Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Hickory-Smoked Maple Herb BACON

Are you performing CPR on a dying patient? Are you recording the life story and charming anecdotes of your beloved but infirmed 90 year old aunt? Perhaps you are putting the finishing touches on that cancer cure? No? This is not the case?

The you should probably drop what you are doing and make some bacon.

I have enjoyed and shared some culinary adventures, some have been wins (see fish, smoked) some have been learning experiences (see pork belly, roasted), but when you look at the value of craft bacon- there is no comparison.


and good.

So I was in the HOUSE OF MEATS! which is basically the independent butcher at Anderson's (grocer) in Toledo. I was looking for a flat iron steak and was met with blank looks. "Top Blade Steak?" I asked but to no avail. Fortunately, I was directed to the on-duty butcher who I assumed was in no mood to tolerate me in the middle of a busy Saturday.

But I was wrong. He asked me the size i wanted and I told him I wanted one to smoke. The man delivered a nice 5 lber.

My interest was piqued.

"Do you guys have any pork belly"

They ordered me ten pounds of fresh pork belly.

The recipe:

Modified from a recipe by my guru:

2 ounces kosher salt
2 teaspoons pink curing salt (don't feel like ordering online?)
4 tablespoons coarsely ground black pepper
4 bay leaves, crumbled
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 maple syrup
5 cloves of garlic, smashed with the flat side of a chef’s knife
2 tablespoons juniper berries, lightly crushed 
5-10 sprigs of sage
5 to 10 sprigs fresh thyme 
1/4 cup bourbon
3 sprigs rosemary

I did two 5 lb slabs. One had bourbon and rosemary and the other didn't. Both were transcendent.

Basically, you spread the cure over the meat and put each 5 lb slab into a two gallon ziplock. 

Then you flip every other day to ensure that the meat has contact with the flavorful brine created during the curing process. 

On day 4, open the bags and redistribute the cure. 

On day 7, the meat should be uniformly firm and ready for smoking.

Smoking day:

Allow you pork belly to air dry and to reach room temperature.

My ambient temperature was over 80 degrees (but not humid) so I loaded my chimney to about 2/3 full and lit. I poured about unlit 15 briquets into the pan as an homage to the Minion method. 

I was aiming for no water in the pan, but I wanted to maintain a temp of 200 and found myself doing more work and less beer, so i added a 24 ounces of water to the pan from a discarded bottle of Dos Exis. This regulated the temperature.

I used hickory because i love it with pork, but i think i will use a milder apple next time. I gave the belly about 4 hours on smoke until the internal temp of the belly reached 150.

Then, my friends- you have BACON.

Mariah made some delicious biscuits (post to follow) and we began the process of enjoying and distributing said bacon. If you, as I had, never experienced craft bacon- DO IT IMMEDIATELY. It is like a cross between store bacon and corned beef. It is flavorful and rich and complex. If you don't make it immediately you a just a fool.

A DAMN fool.