What’s the first thing you think of when you har Nolechek’s Meats? For many, it’s our Hickory Smoked Honey Cured Bacon, if course! The history of Nolechek’s most beloved and well-known product dates to the early 1970s when Bill, Sr., purchased the bacon cure recipe at auction from Peter’s Meats, in Eau Claire and then added a touch of honey. Three generations later, we continue the tradition of crafting our signature product in small batches to exact specifications. How exactly do we do this? Read on to find out!
Bacon means different things in different parts of the world. In the United States, bacon traditionally comes from the pork belly which is the uncured, unsmoked, and unsliced and also known as a ‘green belly’. Fresh side pork is the pork belly sliced. Nolechek’s also offers Rasher Bacon, which is from the boneless pork loin; beef bacon, from the beef brisket; butt bacon, from the pork shoulder. These products are made in the same way at Nolechek’s, using the same recipe.
Our process begins with the green pork belly. Nolechek’s sources the highest quality pork belly we can find from farmers in the Midwest. The bellies arrive trimmed to our exact specifications to ensure the leanest bacon possible.
Our bacon is wet-cured. This involves mixing a brine solution that contains water, salt, honey, and spices. Nolechek’s uses a special blend of ingredients to create our famous bacon. Just the right amount of salt, honey and cure combine to create a flavor, texture, and aroma that are second to none.
The next step is to pump the brine into the fresh pork bellies using a needle injector. Needle injecting meat ensures even distribution of brine which allows for uniform color, flavor, and texture when the cooking process is complete. It also allows for control over the amount of brine that is going into the product.
We then place the injected pork bellies into a large meat tumbler that can hold up to 500# and seal under vacuum. Tumbling the product under vacuum allows the muscle fibers of the pork belt to expand which leads to better flavor distribution of the spices and cure.
After the bacons have sat for 3-5 days, it is time for them to be hung in preparation for the smoking and curing process. We hang the pork bellies on bacon combs. It’s important to hang the bellies so they don’t touch, as to ensure even smoking, color, and cooking.
Smoking and cooking a batch of Nolechek’s bacon takes approximately 6 hours. Smoking lasts about two hours and Nolechek’s uses 100% natural hickory chips during the smoking process, which contributes to our signature flavor and imparts an irresistible, dark brown color.
During the cooking process, Nolechek’s bacon returns to its original ‘green’ weight, which means the weight of the fresh pork belly prior to injecting the brine. This is a requirement of the USDA that all bacon be non-water added. So, rest assured that whether the package states this or not, it’s a fact that all bacon contains no water. After the smoking is finished, the smokehouse is cleared and the cooking process continues.
After the bacons are done in the smokehouse, they’re removed and placed in a cooler to hang over night. Then the bacons are ready to be removed from the bacon combs, placed in carts and sliced.
Now the slicing begins! Nolechek’s bacon is sliced and portioned into 1#, 2#, or 15# bulk packages. People often ask what we do with all the bacon ends we trim off. We sell packages in retail, but the bulk goes to other products we produce like, wieners, bologna, liver sausage, and venison bacon. No part of a delicious slab of bacon goes to waste!
Packaging the bacon is the final step of the process and after the bacon is placed in the pocket and is sealed, we place the appropriate label on the package and voila! Nolechek’s bacon is ready for our customers to enjoy!
Nolechek’s Hickory Smoked Honey Cured Bacon provides a robust, multi-faceted flavor profile. Each bite is the perfect balance of 100% natural hickory smoke, sweetness from locally sourced honey and just the right amount of salt. These elements combine with the richness of quality, natural pork belly to create a lasting impression. Stop by or order online and see for yourself why we spell ‘love’ B-A-C-O-N!