Alright, alright, alright, alright. We're going to try this again. This time I am wet-curing the porkbelly in a 5% salt brine. This will make it much harder to add way too much salt, and much easier to adjust the salt level for future iterations.
Step two is smoking it, of course, most of the flavor that we consider to be "bacon-y" is actually degraded lignin from the incomplete combustion of wood. The previous time, when I was smoking the first piece of bacon, the fire got too hot and did not last as long. I did some research and found an interesting idea on amazingribs.com for what they called a "charcoal fuse." This is basically a stainless steel drywall mud pan full of holes. One step-bit later:
Oh, my aching shoulder. That was a lot of holes. I was literally dipping the bit in water between holes and taking breaks to let the thing cool off. Fill it up with charcoal, top it off with some pieces of wood, and we're ready to smoke something. The idea is to start a fire at one end, and it will slowly burn down to the other, maintaining a slow, steady heat. Throw wood chips on top, and you've got a continuous source of smoke.
Now, when I got the porkbelly from Bunzel's, I got a six pound piece. That turned out to be a little too much for my brining tub, so I sliced about a pound off, made a little salt/pepper/herb rub (with a dash of cayenne) and went to town. I lit the fuse with a little handheld Bernz-O-Matic torch (I'll never use another method again) and let'er rip; vis:
It tastes like little bits of roasted pork dipped in butter. Mang. It's not bacon, of course, but it's not meant to be. I'm on to something here. The fuse method needs some refinement, it did a fantastic job of maintaining the temperature longer and with less intervention than most other things I've tried, but it was pretty hot for how I want to smoke bacon. It will be awesome for the next time I make pork shoulder though...