Photo by Donna
The first real chill is here in Ohio, forecasting fall, the best time for cooking outside and curing and smoking meat.  And there's no better season for making bacon.

I've received many BLT From Scratch entries and I'm returning from vacation today to encourage more to take it up.  There's still time.  And there's Time: Hilary Hylton writes about the BLT challenge (and America's increasing pork hunger) for Time magazine!  Thank you Hilary!

I made the first BLT from scratch last week and it was surprising in its juiciness—a three-napkin BLT. But Donna didn't like her photo, so we've got to do it again. (Oh, all right, if we must.)  I'm all out of bacon so I've asked two young farmers not to forget to bring fresh belly to the market on Saturday (there are now two farms growing pork for the market, a happy sign of the times). I'm making the official BLT deadline, Sunday, September 20.  Plenty of time to get some belly on the cure.

And when mine is ready I may smoke it or I may not but regardless, I'll cook it again as I did last time: I cut slabs about 3/8ths-inch thick, wrapped them in foil with a sprinkle of water for moisture (connective tissue needs moisture to break down) and put them in a low low oven for a few hours till they were very tender.  I then finished them on the grill over very hot coals till the outside was crisp and the inside hot and juicy, my new favorite way for cooking bacon.  

I dream one day of doing a whole book on having fun with pork belly.  There is no finer cut of meat on earth.

27 Wonderful responses to “BLT Challenge Update”

  • mona

    just finished my breakfast and you’ve got my mouth watering for a lunchtime BLT. the big chill’s coming to new york too… it’s going to be a jean week, i can feel it.

  • JBL

    Your tweet states that “summer is officially over”; you’re about one month early on that.
    Pork belly is curing as we speak– will most likely forgo smoking it.

  • Big Red

    I have been smoking and curing my own meat for the last couple of years, and if for nothing else, for the Pork…mmmmm pork….Sorry Homer Simpson Moment.
    I have been doing some experimentation and I found that using some of the stronger artisan salts is a real treat. I especially like the Yakima, the apple wood smoked salt. It is a bit cost prohibitive but for small bits, it is well worth it. Then crisp over apple wood grill. With that you can pair with fruit and mixed greens. Sweet and savory the possibilities can be endless. Here’s to PIG! (Okay, I really like pork! Sue me)

  • Badger

    Hey, the deadline is on my birthday! I will have to bow out of the actual challenge, though, because 67 days (so far) of 100+ degree temperatures here in Central Texas did my garden in but good.

    Ah, well. Maybe you can make it an annual thing and next year I can grow some cherry tomatoes on the windowsill or something, just in case we’re in for another inferno down here.

    P.S. The farmers market in my suburban neighborhood has not only pork (including belly), but also beef, chicken, lamb and goat. Most pastured and all locally raised. AWESOME!

  • carri

    I’ll bet you’ve gotten some awsome entries…makes me want to go back and do it again, myself. I will forever more make my own bacon thanks to this, but it is time to turn my attention to other things, the raspberries are in…finally!

  • Jenny

    Ooooh, so close. Our tomatoes are just now starting to blush, and we have 7 pounds of belly smiling at us, waiting for cure. Time to wake the mother too. A few more weeks, we’ll join you in celebration of the BLT!

  • Rachel

    Just when my tomatos were ready for the BLT a bunny came along and ate my fall lettuce. I just might have to substitute kale which I can’t seem to make a dent in no matter how much I harvest.

  • Patrick R

    My tomato plants are taking much longer to reach maturity than I’d expected, but that’s the only component I’m still missing. I started from miniature seedlings, but the plants have lots of young fruit on them now. Just waiting for a few of them to turn red.

    I even got my wild yeast culture rolling last week and moved it to the fridge over the weekend.

  • DOT

    M Ruhlman,
    If you are ever in Columbus,OH there is a great restaurant north of OSU campus called Sage American Bistro-they have this starter of braised Pork belly with creamed corn and jalapeno ketchup,it’s outstanding!
    They can’t take it off the menu, too many clients love it so.
    I was in DC 2 weeks ago and dined at BLT Steak, they offered a main entree for $34 for 2 pieces of BBQed pork belly at least 5 oz each….. the flavor was great but the portion was way too big for a dish that rich! Id rather get a smaller piece and pay less 🙂
    Best to all!

  • NWCajun

    When the challenge started, we got a piglet and stated feeding him nothing but lettuce and tomato, in order to flavor the bacon from within. We’ve been feeding our chickens nothing but bacon, in order to flavor the mayo from within. The wheat has beed irrigated with nothing but bottled water. Our problem is, I don’t think the pig will be big enough in time to provide the necessary belly meat. Oh well, we tried. Good luck to the rest of you.

  • EB

    Being the rockin’ California girl I am can’t do a BLT without avocado, but the heat has scorched not only those glorious lobes but our tomatoes too. Bummer.

  • David

    Just had a phenomenal pork belly, peach and maytag blue cheese salad at Hot Chocolate in Chicago last night. Reinvigorated my love for the belly.

  • Pat

    So what time is this big event on 9/20? That is actually a big calendar date for me, personally, too (will explain later). I can make homemade bread for the BLTs.

  • Bad Home Cook

    I’m a native california girl myself, but I feel that avocado somehow changes the *essence* of the BLT. Mellows the saltiness of the bacon and the tang of the tomato. That said, you got me thinking about BLTs now and so it’s all over for me. Suppose I’ll have to try my hand. It’s probably not gonna turn out though…
    Still triple digits here and burning burning burning. What I wouldn’t give for a nip of fall.

  • jo

    I’d have joined in if the damn blight,followed by the squirrels didn’t steal all but 2, count em TWO full size tomatoes. I did manage to get some cherry (Cherokee and sungold), but a BLT with cherry tomatoes just isn’t the right mouthfeel, unless you make it into tomato jam…hmmm?

  • luis

    Believe it bro, the bun still eludes me!. If I could bake the right bun… the rest would follow. You can not mess up great ingredients after that. you just can’t. Don’t worry I will keep working on it…until I get it right!. (Still think the one you posted is made o’wax…).

  • carri

    Now my husband wants me to reshoot my BLT also…not because of the sandwich, though, it’s because his glass of ale looks cloudy in the photo!

  • Rubiao

    I’ve had a few practice rounds with market-bought tomatoes. As soon as a real tomato doesn’t scorch on the plant, it is a go. We recently had a pork belly challenge, where many of the best chefs in Houston met at a restaurant and each prepared stunning pork belly dishes to be judged. Photos, results, and descriptions here:

    There was a torta and a “club,” but no BLT.

  • Darcie

    I’m so glad you extended the deadline. I ordered pork belly from a nearby shop where they allegedly smoke their own bacon. I am highly skeptical of their claim, however, when I was presented with shredded BBQ pork as fulfillment of my pork belly order. The woman behind the counter said she never heard of pork belly.

    I immediately rushed to a newly opened butcher, where lo and behold they actually keep pork belly in stock!! Except they were out, but I should have some tonight. Now to find my pink salt since we moved…

  • Dental Austin

    I am not confident with my cooking skills, however I want to try this out. My sister is coming back to town this weekend so perhaps I can ask her for a hand.

  • Sara

    Great post, this is one of my favourite topics and close to my heart.LOL.
    I love keeping up to date on everything new so i’ll definitely be bookmarking this site.
    Keep up the great work! 😉