As we continue to spend most of our time at home, many have rediscovered a hobby or started a new one. This will likely explain future yard sales consisting entirely of jigsaw puzzles. During the past year, I decided to try something, and it has become my new hobby. I’m going to tell you about my new hobby, but this article isn’t really about that. It is about learning from your hobbies, whether they are new or not.
My new hobby?
I am now curing and smoking my own bacon.
It all started with me seeing a pork belly (which if you are unaware is the starting point for bacon) in someone’s cart at Costco. While I have enjoyed smoking brisket and turkey for several years, I had never considered doing bacon. But I did grow up on a hog farm and have had real smokehouse bacon that I loved. The pork belly called out to me, and without really thinking it through, one ended up in our cart.
It goes without saying I didn’t have a smokehouse in my backyard (I don’t think the Homeowners Association would approve), but I decided I would figure it out. I did some research and gave it a try.
There are plenty of steps, specific ingredients required that you can’t find at every grocery, and plenty to learn. At this point, I have done six bellies – about 50 pounds of bacon (some has been used for something yummy other than bacon) – and I have about 15 pounds I will be starting on soon. I guess that makes it more like a hobby than an experiment.
I am going to share some of my lessons here. And while they are about bacon (and I know, most people love bacon), I promise they will apply for you, too.
- Hobbies are engaging. Most engage our bodies in some way, and all have us thinking, planning, and learning. All of which are good things.
- There are plenty of learning sources. I regularly read from a Facebook group devoted to making bacon, and that is where I have learned the most. If we look the chances to learn and sources of learning are everywhere.
- You won’t get it right at first – and that is ok. The first slab was good (I mean, it all got eaten.), but didn’t have as much smoke flavor as I hoped for. The second slab, a bit too salty. You have to be willing to mess it up as a part of the learning process.
- The right ingredients matter. The better the meat, the better the bacon. That part is obvious, but there are ingredients needed to cure the bacon. Regular salt alone isn’t enough – Pink Curing Salt #2 is preferred. I had never heard of it a few months back.
- Be willing to invest. Hobbies aren’t necessarily cheap. You will invest time, thought, and perhaps money, too. Having the right tools will make a big difference in the results and enjoyment of your new hobby. My new knife is amazing, I’m just saying.
- Get started, then experiment. At first, I followed the recipe to the letter, in part because I was a novice. As I learned the process, and understand why everything worked, I could start to deviate a bit if I wanted. Experimentation is fantastic and will be most fruitful once you have the context and some initial experience.
- Keep learning. I expect my bacon to keep getting better, and on the surface that is the point. But part of the lesson of any hobby is the learning that comes with the activity.
- Make sure you have fun. When you keep learning you can find greater joy in the pursuit of your new hobby. Nearly every part of this process is fun for me, not just eating the resulting product.
Learning from Your Hobbies
The hobby itself doesn’t matter. What matters is finding enjoyment, joy, satisfaction, and contentment in doing it. If you want those things to be found in your hobby for a long time, you must keep learning. If not, the habit becomes rote and routine, and likely won’t continue to hold your attention and interest.
My biggest lesson from curing and smoking bacon is that as I learn more, I enjoy it more, and I bet the same can be said for your favorite hobbies, too.
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