The first challenge I ran into when making my own bacon was finding the most import element/ingredient, the pork belly. I think I’ll spare you the specifics on where on the pig this comes from, because really it is pretty self explanatory. What I did find surprising was how difficult it was for me to find fresh pork belly at a reasonable price without having to order 30 lbs or haul it clear across the city.
The first place I tried was McKinnon’s in Davis Square. After a brief talk with a woman who worked there who swore up and down that their “pork shoulder” was really pork belly, I went home only to discover that I should have trusted my instincts and asked to speak with someone else. It was indeed pork shoulder and it also had a really unappealing smell to it. Well, lesson learned.
Next stop Market Basket in Somerville, but when I discovered that several packages of meat were leaking into the case, I fled in horror. This left me having to expand my horizons a little more. The problem was that if I had to buy my pork belly from a shop that doesn’t always carry pork belly, that means that there can be a minimum amount you need to order. In the end, a co-worker helped me get some fresh pork belly (bone-in, skin still on) from a different Market Basket location.
Since I am all about encouraging people to try new things and support their local butcher shops (two of my uncles are currently and my grandfather was a butcher), I am going to supply a list of other places you can check out:
The Butcher Shop
Sulmona Meat Market
DiPaolo & Rossi Meat Market
Basically, you are looking for is a 5-7lb piece of pork belly, skin on. You can either leave the bones in or ask the butcher to remove them for you. In retrospect, I should have asked for the bones removed because in ended up taking too much meat off in a few places when I tried to remove the ribs myself. Still, eating the ribs was part of the fun too.
Let me end this section with one word of the wise to the squeamish. The attached skin is from the underbelly of the pig, tiny translucent hair and nipples and all. You won’t be eating the skin in the end, but I just wanted to throw that out there. You are gonna have to get your hands all up in raw meat and I know that can be a bit challenging for some.
Next time: preparing the cure.