Traditional bacon is made from the belly, but you can DIY cure and turn a cheap pork butt into super flavorful buckboard bacon.
One of the most popular recipes I’ve ever published was my guide on how to make your own bacon at home. Turns out people really love the craft behind being able to make your own bacon from scratch. When you DIY, you also get to choose how thick you want it cut, and you can add some fun flavorings into the cure, too. Traditionally, American bacon is made from the belly only. Fun fact: Canadian bacon is made from pork loin, and Australian bacon is the loin with a bit of the belly left on it, too. You could even argue that traditional Italian jowl guanciale is a form of bacon.
So you see, there’s not merely one type of bacon, or one cut it’s made from. Which brings us to Buckboard bacon. Also sometimes called Cottage bacon. This is made from the pork shoulder (aka butt), which is the same cut that is traditionally used for pulled pork. Shoulder is a tougher cut, but is also known for having a richer pork flavor than some of the lighter cuts like loin. Pork butt bacon has an incredible depth of flavor and does taste quite different to belly bacon. The best part? Butt is cheaper per pound than belly is!
For this cure, I used an equilibrium dry cure method, which weighs the salt according to the weight of the meat, with a final salt percentage of 2.5%. The concept of an equilibrium brine relies on the accuracy of ratios, to ensure a consistent result (aka – the bacon will never end up too salty). I aim for a mix of 2.25% kosher salt to 0.25% pink curing salt, to bring the total to 2.5%. The other aromatic ingredients are not influential to the cure itself, so are not calculated as part of the ratio. My recipe below is for a 4lb pork butt, but you can use this handy calculator to adjust the quantities to your exact meat weight.
A note on pink curing salt: this is THE KEY to the cure. It is NOT the same as pink Himalayan salt. It actually contains sodium nitrate which is what actually cures the meat. It’s also extremely important to use it in the correct ratio of 0.25% of the total meat weight. You can find pink salt easily here online.