[We've moved this subthred from this thread on the Boston board http://www.chowhound.com/topics/499967 -- THE CHOWHOUND TEAM ]
I think saltpeter (sodium Nitrite) is difficult to get because of its toxicity. This as well as the relatively small amounts needed for curing prompted the making of "instacure" or "prague powder" which is sodium nitrate diluted to 6.25% with salt (they color it pink so you can tell it apart from regular salt)
I live in the Montreal area and have had a hard time getting the stuff as well. When I do find it, the markets charge a ridiculous amount.
I contacted the SausageMaker out of Buffalo (sausagemaker.com or 888-490-8528) and purchased a pound of pink salt (instacure #1) for $9. I went throught the 1lb rather quickly making bacon, hams, and corned beef. Just recently bought a 5lb pail for $18. It should last awhile.
And yes, the curing will result in that great color.
Maybe post a picture of your final result?