Posts from the ‘Bacon’ Category

Miso Cured Bacon Two Ways

I couldn’t be more excited to be a part of what is evolving into something amazing, none other than Charcutepalooza. The brainchild of bloggers Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s Kitchen and The Yummy Mummy. A project of sorts that has dedicated the entire year to meat and charcuterie…Brilliant! The second project was bacon which is something that I have blogged before. I decided to introduce a twist that has been on my mind and quite possibly yours too…Miso Cured Bacon.

Miso Paste

Miso is said to be an excellent ingredient that embodies the savory or umami taste, literally translated from the Japanese to mean delicious taste. I was introduced to miso upon moving to Hawaii and enjoyed it many different ways. Miso soup is literally the Japanese version of chicken noodle soup and is pretty hard to beat. One of my greatest taste experiences is miso crusted butterfish…if you haven’t you must!

10 pounds O' pork belly

So why not mix miso with what is arguably one of the greatest food groups of all time, bacon. I began the process by making a trip to The Pork Shop. This place is awesome and only fifteen minutes from my house. I had special ordered a fresh 5 pound slab of Arizona’s best. When I got there I was surprised that they accidentally gave me a 10 pound slab which I gladly accepted (and paid for of course).

Just what the doctor ordered

This was great as it allowed me to do a couple other pork belly projects that I have been nagging on me. I decided to make a redo of the maple cured bacon in addition to my miso cured batch.

Coated in dry cure

Both recipes start out with the same Charcuterie dry cure recipes.

Massaged in miso

Once I had the pork belly nicely covered in the dry cure I smeared it thoroughly with the miso and slipped it into a large Ziploc baggie for a 9 day nap in Cureville. I wanted to give it a couple extra days to make sure the miso could work its magic.

9 days later

After the 9 days, overhauling daily of course, I pulled the two bellies and confirmed that they were nice a stiff and fully cured.

Maple cured on right, Miso cured on left

Next, I thoroughly rinse both bellies and begin drying them while I turn the oven to 200 degrees. Once to temp I insert my thermometer and leave it in the oven until the internal temp of the bacon is 150 degrees.

cooking in the oven

I find it easier to cut the skin off immediately after removing from the oven. I of course tried both slabs while still warm and was pleasantly surprised with both.
I decided that I would go healthy being the health freak that I am I decided to do a salad. I used a nice mix of arugula and micro greens and a fresh head of frisee for the greens.

Next, I whipped up the basic vinaigrette from the back of Charcuterie using champagne vinegar and fresh lemon which is abundant in Arizona right now.

Miso cured bacon wrapped scallops

I wrapped some nice day boat scallops in the miso cured bacon and set them to sear in a scorching cast iron pan.

Burn baby burn!

Meanwhile I fried some cubes of the miso cured belly in duck fat as well…what the heck, right? GOLDEN!!! Now that is my kind of health food! I could eat salad like this every day!

Miso cured bacon two ways

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No Fretta Pancetta, Part 2

I finally decided to take the next step with my pancetta. I ended up waiting an additional 6 days for few reasons. The first was based upon the fact that I was having a helluva time trying to calibrate the humidity levels in my curing chamber. The humidifier that I purchased had three settings; Low, Medium and High. I first started out on High and could not seem to find a happy medium where I could keep the humidity consistent. Next, I tried the lowest setting which again produced inconsistent levels which is not good when trying to dry cure something. Moderation, which clearly is not part of my vocabulary just so happen to be the perfect setting…go figure! Anyways, the curing chamber lamenting coupled with the fact that my soon-to-be pancetta didn’t seem to firm up quite the way I remember the bacon feeling. I would overhaul it daily and check the “squishiness” and it just didn’t feel like it should until about 13 days into the cure.

Fresh out of the ziplock with brine intact

After determining that pork belly was finally ready to be removed from the brine I rinsed it thoroughly under cold running water, as cold as water gets in Arizona in the dwindling days of summer that is.

Pancetta post-rinse

After rinsing I thoroughly dried it off with paper towels and prepared to sprinkle the cut side of the pork belly with fresh ground black Tellicherry pepper.

Pancetta, post-black pepper sprinkling

After sprinkling with the pepper I began the process of rolling the belly up and tying into the classic pancetta style form we are all familiar with.

Then I rolled a hog leg...pork belly to be more precise.

The best thing that I found to fully prepare me for the process of tying up the rolled pork belly was the website www.chow.com. This website provides the best detail I have seen on how to actually tie one of these bad boys up.

Given the fact that I was rolling the pork belly and tying it the best I could, it was impossible for me to photograph the process however, I do have a few photos that would suggest that I pulled it off in a bush-league type manner.

Hanging Out!

By the grace of god I actually found the perfect setting for the curing chamber and can peacefully put my pancetta away to rest for approximately 2 weeks as suggested by the authors of Charcuterie. I also weighed the pancetta, just to see how much water weight will be lost over the next two weeks. Based upon my research it seems that 30% (water weight) is often the number one would look for in dry cured salami.

Proud Pappa Shot!

As you will see I actually made two rolls of pancetta which weighed 1080 grams and 896 grams respectively. As prescribed by Charcuterie I am maintaining a solid 60 degrees in the curing chamber and humidity between 55% and 65%. In about 14 days or so I will report back with the process and some pics.

I trimmed the belly slightly before rolling to square the sides up a bit and decided to fry the trimmings up with a little bit of olive oil. While salty I found the pancetta to clearly posses the flavors of bay leaf, garlic and nutmeg.

Looks kinda freaky but tasted great!

I can’t wait to fry up the finished product! Until then, I did the beef jerky recipe under the Salt chapter and will be reporting that before the weekend…I hope!

No Fretta, It’s just Pancetta!

I have started another recipe from the Salt chapter of Charcuterie and couldn’t be more excited for this one.  Pancetta!  Pancetta is Italian style bacon that benefits from an approximate 7-9 day curing process, much like regular bacon, and then another 2 weeks of hanging in a dry curing chamber.  The final parts for my curing chamber came in today and as such I started the curing process knowing that I have a week to get the chamber up and running.   The book indicates that you could skip the drying process if you didn’t happen to have a curing chamber however; it also clearly states that drying enhances the texture and intensifies the flavor of the pancetta.

I went to our local Asian market and purchased 2 five pound pork bellies which were very similar to the ones I used in the bacon recipe.  I then assembled the other ingredients (for one 5lb pork belly slab):

  • 4 clove garlic, minced
  • 12 grams pink salt
  • 50 grams kosher salt
  • 26 grams dark brown sugar
  • 40 grams coarsely ground black pepper (20 grams reserved for post-curing step)
  • 10 grams juniper berries coarsely ground
  • 4 bay leaves, crumbled
  • 4 grams freshly grated nutmeg
  • 5 sprigs fresh thyme

Pork belly and dry cure ingredients for Pancetta.

I first mixed all of the dry ingredients and then ground my juniper berries with the bay leaves and fresh thyme and put the garlic cloves through a press.

Dry cure mixed in with freshly pressed garlic cloves.

I then removed the skin from each of the pork bellies.  To be true to my original commitment to using all of the glorious pig I will turn the skin into chicharrones or pork rinds which is another very interesting process…post coming soon.

Belly trimmed of skin...don't toss the skin!

After I removed the skin from each I thoroughly rubbed the salt cure into all sides of the pork belly and slipped it into a gallon sized Ziploc baggie.

Dry cure coated pork belly ready for baggie and 7-9 day rest.

Each belly will remain in the baggy for approximately 7-9 days.  The variance is based upon how thick the belly is and how long it takes for the cure to work its magic.  Each day I remove the baggy of pork belly and “overhaul” or distribute the cure to ensure an even curing process.  You can tell when it is fully cured based upon how firm the belly feels.  If it still feels squishy it needs a few more days…don’t rush this process.

I anticipate the curing process to be done by next Monday or Tuesday of next week.  Then I will post the next step which is a good rinse and reapplication of the remaining 20 grams of black pepper. After that you roll the belly up into the traditional pancetta format that you will be sure to recognize.  Then into the curing chamber for a two to three week hang and dry session.  I have also started the Jerky recipe in the Salt chapter and should be able to post the first part of this process tomorrow.  Until then…

Boston-Style Baked Beans

I added another recipe using the bacon I cured. Boston Baked Beans, for all of my Celtic fans!

Boston BAKED beans, super tasty yet not so sexy pic

New England Clam Chowder

I added New England Clam Chowder to my Recipes page. Check out this great use for bacon!

Chowda Head

Making Bacon – Finale

I woke up this morning and made a trip to Home Depot to purchase some S hooks to hang the bacon from in the smoker. I found a couple of packets of three that fit the bill, $4.00 total. They are stainless steel and I sterilized them in a solution of bleach before using. The Sausage Maker sells actual bacon hangers for about $8.00 per hanger.

S hooks from Home Depot

The surface of the bacon is nice and tacky so the smoke will certainly stick well! I use a digital thermometer probe to puncture each slab of bacon. I found it best to puncture from the skin side first. I also found it best to run the S hook through the skin first and then up, as the skin will provide the sturdiest hanging situation. I hang each slab of bacon onto the smoke sticks from two S hooks.

Inserting S hooks into the pork belly

Pork Bellies ready to be hanged on smoke sticks

The smoker was set to 180 degrees and I decided to use pecan smoking bisquettes. I love the light nutty flavor of pecan wood for smoking pork and chicken. A great example of pecan smoked barbecue can be found at Joe’s Real BBQ over in old town Gilbert. They make their own root beer and the BBQ sauces are in full effect. I highly suggest checking this place out if you haven’t already.

Pecan bisquettes and smoke sticks

I am using a digital 6-rack Bradley Smoker which is a great piece of equipment to be used for all of the recipes in Charcuterie that require smoking. I purchased this one on Ebay for less than $500.00. I have tried cheaper versions (ie. Charbroil Smoker Bullet) and they do not compare to the consistency of what you can expect from the digital Bradley smoker.

Digital Six-Rack Bradley Smoker

The beauty of the Bradley is that you can use the smoke generating component completely separate from the heating element which gives you greater control on the smoke temperature inside the smoking chamber.
You can effectively cold and/or hot smoke with this smoker depending upon the ambient temperature. Cold smoking by definition occurs at or below 90 degrees whereas hot smoking is anything above cold smoking temperature. For example, in Arizona it is impossible to cold smoke Trout or Salmon given the six digit temps throughout the summer months. Another great feature on the digital version is the consistent smoking temperature throughout the smoking experience, essential to great smoked BBQ!

Digital Smoke Generator and Oven Temp Controller

As you will see there is a tube where you can set up to 8 hours worth of smoking bisquettes. Another great feature on the Bradley Smoker is the bisquettes. They have a proprietary blend of wood that guarantees an extremely low amount of resins being produced during the smoking process. These resins can cause a foul smell and taste in BBQ. Each bisquette burns for exactly twenty minutes before being ejected into a pan and followed by a fresh bisquette. This process continues until the preprogrammed time has been satisfied.

Bacon hanging out in the smoker, note ham on bottom rack

I smoked this bacon for about three hours between 180 and 200 degrees. The only disadvantage of the Bradley is the cost of smoking bisquettes. While not expensive they do begin to add up when you do enough smoking. I have learned the art of adding other items to the smoker so as to use as much smokable square footage in the smoking chamber (note the addition of honey cured spiral cut ham…YUM YUM!).

Smoked spiral cut honey cured ham

I first removed the smoked ham which will be part of our BBQ fiesta with our neighbors, a bon-voyage for my family who will be heading to Hawaii for another summer. Of course this is good in the sense that I can dedicate much of my time and attention to creating the recipes throughout Charcuterie. At the same time the house gets extremely quiet which is weird but enough of that.

Fresh from the smoker, note color transformation...the beauty of smoke!

I then took the three slabs of bacon out of the smoker and proceeded to remove the layer of skin that lies above the unctuous bacon beneath. It is best to do this while the slabs are still warm however; I found it extremely easy to remove the skin from the unsmoked fresh bacon with a sharp carving knife. I kept pressure from my palm on the skin as I slid the knife across slab of bacon.

Bacon after slicing away skin

One of the key themes of the Pickled Pig is the commitment to honoring the pig and using every single glorious part. As such I am going to keep the smoked and unsmoked skins from each belly to be used for flavoring a bean dish or stew or transform it into the ultimate happy hour snack (post and recipe to follow), a pork rind of sort.

From here I am going to refrigerate the three slabs of bacon and slice them on the THICK side (pictures to follow). I will make a couple meals from each of the three cured slabs and add them to the Recipes page of the hog blog, please stay tuned.

Well that concludes the first official whack at Charcuterie. My next recipe will be the Fennel-Cured Salmon and the Duck Pastrami and I can’t wait.

Making Bacon – continued

Is it just me or did that seven day curing process seem more like seventeen days!? Well the time has come to remove each newly cured pork belly from its respective ziplock baggie and rinse it off well under cold running water.

Rinsing Bacon

Once completely rinsed I am going to place all four bellies on a wire cooling rack set overtop of a baking sheet pan with edges. I will put the pork bellies back into the refrigerator over night uncovered so that the surface can dry. This is especially important if you plan on smoking your cured pork bellies or bacon. Once the surface dries it will become slightly tacky that which will allow the smoke to adhere more effectively. This is called forming a pellicle.

Bacon on rack for drying overnight

Tomorrow afternoon I am going to smoke the savory-style bacon as well as the maple cured-style bacon however, not the fresh-style bacon which was only cured with the Salt, Sugar, Pink Salt cure. I am going to leave this one alone and utilize it in a few classic dishes that require fresh bacon such as New England Clam Chowder and authentic Boston-Style Baked Beans.