I remember when I was a kid living at home, many mornings my Dad would come in my room and wake me by pulling my toes and saying "Get up! Come eat breakfast!" I was annoyed at it every time until I got a whiff of the heavenly aroma coming from the kitchen. The smell was my Mother cooking bacon that came from hogs that my Dad raised, slaughtered, butchered, and smoked. When I got a nose full of that smell of cooking bacon, I was up, dressed, teeth brushed and ready to eat. I knew that there would be bacon, hoe cake or biscuits, eggs, and white gravy waiting.
How I wish I could travel back in time to those days. Back then, my Dad's bacon was just a part of our lives. I had no idea how special it was. What I would give to be able to eat my Mom's hoe cake or biscuits one more time with that bacon and gravy. But, those days will never come again.
But, that doesn't mean that I can't try. I had a talk with my Dad recently and asked him how he made bacon back in those days. He told me he made it the same way his father made it. All they did was rub the meat down with salt and pepper and let it cure in the meat house for a couple of months and then smoked it with hickory.
Now, back in those days the weather around here was a little different than it is today. It was cold from November to March every year. I remember that the week of Thanksgiving was hog killing week because that's when the weather was cold enough to preserve meat without refrigeration. The hogs would be slaughtered and cleaned then hung in the meat house. The hams, bellies, and hocks would be rubbed down with only salt and pepper and allowed to cure for about two months then smoked with hickory. The loin, chops, ribs, and shoulders would be frozen. The chitlins would be well cleaned, some braided, and some frozen and some soon fried on a wood stove my Dad kept in the basement and served to close friends and family. The fat back was cured and hung in the meat house. Scraps of fat were cooked outside over a wood fire in a large SS drum to make lard.
But, what I miss most is the bacon. The bacon was made by my Father the same way his Father made it. He rubbed it only with salt and pepper and hung it in the smoke house for about 2 months and then smoked it with hickory. No TQ, no pink salt, no maple syrup. Just salt and pepper was used to cure it.
Yes, it was salty. In fact, my Mother would soak the meat the night before to remove much of the salt before cooking it in the morning. But, the meat was delicious. It was thick, it had a hard "rim" on it which was the hog's skin that would crisp up when fried. It was like NOTHING you can buy in stores nowadays.
So, while I can't reproduce the process exactly right now, I will have to wait until January for that, I will be giving it a try using a modified method of making my Dad's bacon. I picked up a 12 pound pork belly from the butcher today and will be beginning the curing process this weekend. I will have to wait until the winter to try and reproduce exactly what my Dad did to make his bacon. Hopefully, the process that I am going to use now will come close.
Here is a pic of the 12 pound pork belly I got today from my butcher. I will post some followup pics as the process progresses.
Thanks for looking.