An experiment in smoking bacon with non-traditional woods.
In a prior posting, I provided a recipe and instructions to cure and smoke your own bacon. I really like this recipe because it provides a perfect balance of the flavors that make bacon so incredibly wonderful -- fatty, salty, and sweet.
As I also mentioned in that posting, I am not a big fan of apple wood for smoking bacon and so for my first batches were made using hickory wood.
Hickory is the traditional choice and the wood used to make most store-bought bacon. However, there are other wood options and I thought I would try some of these to see if I liked the results. When I made our most recent batch of bacon I smoked half in mesquite wood and the other half in alder wood.
Mesquite is a drought-tolerant deciduous tree that grows primarily in Texas and the Southwestern United States and Northern Mexico.
If you're from Texas, where barbecue is traditionally done using mesquite, you're going to love mesquite smoked bacon. But you don't need to live in "The Lone Star State" to find mesquite wood or enjoy mesquite smoked bacon. Mesquite chips are widely available at stores that sell barbecue grills. Mesquite gives a distinct and extra smokey flavor to bacon.
Red Alder Wood
Alder is a deciduous tree in the birch family. In the United States, red alder grows primarily in the Pacific Northwest.
For making bacon, Alder is definitely the more off-beat choice of the two woods I tested. Alder is recommended widely for smoking pork, but in candor, my prior experience with alder wood has been exclusively as a wood used to make salmon on the grill.
I was a bit surprised at how well alder works for bacon; it gives the bacon a slightly sweeter and more mild flavor than either hickory or mesquite.
You can find alder chips at local grill stores, but it is less common, so you may need to hunt around to find a supplier.
In the future, I'm going to try cherry, pecan and other woods to see if I can arrive at a personal favorite. But any way you smoke it, bacon is pretty terrific stuff. I can't wait for fresh summer tomatoes to make bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwiches.
Recipe for Curing & Smoking Bacon
For the recipe and step-by-step instructions on how to cure and smoke bacon at home, see my original post "Bacon, Proof of the Existence of God."