This is my take on old-timey country bacon that’s made from the meatier pork shoulder roast (aka pork butt). It’s like a cross between country ham and traditional bacon – smoky, salty, and just a little sweet. I like to make up a big batch of this and freeze it off in breakfast-sized portions.
2 pork butts (pork shoulder roast), boned and trimmed
1 tablespoon Morton’s Sugar Cure per pound of meat
1 teaspoon white sugar per pound of meat
1/2 cup maple syrup
2 tablespoons ground black pepper
The meat needs to cure before it gets smoked. This takes at least a week and preferably 10 days. These particular butts were both just under 8 pounds, so I cured them separately because I didn’t have a container big enough for both of them.
Place each butt in a large zip-top bag. Combine the black pepper with 1 tablespoon Morton’s Sugar Cure and 1 teaspoon white sugar per pound of meat (so each butt got 1 tablespoon pepper, 1/2 cup Morton’s cure, and 8 teaspoons sugar). Rub the cure all over the butt, making sure to cover all sides. Pour 1/4 cup of maple syrup over each butt, and turn to coat.
Seal the bags and store the butts in the fridge. Liquid will begin to collect to collect in the bags, indicating that the cure is working. Cure for 7-10 days, flipping the meat over once a day.
After the butts are cured, remove them from the bag and soak in cold water for 3 hours to remove some of the salt. Let them drip dry on a rack while you fire up the grill.
Set your grill up for an indirect cook at 300°F. On the Big Green Egg this meant filling the firebox with lump charcoal and using a plate setter and drip pan to diffuse the heat. When the cooker is up to temp, add some chucks of wood for smoke. Apple or hickory work great here.
Smoke the butts until the internal temperature hits 140°F. That took about 5 hours for these butts. At this point the meat is cured, but not fully cooked. Stash the meat in the fridge to cool, and then slice to your desired thickness.
I ran the butts through my Chef’s Choice 610 Electric Food Slicer at about a 1/4 inch thick setting. This is thin enough that the meat will fry up quickly but not so thin that it starts to fall apart.
This batch of cottage bacon had some great flavor. I like the addition of maple syrup and how the sweetness plays off the saltiness and bits of pepper. Pork shoulder has a good amount of fat in it, but not nearly as much as the belly meat that bacon is usually made with, so it fried up nicely on the chewy side of crispy versus chewy.
These butts had had the bone removed when I bought them. That makes slicing them a lot easier, but the meat wasn’t as compact as I would have liked and some of the little bits that stuck out got overcooked during smoking. I would tie up the butts (oh, that sounds wrong) with butcher’s twine next time.