½ cup whole fennel seeds
10 whole star anise
½ cup whole black peppercorns
4 cinnamon sticks
¼ cup whole allspice berries
3 pounds Kosher salt
1 pound brown sugar
1 bunch roughly chopped fresh thyme
½ bunch roughly chopped fresh rosemary
½ ounces tinted curing mix
½ ounce hickory smoke powder (optional, may use liquid smoke)
1 domestic lamb belly
For the Dry Cure:
Combine the fennel seeds, star anise, peppercorns, cinnamon sticks and allspice berries in a sauté pan over medium heat. Toss the spices gently over the flame for about 5 minutes to draw out the essential oils. Pulse the spices in a spice grinder. In a large bowl, combine the salt, sugar, thyme, rosemary and tinted curing mix. Add the fennel seed mixture and hickory smoke powder and mix well to evenly distribute the ingredients.
For the Lamb Bacon:
Place a 3-feet x 3-feet square of cheesecloth over a perforated rack or pan set over a closed hotel pan. Sprinkle ½ of the cure on the cheesecloth, and put the bellies on top, fat side down. Spread the remaining cure evenly over the top of the bellies, being sure to coat the sides as well. Fold the cheesecloth over the top and put the lamb in the refrigerator for 48 hours. Next, remove the bellies from the cure mix and rinse them gently under cold running water. Pat them dry with paper towels and re-wrap each belly individually in cheesecloth. Hang the bellies in a cold environment so they continue to dry, until ready to use.
The bellies are ready to be cooked and eaten after the curing process; the drying helps to intensify the flavor and texture of the final product. This should be made a few days before you need it. It can be wrapped tightly and held for up to 2 weeks in the refrigerator and 4 months in the freezer. Slice about a 3-ounce portion from the lamb belly for each person you are serving. Rub the slices with a little olive oil and put them on the grill to cook. Cook about 2 minutes per side, remove and set in a warm place. Allow the cooked bacon to rest before eating.