As part of my experiments with curing meats, I thought I’d make some Canadian bacon. The wife and I have been cooking a lot of pizza lately, so it seemed like a no-brainer to cure some toppings. Canadian bacon immediately came to mind. American bacon is a fatty cut of cured belly meat. Canadian bacon is a lean cut of cured back meat, which is why is seems more like ham than your standard breakfast bacon. I like my bacon smoked, so I decided to cure and smoke a pork loin for my Canadian bacon.
I bought a 4½ pound cut of pork loin and cleaned it of fat and silverskin. It’s a fairly lean cut, so there’s not much waste. This is a picture before I cleaned it.
Next, I loosely followed Michael Ruhlman’s curing recipe to make my brine.
Canadian Bacon Brine
- 2 quarts of water
- 5 tablespoons kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons pink curing salt #1
- ¼ cup white sugar
- ¼ cup brown sugar
- 5 cloves garlic, smashed
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 teaspoon dried sage
Mix all of the in ingredients in a pan and heat over medium until the salt and sugar dissolve. Allow the brine to cool. Alternatively, you could heat half of the water with the other ingredients and then add the rest of the water as ice to immediately cool the brine. You’ll need a kitchen scale for the second option to maintain the proper proportions.
Submerge the pork loin completely (I weighed it down with a bowl) in the brine and refrigerate for three days. Check on it every now and then to make sure that all of the meat is submerged.
After three days, discard the brine and rinse off the pork. Pat the loin dry and place it back in the refrigerator for a few hours to wick away excess moisture. Finally, smoke the loin at 275-300° until the internal temperature reaches 145°. My temperatures hovered around 275° most of the time. I should add that the loin really soaks up the smoke flavor. If I had cooked at 225° and smoked the whole time, it may have come out a bit acrid. So I think a hot and fast (in BBQ terms) smoke is preferable to a slow and low smoke considering how little fast there is in the loin to begin with.
I figured that since there was extra room on the grill, I’d smoke some beef spare ribs too. I have an elderly neighbor who doesn’t eat pork and was complaining that he can’t find beef ribs at any local restaurants anymore. I thought I’d master cooking beef ribs and then have him and his wife over for Sunday lunch one weekend.
When the pork hits 145°, rest it for at least an hour before carving.
For best results, refrigerate it overnight. The colder the loin is, the easier it’ll be to slice into thin strips. I partially froze it and then sliced it with my sharpest chef’s knife.
The ends have the most surface area, so they’re the most smoky/salty parts of the bacon. I froze them and will use them to flavor some greens in lieu of salt pork later this summer.
This was unbelievably good, and I’m not exaggerating. I really didn’t believe it would taste this good. The brine gives the meat the same consistency as ham and the pecan wood smoke adds great flavor. The wife took a bite and said, “you can’t experiment with this. Don’t change anything. This is perfect.”
This is my new go-to entree for the holidays. I’ll call it a loin roast, carve it at the table, and serve a caramelized apple gravy on the side. My guests will be blown away.
People have emailed me asking where I got my food-grade bucket for brining. I actually picked this up at Home Depot one day. It had a giant “food grade” sticker on the side and I got a regular plastic lid to go with it (the lid doesn’t come into contact with the contents). If you can’t find one in your area, you can order one online.