I love bacon. Not the pale, store-bought, watery then brittle-when-cooked nitrate stuffed strips, but the old-fashioned kind that smells like meat when you fry it in a pan and that lingers in your mouth, with a subtle, sensual pork taste. Sure, you can get it at the larger farmers’ markets, but who wants to drive for half an hour for some good meat?
So of course, I ventured online to sites like Chowhound, to read the spirited discussions about the merits of home-curing. I traipsed to countless blogs penned by adventurous women and men who were curing their own meats, making sausage and other tasty goodies.Yowza. And who is the inspiration for all this innovative grinding of meats into chilled bowls?
I confess that I’m wild about Michael Ruhlman. Not MR himself, but his approach to food preparation. I learned that the guru of goodness is a man from New York, who graduated from Duke University with a degree in literature. He’s a prolific author, but that’s not why I’d do his laundry. How can you not admire someone who said: “he best things in life happen when you get carried away.” After drooling over the blogs regaling us with Charcutepalooza tales, I decided to buy his book, Charcuterie.
I sourced a pork belly from Vinces’ Market in Sharon. The thing weighed almost 7 kilos and came complete with a thick skin that took me a while to surgically remove and not slice off my fingers in the process.The tiny nipples on the belly were a bit of a turnoff, but I persevered. I divided the belly into three chunks, that fit easily into large Ziploc bags.
Post-cure, the bellies were firm and well streaked with fat, but what was best of all were the thick layers of meat in between. I used a mixture of Insta-Cure, brown sugar, salt and spices and fresh-toasted and ground red/black/white peppers, cardamom and juniper berries. I double-bagged everything and tucked them onto a shelf in the downstairs fridge, weighed down by a case of pink grapefruit cups for 8 days.
I turned the packages every day and watched the meat transforming from soft and flabby to firm and muscular-looking. Sounds like a workout regimen! Cold smoked for 8 hours over pecan wood and – wow. The only issue for me is getting the slices thin enough. But then, Hub bought me a slicer so now I’m cranking out gourmet bacon slices.
The Food Network lists 50 ways to add bacon to recipes – here’s the link. Bacon guacamole, maple bacon donuts, bacon ice cream, bacon popcorn, chocolate dipped bacon, bacon wrapped dates, bacon wrapped tater tots, dips and bread – oh goodness, I’m in love.
Then again, I’ve been surfing for salted caramel and chocolate recipes. ‘Tis the season of excess. (Pinterest is an orgasmic treasure-trove of bacon dishes). Diet be damned. The flavour punch of salty sweet, meaty, crunchy would be amazing.