Friday, April 13, 2012

Making Off Off-Grid Bacon

4/13/2012 - 6th Day - Morning.  Preparation of the Sabbath. Greetings friends. I had several requests to post how I make bacon (in an off off-grid way), so I thought I'd do that very thing. If you're like me, you love to read about the "old-timey" ways of doing things, and you study preserving foods in a more traditional, pre-Industrial way. However, I'm forever frustrated that almost every cook book, website, etc. that deals with food preservation immediately turns to refrigeration or freezing throughout the process, as if those methods were always available in the days before the ubiquitous use of electricity. The very fact that we are here and breathing air on earth bears witness to the fact that our forefathers were able to produce, preserve, and store food without electricity. Even canning is now considered a "must" in homestead food preservation, when in fact canning is a very new phenomenon, and it is (in the long run) an unsustainable practice. For the Off Off-Grid homesteader, we need to know how to do things in the ways that they were done for millennia before the onslaught of industrialism and readily available (and soul-deadening, and mind crippling) electricity. So here is a way to make bacon like your ancestors likely did (***Disclaimer: If you are one of those people who thinks that we shouldn't eat bacon, or that it is forbidden, then bypass the rest of this.  Here is a link just for you***):
Bacon cure (per 5 lbs. of bacon):
4 oz. sea salt 
4 tsp. of pink salt
1 tsp. of Saltpetre (we buy it at a local drug store but it can be made at home... with urine)
4 tbs black pepper
2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 cup sucanat or brown sugar (regular sugar or honey will work too)
20 sprigs of thyme
Start with some fresh pork belly. When you butcher, this is the part that basically covers up the belly. There are plenty of resources online that tell you how to cut up a pig, but here is a primer:

I'm no expert butcher, but I can get parts and make them into bacon. And in fact, the method shown here is good for turning ANY part of the pig into bacon. You can take big chunks of the loin, ham, or shoulder and make "Canadian Bacon" out of them, using this same process.

This isn't pretty butchering, but it is gorgeous meat

A close up of the deliciousness
If you are going to try to keep your bacon without refrigeration, go ahead and add the 1 tsp of Saltpetre at the beginning. Put all of this into a deep pan and coat your bacon liberally with it. Get it in all of the nooks and crannies.
This is the "cure", and that is what you call it.
Coat every surface liberally.  Get it into every nook and cranny
You can see here that I've tried to use every bit of the cure
Cover and Store it in a cool place for 1 week. The cooler the better. But don't panic, like modern books try to make you do. If you can keep it fairly cool (root cellar temps) for a week, then you'll be fine. After the week, rinse it off thoroughly with cool water and let it soak in cool water for 24 hours. Then dry it off well and let it sit in a cool place for another 24 hours. This is the equalization period, when the cure is equalized throughout the meat. The next step is to cold smoke it for 7 days or longer depending on how dry and smoked you want it. I recommend up to two weeks if you want to store it really long term.  If you want to ship it from England to America, smoke/dry it for a month or more before packing it in salt.

Beautiful meat smoking in our beautiful smokehouse
If you want this bacon for long term preservation without refrigeration, pack the finished bacon in salt.  When you are ready to use it, pull it from the salt, rinse it off, slice it, soak it for 24 hours in cool water to get rid of some of the saltiness, and then fry it up!

The finished product will be beautiful and pink and very tempting
Slice it to the thickness you desire and you are ready to go!
It's really a pretty simple process, and this bacon will store for a very long time if it is checked regularly and maintained. There are other ways to preserve it for long-term storage. If you have a generator, you can shrink wrap it, put it in a sealed container and store it in your root cellar. You can also "lard" it, by putting each slab one-at-a-time into a crock and then covering it with melted and rendered lard. When it is time to cook your bacon, you pull it out of the lard, scrape off the excess and wipe it down, then slice it and cook it. Always remember, if you store your bacon in salt, you will need to soak it for a good long time to reduce the saltiness before you slice it and eat it.

I look forward to hearing your comments and do let us know when you make your own.

Your servant in Christ Jesus,

Michael Bunker

Addendum:  In an emergency or "off off-grid" situation, it may be that you do not have "pink salt" or curing salt.  For centuries regular salt, sea salt, or whatever salt was at hand would be used, and worked fine.  You can make saltpetre several different ways at home, so do some research online.


Prepper Website said...

You can never go wrong with bacon! I'm glad I'm not Jewish. ;-)

Michael Bunker said...

Me too Todd. Bacon is one of our major food groups around here. So delicious. And so unlike commercial bacon that it isn't even in the same category.


Joleen said...

I'm glad you posted this! My husband has been trying his hand at salt curing and smoking bacon (with delicious results). But all the receipes he's found call for freezing after the smoking. Thank you!

Anonymous said...

I completely agree with your description of the effects of electricity. Have you written more about this elsewhere?

I have resisted getting into canning because of the resources it requires. Is dehydration the best method to use for fruits and veggies? What other methods do you use?

Thank you!

Michael Bunker said...

Anonymous, I'm glad you asked :) I have a book on the topic that is entitled "Surviving Off Off-Grid" and the whole book discusses the issues of electrification, industrialism, etc. You can find it at the top of my blog on the left hand side. Just click on the picture of the book.


Mountain Home Quilts said...

Thank you for posting this. Our next hogs won't be ready to butcher until the fall but I'll be trying this out then!

Mountain Home Quilts said...

A question, the Saltpetre is a nitrate correct? Is it a natural nitrate like the types occuring in celery salt or is it a chemical nitrate? What brand do you buy?

Michael Bunker said...

MHQ, Saltpetre is a nitrate. Just about everything (including water) is a chemical, but Saltpetre is not a substance necessarily made from unnatural sources. It is technically a mineral (Potassium Nitrate), and it is one of the primary ingredients of urine. I'll have to find out the brand and report back, because I don't remember. I use Saltpetre rather than expensive pre-mixed curing salts because I know I can make it when I need to without buying it anywhere.


Papa, Mama and Buniq said...

A note to MQH...celery versions of nitrates/nitrites, actually end up delivering much higher levels of nitrites to the meat, then the traditional, used for centuries salt cures.
I highly suspect that the cancer issues, have more to do with all the other junk that is added, plus our general toxic food and body care system. And of course, the toxic way meat is raised in the first place, for the general public.

Sherri said...

We are raising our first pigs this year. We will be having them processed at a small local processing facility this fall, but in the future I would like to learn how to take on this task for myself. Could you recommend a book or other resource on how to smoke meat? Thank you.

5blessings said...

isn't pork supposed to be biblically unclean for us to eat?

Michael Bunker said...

5blessings, No. Not unless you are an uncoverted Jew and don't recognize the New Testament, or if you reject the findings of the Jerusalem Council of Apostles in Acts 15, or if you reject Christ's words that what goes into our body cannot defile us, or Christ's teaching through Peter that the food laws had been abdicated representing the bringing in of the gentiles... So... if you reject that the gentiles can be saved, then perhaps pork is unlawful for you. But if you accept that the gentiles can be saved, then the teaching of the New Testament shows that the food prohibitions were typology showing how under the New Covenant the gentiles would be brought into Christ. I hope this helps,


Jaime D Buckley said...

Michael, loved the post and you made my wife smile! She's a lovely Samoan girl and we love bacon, but more to the point, she's been dreading the whole canning issue.

Got 5 copies of your Surviving Off-Off Grid and I have to say, next to my scriptures, it has become my favorite book. Not comparing it, BTW, just stating my fondness for the truth I'm learning. Half way through, bought it for my wife and all my oldest children (I have 11) and we're changing our thought processes.

This bacon article has me even more excited--as I have always loved to smoke meats. Thank you for sharing!

Jaime Buckley

Michael Bunker said...

Thank you Jaime, for your kind words. I'm glad you liked the book.

The Adams Family said...

Im currently reading a book, probobly from the 1800s and it always mentions saltpetre...didnt know what it was! Great post. Now for directions on a smoke house:)~Dana

omegaman said...

yearzerosurvival likes this!