One of the most common questions we are asked by our customers is "How do I cure a fresh pork side?" The answer to that question is based on the equipment you have or that you are capable of using. You can do a dry rub, use a vacuum machine, injection, or a combination of those techniques. Here at Ferdinand Processing, we use a vacuum tumbling machine to cure our pork sides for bacon and pork shoulder for shoulder bacon.
If you want your pork side to look nice and uniform, we recommend that you trim the edges up to form a rectangular shape. You can grind the excess trim for pork sausage, use to make exotic summer sausage (venison, turkey, elk, beef), put in creek fries, and many other ideas.
When you have your pork side trimmed, make sure you have the weight so you can correctly measure your seasoning & cure based on the amount you will be curing. Because we vacuum tumble our bacon, we have to add water to our cure formula. Our normal curing round is 100 pounds of bacon sides or pork shoulder. We found our best results to be when the pork sides tumble for approximately two hours at a medium speed. The pork shoulder takes a longer time and the rotation is at a much slower pace than the pork sides.
Once the sides are finished tumbling in the cure, take them out and lay them nicely in a tub so they can keep curing for 24 hours in the cooler. (This would be the time to add additional dry rub; pepper mixture, jalapeño, maple sugar, brown sugar, etc.) The bacon with firm over night in the cooler and will be ready to hang on the smoke truck the next day.
We use the first smokehouse we purchased after buying the business in 1988, a Vortron Smokehouse, for smoking bacon only. The cured pork sides are hooked and hung on the smoke truck. Our smoking process takes 8 - 9 hours in the smokehouse (at 150 degrees). We add a certain saw dust to the smoke generated to get the color and smoke flavor.
Everyone will have a different way to explain how to smoke fresh sides. Our bacon is considered Not Fully Cooked. We are required to meet the minimum internal temperature (128 degrees) requirement for cold smoking bacon.
Once the bacon is finished smoking, we place them in our finished product cooler (40 degrees or below) to properly cool. The smoked bacon hangs in the cooler for over 24 hours before we start slicing and packaging for retail.
Our bacon slicer can only slice one bacon side at a time. (Takes a lot of time if you have 500# of smoked sides to slice!) The bacon is then packaged in freezer-ready vacuum packed packages to sell in our retail store. ->
Over the past several years, our bacon has won top awards at the Indiana Meat Packers and Processors Association Convention. If you have never tried our bacon, we ask that you do and let us know what you think!
True Story: Someone has asked us before to make their entire hog in to smoked bacon. Unfortunately, a hog only has one pork side per half and there are two halves to a hog :) Therefore, only two sides can be made in to smoked bacon and the remaining cuts (chops, ribs, shoulders, hams, butts) need to be cut or made in to sausage.