Apple-Smoked Cider Mill Bacon


This is a recipe I created a few years back, which was inspired by the Farmland brand "Cider House Applewood-smoked bacon." Ever since, it has become our overall favorite bacon around here. It has a nice hint of sweetness, balance with a slight tang from the cider. And the Applewood smoke just completes the flavor profile. We love the stuff!

Start with fresh pork belly (also called "fresh pork side meat" by some butchers).

Skinned & trimmed into slabs.

I like to mix the brine in a large stock pot, where I can stir it vigorously without making a mess. As long as you use filtered or distilled water, there is no need to boil the brine. If you use tap water, boil and let it cool to room temp BEFORE adding the cure #1!

Single batch:
(enough for a 10 - 12lb belly)

4 Quarts Water (preferably filtered or distilled)
2 Quarts Apple Cider
1 - 1.25 cups Pickling Salt (depending on how salty you want it.)
6 tsp. Curing Salt #1 (Insta-cure #1, Prague Powder #1, etc.)
1/2 Cup Sugar
1 Cup Brown Sugar (optional - omit for a lower sugar bacon)

This recipe can be used two ways:

1) Immersion Cure Only (just stick it in the brine) for about 10 days, or...
2) Inject at a 30% pump rate, then brine for 3 - 5 days.

I now prefer injecting the pork bellies. It gets more of the cider flavor into the bacon and I just simply get better results. Not to mention it cuts the brining time down to 3 days!


To inject:
1) Measure out 6 liq oz of brine for each 1.25 lbs of pork belly, or follow the "Brine Pump Rate Chart" for a 30% pump in the Ham Brining 101 thread - Section 4.

2) Use a regular meat injector and inject the brine evenly about every 2 inches or so. It does NOT have to be perfect.

3) Some brine will leak out. Don't worry, just collect what leaked out and re-inject a second time. Most of the brine will be absorbed, but you will have some that seeps out. This is fine, because the bacon will be going into the brine!

Pour the remaining brine into your brining container and go on to the next step.


Cover the slabs with brine, add a weight to keep them submerged, cover and place into the fridge for: 7 - 10 days if not injecting, or 3 - 5 days if injecting. Overhaul (flip & rotate) every couple days.

Cured and, air drying on racks under a fan to form a pellicle.

I like to start off with a good 3 - 6 hour cold smoke using 100% Apple pellets in the A-Maze-N tube smoker to compliment the apple cider flavor.

Getting some nice color already! Next, it's time to hot-smoke at 165° - 185° (smoke mode on the MAK), until an Internal Temperature of 145° - 152° is reach (usually 6 - 7 hours). Again my preference is apple wood smoke.

Hot smoking to an I.T. of 145° - 152° sets the bacon a little better than cold-smoking alone.

Once cooled, it goes back into the fridge to rest for 48 hours before slicing, to allow the smoke permeate.

Sliced and ready for packaging.

Thanks for looking!
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Just wondering. I understand the purpose of a pellicle in the brewing world but am unsure of the term in the curing meat side of life. Is the term merely used as a broad definition to denote 'drying the outside of the meat prior to actually adding smoke'? I realize it is not sausage here and no actual ferment of any kind is required for bacon excellence. Excuse my ignorance but I prefer to get it all right the first time.


Just wondering. I understand the purpose of a pellicle in the brewing world but am unsure of the term in the curing meat side of life... Excuse my ignorance but I prefer to get it all right the first time.

No problem. That's why we post this stuff; so we can share what we've learned. Questions and discussion are what makes forums such as this work, so please ask away! :)

The broad definition of Pellicle is from the Latin pellis, or pellicula (meaning skin, or husk). It generally refers to a thin layer of skin or film.

For meats that have been cured/brined (hams, bacon, salmon, etc.), the pellicle is a film of protein that forms on the surface and, as it dries, becomes tacky to the touch. The pellicle allows smoke particulates to easily stick to the meat.

You can put the meat on wire racks and allow it to drip dry, or use a fan to gently move some air across the meat, or just let it sit in the fridge overnight. I usually give the meat a quick pat down with paper towels and set it on wire racks under our stove's vent hood.

How long you allow the pellicle to form is really a matter of preference, as it doesn't take long at all for the pellicle to start forming.

If I'm short on time I'll just pat the meat off thoroughly with some paper towels, and go ahead and put it in the smoker. You can actually feel the pellicle form and get tacky as you're patting it dry, and it continues to dry and form as it's being smoked. As long as it's slightly tacky to the touch, smoke will stick to it.

Hope this answers your question.



New member
TentHunter I hope that you don't mind that I've modified this per your posting in making ham and bacon 101.

I'm aiming for 1/2 gallon of brine to cure a 6 ish lb piece of shoulder butt for buckboard bacon. I'm not a fan of salty at all and like a hint of sweetness in my bacon especially given the apple cider.

5 1/3 Cups Water (preferably filtered or distilled)
2 2/3 Cups Apple Cider
140 grams Kosher salt
150 grams Dark Brown Sugar
3.62 grams Curing Salt #1 (Insta-cure #1 Prague Powder #1, etc.)

Does the amount of curing salt look right given that I'm not injecting? and too much dark brown sugar? should I split it with regular sugar?


My apologies for not responding quicker; I have been super busy with Band/Drumline stuff!

Buckboard bacon is good too, and if you ever get your hands on some hog jowls, give them a try for bacon.

1) For a 6 lb shoulder I would use 3 quarts of brine. That should be enough to support a good exchange of salt, sugar, etc. but let you fit it in your fridge. I recently did a 6 lb ham shank and 3 quarts was just right.

2) Assuming you're butterflying it in half, you are fine with just immersing them for 11 - 14 days, as you would regular slabs of belly bacon, OR...

I've gotten to where I prefer injecting bacon (just like a ham) at a 30% pump rate, then cure in the brine for 3 - 5 days. I can inject it early in the week and smoke it that following weekend.

The results are pretty much the same either way. The main thing is that you are allowing at least a few days for everything to equalize and the flavor to develop better.

3) I really prefer pickling salt over regular Kosher(ing) salt. First, it's made for pickling/bring; it's very uniform for measuring and dissolves easily. Second, it's a clean (Kosher) salt with no additives. Third and best, it's more economical! :)

4) For this recipe I like a mixture regular and brown sugar, but there's nothing wrong with using all brown sugar if you prefer.

Here are the current amounts I use for a lower salt cider-mill bacon:
(You can cut the amounts in half for what you're doing)

4 Quarts (1 gal.) Filtered Water
2 Quarts (1/2 gal.) Apple Cider
1 Cup Pickling Salt (about 288 g by weight)
6 tsp Cure #1
1 Cup Brown Sugar (packed)
1/2 Cup Sugar

Keep us posted on how it turns out!


New member
I do admit I like the idea of a 3-5 day cure vs 2 weeks, I simply have to learn how to do the injecting.


I do admit I like the idea of a 3-5 day cure vs 2 weeks, I simply have to learn how to do the injecting.

It's not difficult at all. The nitty gritty details of how and why are in the "Ham Brining 101" thread. The principles are the same whether it's a ham, bacon, corned beef, etc.

The amount of sodium nitrite in the recipe I posted above happens to be good for either a 14-day immersion-only cure, or for a 30% injection.

Here are the basic steps:
You will need a small tub or something to place the meat in while injecting, and a regular inexpensive meat injector.

1) Mix your brine according to the recipe I give above. It's fine to adjust the salt and/or sugar to what you want, but make sure that you keep the rate of the Cure #1 the same (1 level tsp per quart of brine) or the calculations will be off.

2) You said your pork shoulder is about 6 lbs. So, to do a 30% injection, you'd inject 30% of 6 lbs, or 1.8 lbs (28.8 oz) of brine into the shoulder.

Since 1 liquid oz. of water weights right at 1 oz by weight, you can simply measure out 29 liquid oz. of brine.

3) Inject the 29 oz of brine as evenly as you can throughout the meat. You will get brine that seeps out. Just catch and re-inject it until you get the meat to hold as much of that 30% as possible. If it's doesn't hold it all, no worries; the calculations allow for a little over or under to stay within USDA guidelines.

4) After injecting, immerse the shoulder into the rest of the brine and refrigerate it for 3 - 5 days, then smoke as normal for bacon.

Hope this helps. Any questions, don't hesitate to ask!
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New member
1 tsp per quart of brine for the cure - which means I need to go back and figure out the weight for a tsp because I'm pretty sure I didn't use that much...good news is though its easy enough to add more cure. I also have an injector now so tomorrow I can go ahead and inject the meat and be sure that it will be ready to smoke by next weekend. I'm assuming there's no reason to worry about it going 10 days vs 5 days.


Cure #1 weighs right at 6 g per teaspoon. As long as you get it injected soon, you should be fine for a 5 day cure. The really good news is even if you don't get it out after 5 days, letting it sit in the brine longer won't hurt it at all.


New member
The buckboard bacon is going in to smoke this morning. I cut into the middle and its cured all the way through, nicely pink in the middle. Best of all, before the soak an outside piece was just a bit too salty. A 30-45 min soak should fix that easily vs the four to six hour soak I use when dry curing. I'll try and post a pic of the finished piece when it's done.


If it's just the outside pieces, I wouldn't even do a soak. For me those pieces usually get cut off and saved for a pot of beans or something where the extra salt won't matter anyways.


New member
LOL actually the outside pieces get turned into dog training treats. And they know this, bacon slicing time has me with constant bright eyed company as they wait for "thier" bits of buckboard bacon.
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