Thursday, March 04, 2010

Bacon of Doom II

It was time for more bacon. Arguably, it is always time for more bacon but that's not the point. We were fresh out. It was time for more bacon. Bacon of Doom II.

(Maybe that's why the Cyber-Demon is so angry.... Someone stole his delicious belly.)

Since last Summer's Bacon of Doom had had come out so well I went ahead and ordered another pork belly from Sea Breeze, and a week later I showed up at the farmer's market to pick it up. This time around I didn't get the mighty proud iceberg of pork, it was a much more normal sized belly. It also happened that Liz, the farm manager, was at the market that day and so we all ended up having a chat about the pig. Turns out she'd named the pig Squeaker, since it was always so excited whenever food showed up. So I've come to think of this as Squeaker Bacon.

There may have also been a discussion of pig nipples (the skin was still on) but that's neither here nor there.

So here's the belly. As you can see, this time around 10lbs was pretty much a full belly.

The plan was to make three kinds of bacon. First would be five pounds of maple cured, smoked bacon. Next would be 2.5 lbs of dry cured spiced bacon. Finally, I'd go out on a limb and see what curing the remaining 2.5 lbs with honey would taste like.

So I divided the belly up as evenly as I could. One of the problems is that, depending on how you plan to use it, certain parts of the belly are better than others. For long strips, center cut is best. For lardons, cubes, etc you can use the ends and oddly shaped parts more effectively. Since that's how I use the dry cured bacon the wonky end ended up spiced.

The cure was 1/8 cup of the Ruhlman Dry Cure from Charcuterie, plenty of fresh cracked black pepper, some minced garlic, crushed juniper berries, crumbled bay leaves, dry thyme, some crushed grains of paradise, and dry marjoram.

For the maple cured bacon, the belly was coated with 1/4 cup of the dry cure and a half cup of maple syrup. For the honey bacon, 1/8 cup dry cure and 1/4 cup honey.

Each went into its own little bag and they went into the fridge. I'd recommend putting them in a 13x9 or on a cookie sheet in case they somehow leak a bit, which one did. Cleanup on Aisle 9.

They spent 8 days in the fridge, being flipped ("overhauled") every morning. Then I took them out, washed them off and left them to air dry while I prepped the smoker. Right before sticking it in the smoker, I decided to coat the honey bacon with a thick paste of honey and Dijon mustard.

I used a combo of about equal parts hickory, alder and maple to smoke the maple and the honey bacon. The problems began when I only had about 3/4 of a charcoal chimney full of charcoal. Being under-fueled I had a hard time holding 225-250, and as a result the bacon was, well, sort of cold smoked. But actually, I don't think it's a bad thing. It's salted and cured, and will be kept frozen until I need it. So the fact that it's not already cooked isn't a problem for me.

Otherwise, I trimmed off the skin and trimmed the bacon into more rectangular forms. Of course all the ends and scraps have their own bag, which is great for soups, chowders, etc. Then the bacon was sliced into about 4oz portions and all but one block was labeled and frozen.

The honey bacon gave me a chance to finally try out the deli meat slicer that I got for Christmas. The only problem was that it was a floor model and didn't come with instructions. So, as is natural whenever dangerous spinning blades are involved, I just winged it.

And shredded the heck out of my first few strips. So I threw the bacon in the freezer for about 45 minutes and tried again. This time it was much, much easier. So there you go, a tip.

The end result was pretty decent looking, minus the pile of shredded scraps in the corner. As for taste? The honey bacon is certainly good. No doubt about that. But was it particularly "honey" flavored? Not so much. Neither a failure, nor a wild success, just decent bacon from a local, happy, and apparently loud pig.

The dry cured bacon spent a few days in the fridge while I waited for an order to arrive from Butcher & Packer, then I hung it in the basement on my shiny new bacon hanger.

Unfortunately, a white mold seems to have taken up residence on it while it was in the fridge. It's not fuzzy, more the crusty kind like on a salami, so I'm not really worried. But I'd still prefer it not be there. So I gave the bacon a wipe down with some white wine vinegar and a coating of salt and pepper before I hung it. That basement room is holding a constant 58-60, and the humidity seems about right, but there's no airflow. Fortunately I've got a small fan that I can hopefully hook up to the light socket and get some air moving down there. Then we'll see. I've got some other dry cured things planned and I really hope this basement room works out. If the mold doesn't get under control soon, I'll wipe the bacon down again and then freeze it.

So there we go. 10 lbs of belly has made enough bacon to last me pretty well into the late Summer. Brilliant.


Trish said...

SQUEAKY bacon?! That is kinda sad.... :( FEEEEeeeeeEEEEEED the pig?!

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