Archive for November, 2009

Philly, Here I come

Tuesday, November 24th, 2009

It’s time for another one of my trips to Philly.  This means that I will be spending my day tomorrow lazily looking out the window of my train and dreaming about Top Gear.  I am going to try to remember my camera for some pics because I’ve realized that I have yet to post anything about some of my favorite places to visit there.  Then again, there might not be all tht much to see other than leftover turkey sandwiches.

Regardless, here is a pic from my last time down there this summer when we spent a day out in Lancaster.

Lancaster

Is it wrong that this pic makes me think of pie and pretzels?

See you all in a few days!

The next step…

Sunday, November 22nd, 2009

After a week in the fridge, my bacon was fully cured.  If I had a smoker, now would be the time to start thinking about wood chips and all that jazz.  Sadly, I had packed away my bbq weeks ago and I am way too lazy to build my own contraption like Alton Brown.  No, a simple roasted bacon would have to do for the likes of me.

And so, I liberated my pork belly slabs from the fridge, gave them a good rinse, and placed them in a cool oven (200 degrees) for two hours.  This helps  dry things out, and makes things a lot easier to handle.  I’m sure it serves other purposes too, but who cares about that when your oven smells so good that you can finally understand why someone would buy one of those bacon scented candles.

roasted bacon

While things are still warm, I removed the skin and there it was…slabs of bacon made by yours truly. My God, it was beautiful. The book suggested i cut off a little piece there and then to try things out. The warm fat and meat tasted like bacon butter, and it only hinted at the goodness left to come.

Slabs of bacon can be very difficult to cut, so the idea is to partially freeze it before to keep things from being too squishy while you use your sharpest knife to make thick even cuts.

Behold! The final product:

The spoils

There was some center cut in there somewhere, but I think The Boy and I had eaten it all before I got the chance to take the picture. While our favorite method so far has simply been to cook the bacon and eat it, we have also cooked chunks to add to our salad. Damn it’s good stuff. I don’t think I will ever look at bacon bits the same way again.

If the pictures haven’t been enough to convince you and you are still not sure if making bacon is worthwhile…let’s put it this way: I am already planning my next batch. I won’t make it right away because too much bacon isn’t good for anyone, but I have reached BLT nirvana, and I have no intentions of looking back.

Curing the bacon

Friday, November 13th, 2009

Preparing the cure and combining it with the pork belly was probably the most fun part of the process for me. This is the part where you can start to get creative if you want. I chose a more mundane route myself, mostly because I wasn’t feeling all that creative yet and I wanted to make sure that I could actually make bacon before experimenting with the recipe.

This first step in this process is preparing a basic cure. This is simply a combination of kosher salt, sugar, and “pink salt.” “Pink” or “Curing Salt” contains sodium nitrate. While some people choose not to use this product when making their bacon, low temperature foods (like bacon) are considered to be in the “danger zone” when is comes to growing bacteria. Curing salts prevents this from happening. And since I believe in that whole “better safe than sorry”-thing, I chose to use the pink salt in my cures.

Once you have your basic cure ready, you can start thinking about the flavors you would like to add to your bacon. Recipes and ideas can be found in books and online, but I chose to follow the recipes in my Charcuterie book. I went with one batch of sweet brown sugar cured bacon, and the other a more savory recipe with garlic, black pepper, and bay leaves. So as not to break any copyright rules, I am leaving out the recipes from the book I used. However, if you are not using any specific book to guide you through the process, there are a million online sources out that there that you can use.

In order to apply the cure, you simply coat all sides of the pork belly with your mixture. It’s just like applying a dry rub, but in my case I poured my cure into a cookie sheet first so that I could get an even coating.

Here we can see what my savory cure looked like once it was on the pork belly:

PA281827

The hard part over, the only thing that was left was to put the pork belly into a ziplock bag and place in the refrigerator for a week. During that time, the meat sweats a bit and creates a liquid int he bag with the meat. Since this liquid needs to be in contact with all sides of the meat, you need to remember to flip the bag over once a day or every other day.

Here you can see the two slabs curing in my fridge. The darker brown one is the brown sugar cure and has already been curing for about 3 days. The lighter is the savory bacon and that one has only been in the fridge an hour or so and has not yet created much liquid.

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Next time: now what?