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Archive for the ‘Bacon’ Category

Burnin’ the Shit out of Bacon

11.28.09
This is not what bacon should look like, just coming off the smoke. This is what bacon looks like when you figure all is going smoothly, and head out with the family shopping for groceries. And instead of coming home to the anticipated wisp of smoke that needs tending, coming home to a huge grease fire in your smoking apparatus. And opening the lid and finding blackness, smoke, and flames. Not the plan. As I swore to myself in frustration, I was grateful that it was my batch, not my friend’s batch – which was slated for the smoker next. At least mine’s garbage, thought I. And at least this happened safely outside.
So I brought the burnt, nuked, grease-fired, would-be bacon into the house to toss it. But then my wife and I realized it smelled like I just brought in a rack of pork ribs off the grill. It did not smell burnt – it smelled tasty. My mood changed. So I cut into it – and lo and behold, I have a new bacon product of some kind that I need to find a name for. It smells of lovely bacon, but with a grilled-ribs vibe. Char-smoked-bacon? Smoke-seared-bacon? I’m so serving this tomorrow with a big red wine, moose tenderloin, and mushrooms…

Mmm, smoke – I could almost eat my jacket

12.06.08
I’ve posted often enough about bacon to skip the details. Short story: the last batch was awesome, and it’s all gone. So out came another slab of belly. And what’s this…hog jowl? Hm. And is that a pack of calf moose belly?

After a week of curing, they were smoked with apple and hickory. Man, I love hickory. For some reason, this batch of smoking produced an unusually gorgeous color and aroma. The pork belly is awesome as always. The jowl is thicker, and the fat seems denser. So far, very pleased. The calf moose belly was perhaps the breakthrough of the bunch. Oddly, it reminded me of smoked salmon. Strange. But it made me want to eat it diced in a cream sauce with pasta. It has the wonderful cured and smoky flavor of bacon, just no fat. I’ve got some R&D to do with cured and smoked game meats, apparently.

Need to buy someone a Christmas present yet? Buy them this book. Then invite yourself over lots.

Apple-wood-smoked Berkshire Bacon

11.11.08
Charcuterie item #1 from my Berkshire hog is in the bag: Bacon. Apple-wood smoked bacon, to be precise. Perhaps of all my bacon-achievements, this is my proudest. It was my first smoking in my new yard, with apple pruned from my very apple tree, smoking pork that a friend and I butchered with our very own hands, from a pig that was lovingly raised not too far from here.

It had the usual dry cure for a week with a couple bay leaves I bought in Lacoste this summer. For some reason I’ve grown attached to bay leaves as a souvenir. I suppose they’re light and inexpensive – two very important criteria. But more likely, it’s because every time I pull a bay leaf from my stash, it brings me back to lovely places. For the past 2-3 years, the bay leaves in my kitchen have all been sourced from markets in France.

Anyway, after a week and change of curing, it sat overnight in my fridge to form its pellicle. Today, surrounded by our first blanket of snow of the season, my fire seemed to be in a sweet spot of just hot enough to last a good time, but just cool enough to not render fat or cook it too hot. After a few hours of pork-belly-and-apple-smoke-love, it now sits for yet another night to let the smoke flavors permeate.


Ah, bacon.

There’s a good chance I’m leaving in the morning for my annual calf moose hunt, and I can’t wait!! Bacon-wrapped moose tenderloin medallions are on the menu.

Little known fact: I spent many years of my adult life with a bacon aversion. One sad day, I made trips back and forth from my bed to the toilet to get sick – one of the times tripping on a guitar case latch and slicing open the top of my foot. Whilst these fun events unfolded, my dear mom was rendering bacon [god bless her]. For years thereafter, the thought of bacon made me sick.

Bacon

04.05.08

I have Michael Ruhlman to thank for getting me making bacon at home. I will forever be indebted. I also must thank Gracianne, Maryann, and Yen for prodding me to post about it. It’s been a long time coming. Yen had wanted to get his hands dirty and learn how I did it, so with Ruhlman’s recipe in hand for dry cure and a date to smoke it here before a wine tasting, he set about acquiring pork belly, pink salt, and cured him some pig. This process takes about a week.

THE CURE. First challenge. Find pork belly. Asian meat markets have been our best source. Second challenge: find pink salt. It’s cheap, lasts forever as you use it in small quantities, but you may have to talk to a butcher or specialty food store to find it. Ask. There are too many cured products in our world for pink salt to hide from you for too long. I’d share Ruhlman’s dry cure recipe, but will not for two reasons. First, as punishment for you not having the book: ‘Charcuterie’. Second, because all of my wordly belongings are in boxes in someone’s garage between moves, so my copy is buried. Yen, ever the culinary adventurer, took the belly down 4 roads: maple, bay, black pepper, and plain [which we double smoked]. The cure and aromatic elements are rubbed in, the belly’s tossed in a Ziploc to do its thing for about a week – quick and easy. The night before smoking, take the belly out of the bags, which will be wet from released moisture from the belly, and set on racks to dry – to form a pellicle. I did not invent that word.


THE SMOKE. How you smoke is limited only by your resourcefulness, so tackle it how you’d like. My approach: bought an old baking pan for $5 that fit the dimensions of my bbq. Remove propane tank [for safety], remove grills, and set pan on bottom of bbq. Start a fire [I assume no liability]. I’ve been using sage bush prunings, which I’m sure makes my [former] neighbors think we were smoking piles of weed. I set a rack on top of the fire, and put hardwood charcoal [source: local bbq specialty shop] on top to light up. Add wood of your choice [check hardward or hunting stores if you need to buy it]. We used hickory and cherry. IMO, the bigger the chips, the better.

Smoking meat is a laid-back, don’t sweat the small stuff kind-of-affair in my world. Providing you cured properly to not die of botulism, that is. How long do you smoke it? Until it looks good. The time varies on the heat of your coals, the ambient temperature, the amount of smoke you’re getting, the thickness of the meat. All I can offer is that I’ve found longer and slower is indeed better. Keep the heat cool, keep the smoke steady, and give it an hour or two. Refrigerating overnight definitely gets the texture where it needs to be for cutting, and lets the smoke penetrate. It freezes extremely well, and is even pretty easy to cut when it’s frozen solid.

Make your own bacon. Your friends and relatives will thank you.

Bacon

10.18.07
I smoked about 7 lbs of bacon today. I must say that starting a fire with dried sage branches from your garden, and tending to a charcoal fire at dawn is a very pleasant experience. The result this time was fantastic. I’d get into more about how this is done, but I lack the time. Another time.


I have to keep it quick today, as I leave on holidays tomorrow morning, and have loads of packing to do, lists to check, and so on. I intend on taking a blog-break while I’m away, and sharing some highlights when I get back.

And I have to leave you with a shout out to Hank for his comments. I’m thinking his experience with waterfowl in the kitchen is gonna teach me a thing or two.

Smoking Bacon

05.23.07

I had a bit of a breakthrough in my food-smoking technique today. I used to start my fires by lighting the hardwood charcoal with the propane flame. Today, I pulled out my inner boyscout and figured I’d just build a fire as one normally would, and build my charcoal fire on the heat of the wood coals. I had some beaver chips – wood a beaver had chewed off a tree while cutting it down – that I picked up on our walk long ago, which made a fine fire. The charcoal lit far better on wood coals, and the whole smoking experience has been a treat. I need me some more beaver chips. Well, fire wood from the ravine will do. And I need to find a nice heavy-duty tray/pan to hold my fires in the future…

Maple Bacon

05.15.07
I just washed down from curing 3 nice slabs of pork belly.
I showed up at my source for said hunks of loveliness, and they had hogs quartered lengthwise, a few of them, laid out on the counter. The butcher eventually broke from his conversation, in chinese, long enough to help me, the lone customer checking out his case. I chose my slabs of belly and a fatty slab of beef brisket. I paid for my purchase, and when he handed me my change, I noticed that he had one gloved hand with meat-saw bits on it, and a somewhat pork-bloody hand handling my change. So if you were wondering just how unclean your change may be, let that be an indicator.
This time around, I’m going to let the belly slabs cure for a week or more again – it produced great results last time. But this time will be a maple-vibed cure. A little molasses, dark organic maple syrup, the dry cure, crushed black peppercorns, and bay leaves I bring back from Paris. And then gave them so rub-love with gloves on. They look wicked already. Next week, they will be nicely cured, firm, and ready for some resting to form a pellicle – and then they will meet smoke. There are some individuals out there who have a share in this batch, so to speak. You know who you are.

Bacon and Venison

11.27.06

I smoked bacon in -24 and snow today. Far more enjoyable in the fall, but seems to have worked okay nonetheless. Cured pork belly is not near as good as its smoked counterpart. It’s not just the smoke – in this case, hickory. It’s a texture thing too – it firms it up, changes the character of the meat, and more importantly, the fat. Back prior to having ever made bacon myself, I read that once you do, you’ll never buy it again. It’s true. And I didn’t even used to be a big bacon fan overall. Now it bothers me to not have a small slab in the freezer that I can pull out to shave or cut [cuts well frozen] to throw into a nice meat dish or salad. Or with good local organic eggs from Sunworks. Yum.

And a few weeks ago I mentioned to my dad that I would like to try cooking with deer – as despite the abundance of them, I hadn’t seen much of it in my kitchen. Moose, elk, bison, boar yes – but deer no. Well today I got a phone call that we have some butchering to do on Saturday. So venison tenderloin, loin, and top sirloin is slated to hit my table in the coming week or two. How excellent is that?!