The Secret to Preserving Bacon

Southerners love preserving family heirlooms, traditions, and... bacon. Morgan Murphy, author of Southern Living Bourbon & Bacon gives the scoop.


[MUSIC] You know the south is great at preserving things, and one of the best things we're good at preserving is bacon. Now the secret old fashioned way of preserving bacon in the south is to dry cure, which means you rub it with salt and a little sugar and you hang it out to, well. Dry. Now, this place, near Nashville, Tennessee, Rice's Country Hams makes ham and bacon the old-fashioned way like your grandfather did, my grandfather, probably our great-grandfathers. It is super tasty. We're in the temple of ham here. That's right. This is pretty cool. There are how many hams hanging in here? There are a ton of hams right in here. About, about 4,900. You've got enough hams to make a lot of people very happy at Christmas and Thanksgiving. We'll, we'll feed, we'll feed most of the state of Tennessee and everybody can have their breakfast. Everybody needs breakfast and everybody, these hams are amazing. So, they're drying out, but they, you cure these similar to how you cure bacon, right? Absolutely. Absolutely. Same process. The key is to. To dry it out. Yes sir. Yes sir. The salt, the salt will preserve the meat and then you want to age it a little by drying it and that will cause the fat to shrink and it will lose weight. And you get your flavor. So when you look at bacon and I am sure you never buy bacon in the grocery, but when you look at bacon in the grocery store what are your thoughts going on there? How have they treated that bacon versus. It, its watered down, and that's, that's the simplest way to put it. They, they want the weight, because weight equals money. Where as->>so when you're buying bacon by the pound you are paying more for water if you're->> that's right you're paying for water absolutely. The, the more water that is in their bacon, their not going to dry cured bacon. Like the old southerners did. Because we were more, we were more concerned with being able to eat the bacon six months later so we had to preserve it. We just were fighting heat and rot. Yes, absolutely. And that's how this process came about. So bacon, when you, when you have a really great cured bacon that was cured the old way by drying it out, the flavor's intensified. Oh, absolutely. Because you have less volume. Absolutely. That's. So that's what's going on in this temple of ham. Exactly. And these hams, these hams'll hang for 10 months before they're ready, whereas bacon's not quite a long a process, but you're dealing with a piece of meat this big compared to. Yeah, a whole ham. A piece of chunk that big, so it takes a little bit longer to cure these than it does the bacon. Well I'm curious. You cure your bacon a lot longer than most people, how long do you cure it? Where do you, two and a half to three weeks is the process. They'll stay in salt for roughly seven days And then it's two a half No, no, about a week or so after that, we'll, we'll bring it out, wash it out and than hang it out and let it dry like these hanging in here drying right now. And then we'll add the smoke to them. so. And the, and the smoke adds, adds. And you're not adding liquid smoke, you're doing the real deal smoke. Oh no. We, we, we do this hickory sawdust and hickory wood. And put on our hickory bacon and then apple wood and apple sawdust and maple wood and maple sawdust. It smells so heavenly in here. I am like. I'm covered in. The drive home I'm gonna be like. You're gonna smell, you'll smell. I'm gonna smell a little smoky. You'll smell for a couple of days. But it's worth it. [LAUGH] [MUSIC]
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