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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?!