Why It Works
- Brining in maple syrup results in a sweet- and salty-style bacon.
- Slightly undercooking when smoking allows you to not overcook the bacon when frying later.
Whew, I didn't know what I was getting into when I decided I wanted to make my own Canadian bacon. All I wanted was my own version of what's most commonly found sandwiched between an English muffin and poached egg. Turns out what we take for granted as Canadian bacon in the US isn't so straightforward when we look up north.
What's "Canadian bacon" to Americans is most likely called back bacon elsewhere. This is made from boneless pork loin, which, compounding confusion, can be found fresh or cured and smoked or not-smoked depending on where you are. Add on top of that, in Canada, they're most likely to call peameal bacon—cured pork loin rolled in cornmeal, then sliced and cooked.
So many choices in what I thought was one simple bacon; my head was spinning trying to figure out what to do. I ended up choosing the American Canadian bacon path, setting forth with a maple syrup-heavy wet brine for five days, followed by a cook in a 225°F (107°C) degree smoker until the meat hit 140°F (60°C)—undercooked since I planned on slicing and frying later.
The end product was quite satisfying—the bacon had a great sweet and salty mixture that was more pronounced and complex than what you get off the shelf, and when cooked right, the meat was pleasantly moist as well. Although happy with this particular bacon, I'm still left a bit unfulfilled knowing the universe of bacon choices that are still left to be explored, but I guess those others will all come in due time.
1 gallon water, divided
1 cup kosher salt
1 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup light brown sugar
2 teaspoons pink salt (aka InstaCure, Prague Powder)
4 bay leaves
3 medium cloves garlic, smashed
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
1 boneless pork loin, trimmed of excess fat (about 4 to 5 pounds)
1 to 2 fist-size chunks of light smoking wood, such as apple or cherry
To make the cure, combine 1 quart of water, kosher salt, maple syrup, brown sugar, pink salt, bay leaves, garlic, and peppercorns in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring to dissolve salt and sugar. Boil for 1 minute, then remove from heat. Transfer to a large container and stir in remaining 3 quarts of water. Place in refrigerator until completely chilled. Fully submerge pork loin in cure and let sit in refrigerator for 3 to 5 days.
Remove pork from cure and place in large container. Add enough fresh water to fully submerge loin. Let sit for 30 minutes, then remove pork from water and pat dry with paper towels.
Fire up the smoker or grill to 225°F (107°C), adding chunks of smoking wood when at temperature. When wood is ignited and producing smoke, place pork in and cook until an instant-read thermometer registers 140°F (60°C) when inserted into thickest part of the pork loin, about 2 to 3 hours.
Let pork cool for 30 minutes. Slice and pan fry before serving.
|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Servings: 12 to 18|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 9g||11%|
|Saturated Fat 3g||14%|
|Total Carbohydrate 5g||2%|
|Dietary Fiber 0g||0%|
|Total Sugars 4g|
|Vitamin C 0mg||1%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|