Everybody loves bacon. Did you know you could make your own bacon from pigs you hunt or trap? Once you’ve tasted your own bacon, it may be hard to eat store bought again. It’s just that good.
Living in Hawaii there is plenty access to wild pig meat. People hunt them specifically for meat or they simply want to eradicate them from their property. Wild pigs destroy native vegetation and spread weed seeds like strawberry guava (waiawī). They can really tear up a well landscaped property, or can dig up ones vegetable garden in an evening. In addition, they are a roadside hazard and are often hit by vehicles.
Wild pig meat is the only pork I will eat. There are plenty of reasons for me not to eat factory-farmed pork. As a rule, I don’t eat anything from a feed lot that is fed GMO corn; and any animal given antibiotics, hormones, or pesticides. By eating wild pig, I’m eating leaner, foraged-fed pork and helping to keep the wild population down. Plus, it simply tastes better, it has more flavor, and I don’t feel bad about eating it.
Many hunters don’t know where the bacon is. Bacon can be found at the belly of a pig. It’s just south of the ribs, encompassing the belly and can go up the sides a bit. The larger the pig, and the more fat he/she has will determine how good the bacon will be.
It’s better if the boar is not in a rut. During peak mating season, the boar’s fat can be quite tough from his paying more attention to females than to his stomach. If the fat is hard, forget making bacon out of it. Also, a sow who has recently given birth and has been lactating may not have enough fat on her body to make bacon. It will be easy to see the quality of your bacon once you start to butcher your pig.
Once you remove the bacon you will need to wash and dry it. Remove any stray hairs, skin and, if possible, any thin membrane covering the meat or fat. You want full exposure to the salt rub.
Spread out your bacon and heavily salt both sides with the coarse, Hawaiian sea salt. You may want to use brown sugar, molasses, maple syrup or honey to sweeten your bacon. Currently, I’ve been using only local salt and honey from my beehives. Place it in a zip-lock bag or bowl with cover and place in your refrigerator for 3-4 days. At least once a day, shake or mix up the bacon to evenly distribute the brine.
In the meantime, you can begin to construct your cold smoker. You will have to smoke your bacon but you don’t want a lot of heat. The purpose is not to cook the meat but to season it with smoke. Over the years, I have devised a few cold smoking rigs that have lasted for quite awhile considering they were made out of cardboard.
I have used cardboard boxes and placed old barbeque or kitchen wire racks inside to hold the bacon. I have channeled the smoke using aluminum household dryer vent tubing (purchased from the hardware store) from a converted standard smoker to the cardboard box.
My latest contraption is using an old retired gas grill by placing it over my wood stove. I have removed the legs and the internal heating elements which leaves a rather large hole on the bottom for the smoke to come up through. This is nicer than a cardboard box because you can just lift the lid to have access to your bacon.
A friend of mine, just hangs the meat near a fire so the smoke just grazes the meat. The trick is not to have too hot of a fire but enough fuel to maintain it and to burn a smokey fire. I usually soak some of the wood in water before adding to the coals, or I use slightly green wood. I also have added yellowing banana leaves to the fire to create more smoke.
Remove your bacon from the refrigerator and rinse it with water. This will remove any salt that has not penetrated into the meat. Dry it with a towel and place it fatty side up on your smoking rack.
Place the pieces of meat so that they don’t touch each other. This allows the smoke to surround your meat on all sides. You will need to smoke it all day, so start early in the morning. Keep your smoke going by constantly checking it and adding small amounts of fuel. When your bacon looks dry, it is ready to flip and do this at least once.
On occasion, I have had to either continue to smoke my bacon into the night or refrigerate it and start again the next morning because the smoke was too weak or too cold. If your smoke is too hot, your bacon will still taste good but will be more cooked than your used to.
When it’s done smoking you can freeze or store your bacon in the refrigerator. It’s easier to slice thinly semi-frozen. Cook it and use it like you would store-bought bacon. You should be more than pleased.
I always tell people that I will smoke your bacon for you and give you half. Even though, it’s somewhat of a task, it’s well worth it. Plus, I get to play with fire! Win, win!