Baconwaldia: The Land which Bacon Forgot

Unsalted, Uncured Pork Belly
Unsalted, Uncured Pork Belly

The road to Baconwaldia started with a piglet and ends with thick cut, incredibly salty and smokey bacon. In short, you feed and water the hog until slaughter; the carcass is either butchered on site or taken to a butcher. With the latter, you receive back a box of difficult cuts of meat, all neatly wrapped and marked. "Pork Chop." "Pork Steak." "Shoulder Roast" "Pig Feet." "Bacon, Fresh." The last cut is what we are after, the pig’s belly. In the world of commerce, pork bellies are a commodity and are traded via futures contracts not unlike frozen concentrate orange juice, cotton, rice, wheat, coffee, sugar and many other bulk items.

That said, Baconwaldia does not involve futures contracts or traders in general. It involves a dedicated farmer to care for & manage the pig; a cold morning with fresh water, hot coffee, sharp knives and good company is also needed to send the hog off onto its voyage toward Baconwaldia.

Traditional, old-school bacon, the bacon of Baconwaldia, would have been created by a skilled charcutiers. The meat would have been salt (sodium chloride) cured for many days, and then cold smoked with hardwood smoke to add further shelf life to the pork belly. The cured and smoked meat would have been wrapped in muslin and hung in a larder or dry cellar; without refrigeration, a properly cured and smoked pork belly would survive most of the winter.

Cured Pork Belly
Cured Pork Belly

With the discovery of how to produce nitrates and nitrites at the turn of the twentieth century, the onset of mechanization and modern, mass production of foods and the modern practices of animal husbandry, the charcutiers of yore were factored out of the bacon-equation. Machines remove the skin, a brine mixture of salt (sodium chloride), nitrates (sodium nitrate) and liquid smoke are needle-injected into the slabs of meat. Later, the slabs are showered with yet more liquid smoke. The meat is then slow cooked in an oven then frozen. More machines trim the frozen slabs into uniform sizes. I think it is a shame that the pork belly’s modern voyage involves not a whiff of smoke nor a lick of flame.

The wagon-wheel-rutted-road to Baconwaldia that I took did not involve sodium nitrate, liquid smoke or inject-needles. Instead, the process was hands one, and craft-like. Craft Bacon, not unlike Craft Beer. My ingredient and materials list was pretty simple:

  • Pork Belly
  • Salt (a pink, Bolivian salt)
  • Brown sugar
  • Kentucky Bourbon
  • Local apple & pear tree wood
  • One (1) medium steel trash can – to make our smoker
  • A short length of steel rod
  • Four (4) steel "S" hooks
  • Inexpensive meat thermometer
  • Resealable plastic zippered bags

Clean the pork belly; removing any dirt, grit or grass (as in my case) from the piece. Also, remove any membrane-tissue or extremely soft fatty tissue. Cut the piece into equal-sized pieces. Coat all sides of all pieces with a heavy layer of salt; group pieces in twos and place into plastic bags. Put the bagged pieces into the refrigerator (even though it is entirely possible to do this whole process sans-refrigeration, it is there, so you might as well just use the damn machine to keep things cool). For the next four days, each day, rinse the pieces and rinse the bags. Re-salt all the pieces and place back into the bags and refrigerate. This whole process is called dry curing. You are drawing out the moisture from the meat at the same time leaving salt in the meat (and fat). If you notice the first photo (above) and then the second photo (above), the fat and meat in the first photo appear "looser" and has an appearance of containing more water than that in the second photo. The second photo is from after several salt changes. Each salt change, your bag will have liquid in it. After round one, you will have a salty, blood-colored mixture. Progressively, the liquid gets more and more water-like after each salt change.

Bacon Equation
Bacon Equation

On day four or five, you can add in flavors, if you choose. I did one slab of bacon as "Salt & Brown Sugar" and one other as "Salt, Brown Sugar & Bourbon" In both with the brown sugar, I did 1 cup brown sugar. In the bourbon-ized bacon, I put in two jiggers of Wild Turkey.

By this point, I was running low on my Bolivian Rose salt, so, I let the bags of meat sit for three days more days without changing the salt or flavoring mix.

Smoking was the most enjoyable part for me; making the trash can smoker and having it actually work was thrilling. With a drill, I put several holes through the lid of the can, as well as near the base. I also happened to have an old wood stove from an icehouse (for winter fishing). I removed the door from this little stove and installed it into the trash can.

An inch or two below the lip of the can, I drilled holes on opposite sides and slipped the steel rod in; this was used to hang the meat. With a nice fire going in the can, the lid worked well to snuff out the flames, and the stove door was nice to regulate the amount of oxygen that did get into the can. The smoke was extremely pleasant smelling and even the dogs got into bathing in the wafts of smoke.

You will want colder smoke. I eventually settled in on a slightly hotter smoke than I wanted, but it seems to have done the trick. The smoker seemed to like the 180 degrees (F) area. Ideally, something around 150 degrees (F) would have been nice. Remember, the idea is to not roast the meat, it is to smoke it. The smoke penetrates and further dries the meat.

When all is said and done, you probably did not save any money by crafting your voyage to Baconwaldia, but you will have some damn fine Craft Bacon, a nifty trash can smoker, a partial bottle of Bourbon (unless you drank the rest while waiting for the meat to finish), and a neat story on meat preservation.

The pack

Well, everyone in the pack seems to have welcomed Eve with open paws!  They are all getting along wonderfully and it doesn’t really even seem like there is another dog in the house.

Eve with Grandpa Sarge
Eve with one of the nylabones
Eve playing keep away from Henry
Maddie deciding to join in the race for the nyla!

and last but not least…you can’t beat a snoring, sleeping puppy!!!!

Eve snoring away!

Great new adventure…

Well, it has been a week since getting home from nationals and it was a busy week  trying to catch up from being gone over a week.

Last Sunday I was given the opportunity of a life time (we at least for my life time)…I was asked if I was serious about showing bassets and if so that there was a beautiful show puppy waiting for me.  I feel very very honored that Nancy thought of me to co-own and show this puppy.  I know how much she loved this little girl and how hard it was going to be to let her go.  After some discussion, Alex and I agreed that I should go for it!!

Eve with the rest of the puppies last Sunday

It turns out that I had my cousins Bar Mitzvah in St. Paul the following Saturday so we figured why not drive the extra 2hrs each way and go get little Eveleth (Eve for short).  So that is exactly what we did!!

Eve posing for a pic in our kitchen

So far things have gone really well.  She slept in her crate last night downstairs where all the other hounds sleep.  She went outside to potty on Oliver’s 3:30am potty break but otherwise slept pretty well for having only been in the house about an hour before bed time.  All of the other hounds welcomed her with open paws and Henry seems to be excited to have a younger pup in the house.  It may sound odd but it does not seem like there are five hounds in the house!

I know that this will be a learning experience for me but I am so up for it!!!  I am hoping to make it to Sioux Falls the last weekend in October to take part in a puppy show(3 mo+) and also to help out with all of the other hounds entered.  It is looking like little Eve’s first show, and my debut as well, will be in January at the Land O Lakes show in St. Paul.

I want to thanks all of the basset folks who have let me follow along the last 5 or so years…you guys are such great mentors…and workout trainers (from all the laughing).

So welcome Rabbit Run Eveleth to the Jokela hound family…I know we will have fun, learn lots and be successful in the ring!

Where did the week go?!

Well, it is Friday and the last day of nationals!  Where did this week go?!

Yesterday was conformation for bitches so McKenzie, Pistol, Tilly and Satin were in the ring.  Here is how they did:

McKenzie – 3rd place in 6-9 month puppy bitch

McKenzie and Nancy
Nancy and McKenzie going around the ring

Pistol – 3rd place in 12-18 month bitch

Sue and Pistol

Tilly – didn’t place in 12-18 month bitch

Kim and Tilly

Satin – 4th in open bitch

Dee and Satin in the ring

Here is one of my favorite pics of the day catching both Sue and Kim in the ring with Pistol and Tilly.  Pistol and Tilly are litter mates but everyone keeps asking if they are mother and daughter due to the size difference!

Sue, Pistol, Kim and Tilly in the ring

Last night we quickly ate at the restaurant so some could go to the meeting while the rest of us relaxed a little until the horse racing at 8pm.  The horse racing started out fun (picture dressed up handlers and owners in horse costumes) but it seemed to drag on after nobody could answer the jeopardy questions.

I won a few more things at the raffle yesterday as well.

Today is Best of Breed so Minnie, Rio and Tiny will be in the ring.  I’ll keep everyone posted on what happens!



Yesterday was the conformation day for dogs.  Diego, Brauny and Oakley were entered in their classes.  Here is how they did:

Diego – 4th in 12-18 months

Diego and Nancy
Diego and Nancy take 4th

Brauny – didn’t place in Veteran Dog

Brauny and Sue

Oakley – didn’t place in Veteran Dog

Oakley and Kim after a down and back
Oakley closeup

In the afternoon we went to the Pat Trotter seminar on movement.  It was a very very interesting seminar which taught me a lot about what to look for when watching the show.

After the seminar we all walked over to the Montgomery Inn for some dinner.  Once again there were lots of laughs and good times!  Thanks to Sue for making me almost spit my water out again…you would think by now I would learn to not drink when they are talking!

Today the girls were up…so stay tuned for an update!