Home-Cured Maple Bourbon Bacon
Everyone loves bacon especially this Home-cured Maple Bourbon Bacon. When you thought bacon couldn’t be any better; add some maple and bourbon to it!
Bacon! Bacon! Bacon! You know that commercial where the dog is going crazy for some artificial bacon strips? Well, I found myself saying those three words with the same level of excitement recently. Last weekend I planned to do two things. Make something with the Home-cured Maple Bourbon Bacon that I had cured the week before as a part of the #Charcutepalooza crew (it’s a Twitter thing!) and watch some of the 3 day photography seminar that Penny de los Santos was doing online.
Little did I know how perfectly these two events would mesh together on one day.
The bacon was so simple (as was the corned beef I did recently) that I’m now considering moving further than I ever imagined into doing more and more Charcuterie. Our Bible is the book of the same name by Michael Ruhlman and while I am not participating in the contest challenge…I’m OK with that. I have the advantage of seeing what others have done which lets me both pick and choose favorites and get some great inspiration.
Back to the bacon. Curing bacon is beyond simple. The most difficult part of the entire process is finding sources for the main ingredients. Most grocery stores simply do not carry pork belly and though I’ve heard that Walmart might occasionally have the pink salt required for curing; that was not the case at the one closest to me. I eventually found pink curing salt at a local Savory Spice Shop where it is also available online.
I also had to do some work to find pork belly. I finally located some in Loveland, CO and was ‘this’ close to making that hour drive when I thought to call one last place and I’m so glad I did. I discovered that Tony’s Market in Denver typically has a good supply of frozen pork belly on hand and it was perfect. Even better though; years after I first posted, my local Costco now carries some beautiful pork belly…10 pound packaging means there will be some lucky neighbors once I finish prepping and smoking my latest bundle.
Why maple? Well, a couple of months ago a wonderful friend I’ve met on Twitter, Paula (@vanillabeanbake) asked if I would like some Canadian Maple Syrup. Um…YEAH! I admit; I’ve been hoarding it and wanted to use it for something really special…and this was it. After combining the Kosher salt, pink salt and brown sugar and making sure the entire belly was covered, I put the meat into a large Ziploc bag then added the syrup and made sure it was distributed. Easy enough right?
Why Bourbon? I say why not Bourbon?!!
The hard part is waiting a week; turning it each day to make sure that the brine covers all of the meat. You smoke it or bake it at a low heat for a couple of hours and after that it’s ready for real cooking. I think I’ll be buying an electric knife knowing I’ll be doing this again to make slicing it thin easier…I found my bread slicing knife did the best job this go around.
So…maybe you’re wondering how #PennyPalooza comes into play with this finished dish. I had registered weeks ago to see Penny de los Santos online conference produced by Creative Live. Penny is a renown magazine photographer and Senior Contributing Photographer at Saveur Magazine so be able to see her in action was exciting and a great learning experience. I did spend $99 to have a copy of the event to peruse when I had time as I knew I wasn’t going to be able to devote 3 entire days to the presentation.
While my plan on Saturday was to make a bacon-centric dish, I had not decided exactly what it would be. I had thought about quiche which I love but wasn’t totally enthused since I really wanted something that would visually highlight this amazing bacon.
And what should Penny decide to photograph shortly after I cooked those bacon slices? Grits and bacon with a fried egg on top. It seemed prophetic since I had just found Bob’s Red Mill Organic Corn Grits at Sunflower Market, I love fried eggs and well, as we know…I had the bacon. Even as Penny searched for the perfect dish to use…I already knew what I wanted mine to be in so it was ON!
I started cooking while Penny showed us how she got her shot. Should I share how she almost killed me? Because I’m an idiot? Penny was running up and down on a ladder to get an overhead picture and everyone on Twitter was joking about needing a ladder. I have a ladder. I have three ladders actually! But the leg I broke last year is still not quite strong enough for me to stand on it by itself so I decided to be wise and safe and just start with the little step stool.
Just one step and then a platform at the top. You know how sometimes you’re in a situation when a wave of fear courses through your body. I do. I heard Penny urging us to push through our fears and for me that was pretty literal! So this was it and all things considered, I’m OK with it. If I had a chance to do it again…the only thing I wish I had done was break the yolk but remember; I’m on a ladder with one leg and a wave of fear. This was good enough and I’m still alive!
To say this was satisfying is the epitome of understatement. Home cured Maple Bourbon Bacon with some Parmesan corn grits and one perfect fried egg? This is Heaven!
6/5/19 – Note I’m preparing the grits recipe to be published separately…soon!
PIN ‘Home-Cured Maple Bacon Bourbon’
Maple Bourbon Bacon Home Cured
- 5 lb pork belly
- 1 cup bourbon divided
- 2 ounces kosher salt about 1/4 cup
- 1 tsp pink curing salt
- ½ cup packed dark brown sugar or maple sugar
- 1-2 tsp garlic powder
- ¼ cup maple syrup
To Prepare the Bacon:
- Lay the pork belly flat and brush over all surfaces with the bourbon.
- Pour the maple syrup all over and make sure it's distributed on all sides of the belly.
- Combine the salt, pink salt, maple or brown sugar and garlic powder in a bowl and mix well.
- Rub this mixture over the entire surface of the belly. Place skin side down into a 2 gallon Ziploc bag. (The salt will make the pork release water creating a brine).
- Refrigerate, turning the belly and redistributing the cure every day for 7 days until the meat is firm to the touch.
- Remove the belly from the cure, rinse thoroughly and pat dry. Place it on a rack set over paper towels in the fridge and allow to dry, uncovered for 12-24 hours.
- Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Place rack in a roasting pan. Put the belly on the rack and pour bourbon into the pan. Cook the pork belly to an internal temperature of 150 degrees F/65 degrees C; about 3 hours.
- During the last hour of cooking, if desired, brush with additional maple syrup a couple of times.
- Let cool slightly when it's cool enough to touch, cut off any skin; leaving as much fat as possible (the piece I bought already had the skin cut off).
- Allow to cool, then wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate or freeze until ready to use.
To Cook the Bacon:
- Cut into slices and cook on stovetop until just starting to crisp up. Devour.
Hi, I just came across your site and am so excited! I have made my own bacon once and was not thrilled with the results. Would you please tell me how you smoke your bacon. I recently purchased a pellet smoker just for this reason. Thank you for any help. suzie
I don’t have a pellet smoker Suzie so I think it would be best if you searched for a recipe made with that product. I think they are all probably a bit similar…low and slow!
I will try this dish
So I have been wanting to do maple bourbon ever since I bought this bottle of bourbon that is too sweet to drink. I was planning to make some mild adjustments to the recipe and was wondering your thoughts on how it would work. So the bourbon is already maple infused so I was going to use 1 1/2 cups of it and omit the regular bourbon and the maple syrup. I also wanted to cut the overly strong sweetness so I was going to go with light brown sugar. If I still rub with the dry ingredients and add the wet to the bag will this all still work or does it wash off too much of the brine initially? I know it might be a dumb question, but this is a first for me. Thank you for any help.
That would be fine Matt. The only thing in the brine that is absolute is the pink salt, flavoring can be modified to your choosing.
I hope you let me know after you’ve made it how it turns out!
Amazing recipe. I am trying it tomorrow.
It sounds like you rest the belly above the bourbon on a rack but at 200 degrees, I don’t see much evaporation occurring where it will flavor the belly. How did this turn out with the bourbon flavor? I’m thinking about either drizzling the bourbon over the belly as it smokes, or maybe have the belly sit in a little bit of bourbon thinking one side might such in the bourbon while the other will suck in the smoke.
That is what I did and it evaporated enough for me to have to pour in additional bourbon BUT I did decide to occasionally brush the bacon with bourbon for subsequent efforts and that did certainly increase the bourbon profile. Since I smoke it on a rack I didn’t want it to sit in it but the brushing did the trick. I’ve thought of putting it into the cure too but just prefer saving the bourbon for the smoking process. Let me know if you make it. It’s highly addictive!
Great, thank you. I like the idea of brushing it with the bourbon the best. Will leaving it in the cure an extra day or two hurt it, making it an 8-9 day cure? It’s currently scheduled to come out tonight but I can’t smoke it until Saturday.
Should not be a problem at all; a couple of extra days is fine. A month? Probably not. 🙂
Now wishing I had some cured to smoke this weekend.
Oh. Em. Gee! Why did I read this post before bedtime? I can smell bacon, I want to make bacon, I bet I’ll dream about bacon. You’re evil, lady! 😉
I’m literally laughing out loud…but let me tell you Rose, that bacon is a game changer. Beyond good. Promise!
I am so glad there are instructions here for someone who doesn’t have a smoker but does have an oven and a bottle of Makers. My bacon is drying in the oven now and I have checked it way too many times! It’s like having a present in the kitchen that you can’t open. And for grits lovers out there – I am partial to Anson Mills, milled in South Carolina. (http://www.ansonmills.com/grits.htm – Hint – Chef Sean Brock of Husk uses Anson Mills Grits!)
You are such a tease! I can get Bob’s Red Mill but I’ve heard Anson is the best. I’ll just swing by and pick some up. Would need a broom. 🙂
Can not WAIT to hear about your bacon; I am so proud of you…that treatment is my favorite and definitely have to do it next time when the current batch runs out. Holy yum it is!
Thank You for sharing these recipes. I just started smoking my own bacon and this recipe sounds wonderful. What’s better than grits, beacon and eggs, what a perfect meal any time of the day.
I would certainly never question the use of maple or bourbon for curing pork belly! Go for it! This is definitely a bacon household and I know the family would love this maple bourbon bacon. It certainly looks worth the effort of finding the ingredients and waiting a week! Good choice on the grits and egg.
SO good with the maple and the bourbon; nothing else quite measure up now! Pork belly is much more available now that it’s become somewhat popular in restaurants. I found mine at a local Asian market and then the best find? At a restaurant supply store for $2.50/lb; half what the stores are selling it for. Yes, I had to buy 10 lbs but guess what my family got for Christmas? Bacon!
Wow! Mr Grumpy pants really told you!
maple Bourbon and Bacon.thanks for bringing together .three of my favorite flavors.. my mouth is watering… and I want to go to Vermont…wonderful post.
Maple Bourbon and bacon…thanks for blending three of my favorite flavors.. my mouth is watering..and I suddenly want to visit Vermont.. Wonderful post
I would like to start off by stating that I am the owner of a small meat plant. I handle more cured meats in a single day than most people do in a month. As such, I felt it important to point out some errors in your post.
First, “pink salt”. I presume you are referring to modern cure (6.5% sodium nitrite), which is dyed pink so that it is not mistaken for table salt. The amount of cure you are using is ENTIRELY TOO MUCH for the amount of meat in the recipie. Modern cure is a federally regulated item due to the fact that if used in excess it can severely damage the liver. By federal standards, you are using approximately enough cure for 10 pounds of meat. Judging by the quantities of the rest of the ingredients in your recipie you are well below that level.
Second. Modern cure is in fact required to properly cure meats. While it is possible to salt or sugar cure meat, it is NOT cured in accordance with USDA regulations. Claiming that “pink salt” is only used to color the product is not only erroneous but also creates a health hazard. While improperly cured meats will decay slower than untreated meat, they continue to do so. It is more difficult to recognize a piece of rotten, partially cured meat than it is to recognize a piece of rotten, untreated meat.
Third. Sodium Erythorbate. If you are using modern cure in ANY amount you must add sodium erythorbate to help exacerbate the risk of cure poisoning.
While I appreciate others taking up interest in the creation of home made cured meats and custom process items, it is vital to make sure that you posess the correct knowledge to handle the ingredients involved. This is especially important if you intend to share the formulation you are using with the general public.
I used the exact same ratios for bacon I’ve made – savory and sweet versions – perhaps 12 times now. This is the recipe from M. Ruhlman & B. Polcyn’s Charcuterie. The pink salt is being washed off after the cure – perhaps that’s where your concern comes from?
I actually found that the ratio for the separate recipe for Maple Cured Bacon did include more pink salt than the ratios for the basic cure in the book; I’ve revised the recipe accordingly and halved the amount of pink salt previously listed. Thanks for bring this to my attention!
Thanks for the link on pink salt. I’m that much closer to making my own bacon. 🙂
I seriously need to start making my own bacon. This looks so good.
I think a lot of us attempted to climb for the shot after PennyLive, it’s lead to some great pics and some scary moments!
I’m glad I’m not alone…and then I realized I could put my camera up high and turn the viewfinder towards me…yeah, think I’ll be doing that for awhile.
This has me drooling, Barb. I’m always a sucker for grits, and topped with that gorgeous egg and bacon? Wow.
I stumbled upon your site by wave of picture and I am so glad I did. Brings back memories of the times that we used to make our own charcuterie in the kitchen I worked in. Your recipe sounds delicious and your pictures look amazing. I was wondering where you bought the serving dish in the last picture though…it’s so cute!
Thank you Steffy; the charcuterie and the photos all a work in progress so I really appreciate your kind words. I ‘think’ I got that dish at Costco…it’s been a few years; came in a set of four and they are a fun way to serve not just breakfast but warm appetizers.
I am definitely not showing this to E… because lord knows he’d go absolutely crazy over this post.
Love means not eating bacon when others get to, right? Next? Bacon Jam.
What a gourmet feast! This will be bookmarked for the upcoming weekend and if i haven’t said it yet, I love the new site
Thanks Maris for the sweet compliment and hope you do make some; so worth the effort.
You know what’s sad? I was so happy to get that book for Christmas and you know what I’ve done with it? Absolutely nothing. It sits on a shelf, unloved. At least I get to enjoy what could be with everyone’s posts, including this one. I think there’s a market nearby that stocks pork belly. I’d just have to find the pink salt. Your bacon looks perfect and so does the picture with the egg and grits.
Run, do not walk and start making something. Both corned beef and bacon so amazing I will never again purchase them ready made.
YUM BARB!! Sheesh….now I’m jonesin for a cocktail AND some grits, eggs and YOUR bacon. I’m checking flights now to Colorado! LOL
I’m ready; I’ve got the space. We’ll make our own conference!
I tried my hand at curing and smoking my own bacon last month and the results were nothing short of astounding. I had intended on sharing some with my foodie friends, but it was so fantastic, I hoarded the whole 12 pounds for our family! I live in Grand Junction, so sourcing the pork belly was a problem. I was in Denver for a Rockies game, so with a little advance research, ended up at Tony’s Market, too (and Savory Spice afterwards). I can’t wait to cure and smoke another slab and can’t imagine wanting to settle for store bought bacon ever again! Before this, I never understood the French and their love for lardons this and lardons that. Now, I totally get it and regret my former ignorance.
For what it’s worth, I tried every knife I could lay my hands on before settling on an electric knife. Still not perfect, but better than anything else. I’m thinking I need to make friends with a bacon lover who has a deli slicer so I can work a trade.
If I can ever help getting some sent to you; let me know Daniel. I’m so happy I found it there; I do trust the quality of their meats. I have a pound of ‘regular’ bacon in the freezer I’ll probably use up but next time I’m not settling for 3 lbs…I think you were smart to do 12!
YUM! I have that book as well, need to make some time to cook for fun. Well done pics and post!
Thank you…and do it! So very good.
Maple bourbon bacon? You are killing me! I’ve been following #charcutepalooza and making my own bacon for a few months now, along with pancetta, pastrami, hot-smoked salmon, and more. It’s so easy and fun to learn about Charcuterie, and the results, as you’ve clearly shown here, are amazing. I’ll try your recipe for sure. Note to self: add pork belly to this week’s shopping list!
It’s easier than I thought it would be and the results are far more stellar than I ever imagined; wish we could charcute together friend.
Hey, I’m in for the sausage making when ever you get ready. There is a place in TX that makes the best venison and pork sausage I have ever eaten. I have even thought about contacting them to see it they need an intern for the day. This is on my bucket list. I think I see a cottage industry on the horizon. By the way, stay off that ladder! This is not a popular opinion but I am so glad that you didn’t break the yolk like Penny. Your photo is gorgeous.
You are too sweet my friend but I appreciate it all and yes, the ladder might have been too much too soon. But sort of empowering in it’s own way too cause I did manage to do it. Let’s plan the sausage making…next on my list but not a bucket list; a do in the next two weeks list!
Barbara, I’m so glad you did this post and gave me a local source for the pink salt. A friend in Denver is having his annual bacon party complete with prizes. So I’m going to make homemade smoked (yes we have a smoker) bacon this year. Past winners always combine the sweet (usually chocolate) with the bacon, so I still have to figure out that part.
And yes, the Asian markets always have pork belly and any other pork cut you’d ever want including ears and tails!
Have you been to that H Mart in Aurora. It’s like a Costco it’s so huge. Not just dried anchovy…nope, five kinds of dried anchovy! And you are right about the pig parts; though I’m not thinking ears or tails will likely show up in anything here anytime soon. 🙂
wow! I’m so glad I found your site! This was a great post, I had fun reading it I felt like I was there watching you on the ladder and such. I love your writing flow it’s wonderful, I will definitely be back for more. Thanks so much for sharing, your photo came out spectacular btw. Penny also inspired me and I don’t think I’ll ever be the same again! =]
Thanks for dropping by and for the sweet compliments; so appreciated!
I’m surprised that you didn’t set up a table at the end of your driveway to show off this fabulous bacon you made! What a super job you did with it and that dish you prepared and photographed (however perilously) turned out amazing Barb. You should take some of this bacon to the butcher at Tony’s market and show him what you did with his pork belly. So proud of you Barb.
P.S. Though it isn’t an afterthought at all, thank you for mentioning the blog and providing the link, very sweet of you. This is CAN-AM Charcuterie with the Kentucky Bourbon and the Canadian Maple Syrup! LOL
That’s an idea and I love the whole idea of CAN-AM; glad I waited too. I just knew that syrup would be special and I was right. You know I love you for it!
Everything tastes better with bacon…and sauce 🙂 I can almost smell it.
I’ll have to make some for the next time our group gets together here. I made some bacon jam too. Now have biscuits in the oven…come on down!
Wow….amazing post! I love the end photo…gorgeous. I wish I could grab my fork and dig in!! 🙂
Barbara this is so awesome. I have to do this one of these days! And be careful on that ladder! I take my overhead shots by placing them on a sofa table by the window. It’s just the right height for me to stand and hold my camera over it. I bet that bacon taste so good!!
Thanks Amanda…and yes you need to get on the meat wagon; some of this is so easy to do and the results are so stellar I’m just a bit sad I didn’t start years ago.
Once I discovered that I can put my tripod up high and turn my viewfinder towards me (duh) I think that’s what I’ll do. I’m so tall (6′) that the table I work on is counter height to make staging easier for me and I’m desperately trying to keep all of this equipment in one place and quickly running out of room (now there’s a ladder there too!). Funny how that happens huh?
Bacon, Bourbon and Maple Syrup and then I see the eggs….yum. Seriously, this looks heavenly!!
Wow I admire you charcutepaloozians! My boyfriend is hopelessly addicted to bacon, nothing would make him more happy than having me curing some meat. I think I’m gonna get Ruhlman’s book and give it a try. Your bacon looks AMAZING, thanks for the inspiration, Barb 🙂
Welcome to the Meat Wagon!
Oh. my. Real homemade bacon. You know, I’ve watched some of you tweeting about charcutepalooza and thought it sounded interesting. After all, my dad and granddad did all our butchering, smoking, meat preserving when I was growing up. We even had a separate smokehouse where all the hams and bacon hung until they were ready to use. Now you’ve made me eager to give charcuterie a try for myself. But, as you said, find a source for the pork belly is going to be something of a treasure hunt 🙂 Wish me luck!
Lana, you must try it; doing it with a community has made it that much easier. I’m actually one of the event sponsors as I’ve done their web work, so I sort of like the luxury of doing it on my own time without the pressure of dates to win something. Just learning this has made me feel like a winner.
This looks great! Isn’t is satisfying when you realize you can make something yourself (and exhibit some creative control) that you never considered? Totally brings out the pioneer woman in my soul. Love it when it’s easier than you ever thought too. Thanks for the G2 Barb. I too have Charcuterie and have been poking around.
Exactly! When my children were younger and I was a stay at home mom; I admit more luxury of time to do things that made me feel that way. Way before any ‘movement’ I was growing our own vegetables, making our bread, canning, freezing; making my and the kids clothes because I wanted to. We kept a wood stove burning too for heat and I was often kidded; way before THE Pioneer Woman that I was like a pioneer woman. I loved that feeling of accomplishment that came from doing those things to care for my family.
I was bummed to miss the Penny de los Santos event this weekend (I’m at BlogHer Food in Atlanta) – hope it was good! And also, last year when I got a half hog from my CSA farm, the processor told me they would not just give me the pork belly uncured, which I found to be the oddest answer. I’m going to press them again this year because I’m hoping to make pancetta. Glad to know the source of pink salt!
Even at Tony’s it was in the freezer and not something they normally have out for sale. After having issues even finding it; it was sort of funny to go into H Mart, the Korean market in Aurora. They have a bunch of it; in slabs like I used, sliced and chunks. But I like knowing that Tony’s get quality meats; I’ll probably still go there when I want to do this again.
I watched part of the workshop also. Really enjoyed what I saw. Your photograph is really nice. I’ve not gotten out a ladder yet, but I can see it coming. 🙂 Thanks for stopping by my blog and the comment. I can tell I’m going to like your content and will subscribe. And one last thing. Don’t you love bacon made like this? yum.
Hey Lea Ann…got your email and thanks for stopping by even if you didn’t know it was the ‘new’ me! Bacon was the best ever!