There are many different types of bacon. Each of them is delicious and worthy of exploring. Cottage bacon is perhaps the most recognizable bacon to those who grew up with streaky, American-style bacon.
Sometimes known as Buckboard bacon, cottage bacon is cured pork made from cuts of the pig other than the pork belly, the portion used for American-style bacon.
However, the process of making it is the same as traditional American-style bacon – salt-cured and smoked.
Cottage bacon slices up into strips that fry up crisp and are perfectly suitable for layering up on your favorite BLT or sneaking into a hungry mouth.
How Does Cottage Bacon Differ from Regular Bacon?
Cottage bacon tastes and smells quite similar to American-style bacon. One notable difference is that it is from a meatier, leaner cut of pork and will therefore have much less fat to render down.
How to Cook Cottage Bacon
Making cottage bacon is so easy that you may stop buying pre-made bacon altogether. There are three primary steps – trimming, curing, and smoking.
Steps to Prepare Cottage Bacon
When buying the pork for cottage bacon, look for a boneless pork shoulder roast. This cut of meat goes by many different names:
- Boston butt
- Pork butt
- Picnic roast
- Picnic shoulder
If you cannot find a boneless roast, you can use a bone-in roast, but you’ll need to remove the bone before curing yourself.
How to Trim Your Pork Before Curing
Before you get to curing, you may need to trim up your pork shoulder roast. If it still has its fat cap, trim that thick layer of fat away. If you still have a bone in your roast, carefully cut that free. Take your time and be attentive to your cuts to keep the final product in good shape.
The last step is to slice the roast down to roughly two-inch thick slabs. These slabs will cure evenly and result in finished slices that resemble streaky bacon.
Curing Your Cottage Bacon
Preparing bacon begins with a curing process. The particular method described here is a salt cure.
Salt-curing draws the moisture from the meat, sapping life-essential water in bacteria present in your meat and killing it. A standard salt cure does not remove the risk of botulism.
The bacteria responsible for botulism are called clostridium botulinum. Persistent and hard to kill, this bacterium can make a home within curing meat and lead to food poisoning.
One way to prevent this is with nitrates, which inhibit the growth of the bacterium and avert botulinum toxin from forming. For home cooks, nitrate is available as curing salt.
Nitrates can be toxic to humans if ingested at unsafe levels. Curing salt is therefore not a seasoning, and it’s essential to use only the amount necessary for curing meat and to remember to rinse the salt off after the curing is complete and before you smoke to prevent adverse health effects.
The Curing Process
To begin, you’ll want to create a blend of spices, salt, and curing salt. Curing salt is known by many names. You may find it marketed as pink salt, Prague Powder #1, Tinted Cure, Cure #1, or Instacure #1.
Note that Himalayan Pink salt is not the same thing as curing salt. It is 6.75% sodium nitrate in sodium chloride, dyed pink to ensure home cooks will not accidentally ingest it.
Do not sprinkle curing salt on food like a seasoning.
Using the appropriate amount of salt for your meat will prevent adverse health effects. 1.1 grams of pink salt per pound of pork will work for this curing recipe. The Equilibrium Curing method can give you precise amounts if you have a good digital scale.
With the EQ curing method, you are aiming for a final percentage of salt that’s 2.5% of the weight of the meat. 2.25% of that will be kosher salt, and the remaining .25% will be pink salt. The remaining spice blend is not vital to the curing process, so it doesn’t need to be accounted for in the calculation.
Once you’ve determined the proper ratio, it’s time to mix your rub. A good blend includes brown sugar, cracked black pepper, sweet paprika, and kosher salt. Mix these thoroughly with your pink salt.
Place your pork roast in a resealable bag and rub your pork with the mix. Make sure to use all of the cure on the meat and thoroughly coat every exposed piece of pork with the curing blend. Seal the bag and stick it in the fridge.
Every day, flip your meat over and give it a good massage to work the cure into the pork and help the process along. If you’ve trimmed your roast down to a 2″ slab, it can cure for 7-9 days. Leave it in for about 14 days if you’ve left it thicker.
Once it’s finished curing, remove it from the bag and rinse the remaining cure off. Thoroughly dry the meat with paper towels. You’ll be left with a dryer, noticeably darker slab of meat ready to enter your smoker.
Smoking Your Cured Bacon
Set your smoker to 200 degrees and load it with your favorite wood chips – apple is always a good bet for slabs of bacon-to-be. Place your slabs of cured pork on racks and allow them to smoke for two to three hours.
When the internal temperature reaches 150 degrees, the bacon is ready. Remember to use a digital thermometer to verify the final temperature.
Once they reach temp, allow the bacon to cool and store in an airtight container.
How to Store Cottage Bacon
If you plan to use up all the prepared bacon within the next week, an airtight container in the fridge is all you need. If you’ve made more than you can consume in that time, portion it out and store the rest in freezer-safe containers.
You can keep cottage bacon for up to a year in the freezer if you’ve vacuum sealed in good bags with a good sealer. A freezer-safe container is good for up to six months but is best if used within a month or two.
How to Cook With Cottage Bacon
Cottage bacon can be used in place of American-style bacon. Since it’s leaner, it is a good alternative for those who want the salty, smoky, meaty delights of bacon without the risk of chewy fat that hasn’t fully rendered down. Preparing cottage bacon is similar to preparing streaky bacon.
Using the Stove
Toss it in a preheated pan or electric skillet over medium-low heat, turning it until crisped to your version of perfect.
Using the Oven
In a preheated, 375(degree) oven, bake the slabs of bacon on a cookie sheet with a raised lip for about 20 minutes. Oven-cooking is an easy way to cook traditional American-style bacon evenly and consistently without smoke.
Using the Grill
Directly over a lively fire, cottage bacon cooks up in about 3-4 minutes per side in a cast iron skillet. Keep a close eye on it to prevent burns from flare-ups.
Serve your bacon on toast slathered with mayo, topped with crisp lettuce and thick, juicy slices of tomato for a perfect BLT. Fry it up and serve alongside eggs for a hearty breakfast. Layer it atop a cheeseburger or dice it up in a pasta salad. The delicious potential of cottage bacon is only limited by your culinary imagination.