I have made bacon several times, also pancetta and even guanciale. My advice if this is your first time is to follow the suggested method from "Charcuterie" exactly. Here it is:
Maple-Cured Smoked Bacon
NOTE: If you prefer a more savory taste omit the maple syrup. If you like black
pepper, add it to the cure.
2 oz. kosher salt (1/4 cup)
2 teaspoons pink salt
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup maple syrup
5 lbs slab pork belly, skin on
Combine and mix dry cure ingredients. Add syrup and mix to combine.
Rub the cure mix over the entire surface of the pork belly. Place skin side down
in a 2-gallon Ziploc bag or a nonreactive container slightly larger than the
Refrigerate, turning the belly and redistributing the cure, every other day for
7 days, until the meat is firm to the touch.
Remove, rinse thoroughly, and pat dry. IMPORTANT at this point slice off a bit
and fry it up and eat it to test for salt content. If it's too salty continue
rinsing, going to cold soaks changing water every 2 hours if necessary until it
isn't too salty any more.
Refrigerate on rack uncovered 12-24 hrs.
Hot smoke to 150°F. Let cool to touch but still warm and cut the skin off,
leaving as much fat on the bacon as possible. (Cut up the skin and add it to
soups, stews or beans as you would a smoked ham hock.)
Let the bacon cool, then wrap in plastic and refrigerate or freeze.
<< -- end of quoted recipe -- >>
I love that hint of maple syrup! It really makes it work for me. Only thing is that I don't leave the skin on anymore. I trim it off the belly before I start.
Another thing: it is REALLY handy to have a real meat slicer available for bacon. I picked up an old Globe slicer that didn't work right, and fixed it. I generally use it in manual mode even though it is an automatic slicer. It works amazingly well, and is easy to clean. With a real slicer, you can get perfect slices of bacon.
One last tip. If you buy a whole pork belly, trim it and cut it into chunks with nice parallel edges, about 6-7" long. Makes it easier to manipulate during curing, and it lets you slice off a chunk and eat it for awhile and freeze the rest later. Freeze the uncured trimmings to grind into your next sausage run.