Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Makin' Bacon

Yesterday was day 10 of the curing process for bacon.  You may recall one shelf in my refrigerator was packed with curing pork belly and the tedious task of waiting.  To be honest, there was one step involved here - after five days, I had to flip the slabs of meat.  Oh how exciting.
Curing Pork Belly
At last, day 10 arrived.  The pork bellies were rinsed and soaked for 2 hours, changing the water midway.  The meat was patted and allowed to dry further for another hour.  During the final drying period, the smoker was fired up to 200 F.  Just before placing the meat on the racks, we added pecan wood chunks and let the pit fill with smoke.

The meat was placed fat side down on the smoking racks.  Charcoal or pecan wood chunks were frequently added to keep the smoke rising out of the stack and maintain a temperature around 175 F.  We rotated the slabs every hour, to distribute the heat and cooking time evenly.  Six hours later, we transferred the bacon to the kitchen.  Not all of the meat made it to the fridge for cooling.  Some was sacrificed for dinner last night.  Yummy BLATs (BLT with Avocado).

Here is a photo of my mom's meat slicer.  This was one of her wedding gifts in '56.  It works great!  The only drawback is the bacon slabs need to be halved.  They are too long to fit on the slicer.

Mama's Meat Slicer
 Here are the short slices of bacon.  The meat is very lean.  So much for collecting bacon grease for future cooking projects.


Saturday, October 13, 2012

Bacon and Lemons

It has been a long time, a very long time, since I've posted anything here.  Life seems to get in the way of the blog life.  A new granddaughter, changes at work, moving 300 miles (closer to my granddaughter), ailing family took up time.  Couple that with not having a camera handy when it's most needed.  Excuses, excuses!    My Grandmother told me that excuses are the sign of a weak person.

So back to busy-ness.  A few weeks ago, I discovered pay dirt in the form of a tiny, nearly hidden butcher shop in my new town.  Keep in mind I frequently read and am inspired by Cowgirl and Ohio Farmgirl.   These ladies can do ANYTHING and they DO everything.  Blend them with Maxine and you have the perfect woman.  Well, that would be the woman I want to be.

So, this week has been productive and fun.  We came back from a cousin's wedding, snagged back my dehydrator from Mom's.  (I had no room for it in the apartment, but now in a house - woo hoo, I can stretch my kitchen wings again).

Last week, I purchased a big bag of lemons. Today I sliced them in 1/8" slices and cranked up the heat (155 F) on my little Excalibur.  Six hours later, dried lemon slices.
Lemon Slices Drying
Then I purchased 20 lb of pork belly from the butcher yesterday.  It was frozen solid.  Really solid.  So solid, the butcher had to saw the slabs (frozen together) to make a sale.  Seven hours ticked by, then I could pull the still frozen slabs apart.
Slab set 1 of 2
OK, I'll get back on track.  The pork is beautifully streaked and very meaty.
Slab set 2 of 2
My mouth is watering for a bacon sandwich now.  But there are steps, and waiting, lots of waiting before that happens.

I grabbed my bacon cure (from the Pork Heaven near Mom's place) out of the pantry.

Bacon Cure
Trimmed the skin off the pork belly (see what to do with this little treasure (click here for chicharrones)
Trimming the skin off the pork belly
Massaged in the cure, anywhere and everywhere, wrapped in plastic bags and stuffed the meat into the refrigerator.
Cold curing
Now we wait for 5 days.  Tick... tick... tick... tick... tic

Y'all come back, now, ya hear?