Thursday, July 02, 2009

Bacon of Doom

So I said that I'd had the folks at Sea Breeze Farm on Vashon bring me a pork belly at Sunday's market. I said, "You know, somewhere in the usual 10 lb. pork belly range."

When I opened the butcherpaper I was shocked.

I didn't get what I was expecting.

In fact, I was not prepared for the sheer amazingness of that piece of pork.

This is not the first time I've made bacon and pancetta. I seem to do it about two to three times a year, enough that we always have some in the freezer if needs be. As you can see from that link, usually a belly from a factory hog is about maybe three feet by 12-15 inches wide, by an inch to two inches thick. It also may be the only one I do this year, as like all good things it cost 2 1/2 times what a factory belly would.

This one was a monster piece of pork. Maybe 18" x 18" and at least 3" thick. Obviously this little piggy led a much longer life of carefree gluttony. Look at the corner! Jutting like a proud icebreaker of pork.

This round was to be half maple bacon, half pancetta. Right away I knew rolling it for pancetta was out the window.

Neverthelless, I cut it in half. Half got a cure with 1/4 cup of the 'Basic Cure' from Ruhlman's Charcuterie and a half cup of maple syrup. The other half got the pancetta cure from Charcuterie. They'll sit and cure for at least seven days, probably closer to nine. Then I'll smoke the maple bacon over apple and hickory.

This is gonna be good...

The pancetta was to be rolled up and hung to dry in the basement. But rolling isn't really in the cards. It's like a shoebox of meat. So I'm thinking I'll just cure it, poke a hole in a corner, and hang it to dry.

This raises the problem of where to dry it. I've got my little brewery room in the basement. Holds 64 degrees, is completely free from sunlight, and seems reasonably humid. A bit warm, but not terribly so. I'm contemplating getting a hygrometer, like for a cigar humidor, and putting it in the room. Or I've got my little dorm fridge, which I could set to 50 and put the cheap humidifier I got at the Rotary Auction in. Think I'll try the room first and watch to see if it's drying too fast or anything starts to grow on it. And if it starts to get too dry I can always get the humidifier going in there.

Eventually I'd like to start hanging some dry-cured sausages, maybe some mold-covered chorizos. I'd like to do some mold-ripened cheeses too. But those kind of things would be a bit too close to the beer for comfort. Maybe then I'll bring in the fridge.

Anyhow, update in a week or so when I smoke the maple half. This Sunday I'm going to see if they can get me a hog jowl for guanciale...

Oh, also: went down to the Ballard Market. What should I find? Ready-ground, frozen beef suet! For like $1. We all know what that means for this 4th of July... Now I just have to find someone in town who'll sell me some casings tomorrow.


billjac said...

Wow, that's an impressive piece of pork! You said that you've been making bacon for years; where did you get pork belly in Miami? I've been wanting to make Dan Barber's cured and braised pork belly recipe but I haven't been able to find the meat. Heck, I can't even find pork shoulder. Am I just not looking in the right places or did you do mail order?

Russell Hews Everett said...

Two places that worked for me in Miami were 'The Butcher Shop' down in Pinecrest. Small family place off US1. They break down their own hogs daily. Not supermarket cheap, but reasonable. I did a big birthday BBQ a couple years back, had them cut a whole belly, 20lbs of pork shoulder, and a full brisket. Another was Penn-Dutch up in Hollywood. The belly there was very fresh, wicked cheap (like 1.69 a pound), and of pretty poor quality. It was from a young hog and very thin, like under an inch in places. If you haven't been there, it's a madhouse. But they break down everything on site, and it flies off the shelves. And they cater to North Miami's various ethnicities, so you can get things like a 5lb sack of cubed goat for $8. The butchers at Norman Brother's are pretty good too, I bet they'd special order you a belly, but I never tried.

As for pork butts, if you go up to the butcher at Milam's in Coral Gables and ask for a cryo of pork shoulders they usually have one in the back. This is two shoulders, with skin, as they come from the packing plant. Typically it's 20lbs, at $2-$3 a pound. Presuming you aren't making 40 feet of sausages or BBQing for fifty, they usually carry or will cut you a Boston-butt roast in the couple pound range. Or use the picnic shoulders that are all over town. More bones, not quite as fatty or as much meat, but cheap and almost always available.

As for heirloom or non-factory type pigs, I was never able to find a local source. There are pig farms in the northern part of the state, but that's a long drive with a pig in a cooler. I know there are people who raise pigs out in the Redlands, but I don't know of any who raise them for the public and not just their friends and familys' Noche Buena celebrations. Some friends of mine had most of Berkshire hog shipped down from North Carolina a while back, though I don't know who they used. (But it was delicious.)

billjac said...

I forgot to check back until now, but thanks so much for the detailed information. Milam's is right between work and home so I'll start with them. Their butcher shop never struck me as particularly impressive, but then I just judged by appearances and never talked to them. I really ought not do that.

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