by Michael Rhulman & Michael Polcyn
1/2 c chopped fresh parsley
1/4 c chopped fresh sage
1/4 c chopped fresh rosemary
1/4 c fresh thyme leaves
4 cloves chopped garlic
2 tbs coarsely ground black pepper
1/4 c coarse kosher salt
1/4 c sugar
2 tsp pink curing salt #1
5 lb fresh pork belly, skin on or off
Combine all ingredients except belly in a bowl. Place the belly in a 2 gallon ziplock bag or a non-reactive, close-fitting container, and rub the cure over all surfaces of the belly. Seal the bag or tightly cover the container, and refrigerate for seven days, flipping the belly daily to distribute the resulting brine.
After seven days, remove belly from cure and rinse. It’s OK if some herbs and pepper still cling to the belly. At this point you have a few choices for processing; smoking, baking or drying.
I like to smoke my bacon, so I fire up my smoker. You can use indirect BBQing. I hot smoke the bacon with some apple wood until the internal temperature reaches 140 degrees. Your smoker temp should hang around 250 degrees. Much hotter and you won’t get enough smoke penetration before the belly is cooked, and you’ll also loose a lot of fat in the process.
If you don’t have time to spend several hours tending a smoker, just bake the belly in the oven. I do this frequently during our extra cold Minnesota winters when I just can’t bare to go outside. Preheat the oven to 250 and bake on a rack over a sheet tray until the bacon reaches 140 degrees internal temp.
You can also dry the bacon like the Italians do for pancetta. I cut a hole in the corner of the belly and string mine up in the basement to cure for a week. After it’s great in just about anything, particularly beans, as a base for pasta sauce or as lardons over salad.
Once your bacon is finished smoking, baking or drying, divide it into one pound blocks to either be sliced for frying or left whole for chunks or lardons. I leave one pound in the fridge and wrap the rest in parchment, then foil and freeze until I need it.