Makin' Bacon - Zibba's Zelacacies---A zealot foodie creates delecacies in a Texas kitchen Blog at - 246285

Zibba's Zelacacies---A zealot foodie creates delecacies in a Texas kitchen

Aug. 7, 2011 4:43 pm 
Updated: Aug. 14, 2011 6:51 pm
My husband is an avid hunter and I have cooked more than my share of quail, dove, duck, wild turkey, venison and elk, but given the penchant for prodigious porking in the wild hog population in Texas, he has turned into a hog hunting fool. (At the rancher's insistence---wild pigs destroy property and are more dangerous to hunters than rattlesnakes.) Obviously with the heat wave, he'd be a fool to go hunting in this weather, so I have taken the opportunity to experiment on corn-fed swine in anticipation of more pigs landing in my kitchen when the weather is more humane.

 First, for Father's Day, I bought him (me?) two books, Chacuterie by Ruhlman and Polcyn, and The Butcher's  Guide to well-raised meat, by Applestone(s)....that led to the purchase of a Bradley Smoker ( and the beginning of an obsession---making our own cured meats!

So a two weeks ago, I ordered a pork belly from my local butcher---recipe called for a five pounder, but the butcher said that was half a pork belly and I would have to buy the whole thing...about ten pounds at two bucks a pound. (which should yield about eight pounds of bacon.)
The recipe calls for the skin to be left on, but it arrived trimmed, so I reduced the curing time by a day.

The process is to mix a dry cure that draws liquid out, forming a brine, in which the meat stands for a week. Instead of using a container, I used sealed bags for the brining process. That was perfect, as I had to go to Colorado for business, and all my husband had to do was turn the meat daily. Of course, I could not follow the recipe to the letter even the first time, as it used a lot of maple syrup and sounded way too sweet---I used amber agave nectar and added some other "special" ingredients.

Yesterday, Saturday, the meat came out of the brine---firm to the touch like bacon actually feels, not like the flabby raw meat prior to brining process. (I always tell people cooking uses all of the senses, but the sense of touch is probably the most important in getting it right!)  Anyway, the meat got rinsed and dried and left in the refrigerator uncovered overnight to form a pellicle, a sticky outer layer that absorbs the smoke flavor. I used that to my advantage in pressing it full of pepper, as the sticky coating really clings to whatever is pressed into it.

Next it went into the Bradley Smoker, and according to the recipe in Charcuterie, it should "hot smoke" about three hours...not true. It reached temperature in about fifty minutes---and in fact some was actually completely cooked, not what you want for bacon. I would smoke it much slower and cooler next time...oh and there WILL BE a next time!!  But that leads me to my question---we hand cut the first batch, but froze everything else. When it is partially thawed, I think that will be the best time for slicing---but I do not have a slicer. I read reviews of several different models today, but I would like recommendations from anyone that reads this...I am willing to spend a little money, because, well, the Canadian Bacon is next!!

With the price of bacon, this was a venture well worth the effort. The flavor is awesome---Just wanted to share this with all you foodies out there. It's  not difficult, just  a little time consuming, but not a bad tradeoff for the great results.
Makin' wild bacon
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Bacon after curing, before smoking
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Pressing on pepper coating
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Slicing by hand, no good!
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Vacuum packed
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Ready to freeze
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Aug. 7, 2011 7:59 pm
Great job! As for a slicer - I really don't know a good one for bacon. I think you are right though - frozen or partially frozen meat slices so well.
Aug. 7, 2011 8:02 pm
Thanks, Nana, I know I have bad results with cheese unless it is partially frozen, so I figured it would be the same. Happy baking!!
Aug. 8, 2011 7:59 pm
I went to a commercial restaurant supply store today in search of a slicer...they had a "mid-sized" slicer for $$890!! Yipes, I need something a little more reasonable...still lookin for suggestions.
Aug. 10, 2011 3:37 pm
I have a basic plastic slicer that I use all the time. It slices just as well as that big commercial slicer I used when I worked at a deli in college if I hold my mouth right ;). Really it just took time to learn how to slice different things and it is a slow process since it is much smaller. Most often I have to cut things so that they will fit. I doubt a big slab of bacon would fit but it would work if cut in half so it wasn't so long. Mine is plastic too but I've used it for years and the metal blade is just as sharp as the day I bought it. I love that it is compact and easy to store as well as clean.
Aug. 11, 2011 6:28 pm
My son suggested craigslist and I found a large commercial used Hobart for $300. It has a 12' blade and sounds like it will fit the bill---I am supposed to meet the guy tomorrow. We'll see!! Thanks for reading!!
Aug. 13, 2011 10:57 am
Well, it turned out to be a pretty old Hobart---and the beast must weigh sixty pounds! It runs, but it needs some real TLC, so I will take it to a small appliance repair place for a tune up, and probably a new cord. The existing cord shows some wear. Overall, I think most older appliances are better-made than many of the new ones. I think of this like my old Singer sewing machine---Appliance guy told me mine is one of the last where the body was all cast as one piece. He also said that if I took care of it, it would last my lifetime...well we are half-way there and I have have upholstered with it, mended horse blankets with it...and it still works great. I think me and this slicer will be around together for a long time!! But when I saw how old it was, the guy knew he wasn't getting 300 for it, either!!
Aug. 13, 2011 11:41 pm
Hi, AZ. Congratulations upon having the gumption to take action! The only slicing "appliance" we ever used on our bacon was a very sharp knife! We smoked our bacon and hung it from the rafters in a wood meathouse. When we needed bacon, we walked about 25 feet from the house, took the bacon down, put it on a bench covered with newspaper we'd just brought out. covered that with waxed paper, held the bacon with one hand, and cut away with the other. In winter, when the meet would freeze, we did use a meat saw (probably a hack saw that we used only for meat). Our bacon never looked as you described yours; it wasn't at all pliable. While your bacon may taste fine and may store in the refrigerator or freezer, I would suggest researching some homesteading magazines, as truly cured bacon should be able to hang, stiff and hard, as ours did. Be aware, too, that livestock wasn't butchered and cured in this kind of weather! This was an all-day winter or late fall project which brought relatives, friends, and neighbors together for a day of work, conversation, laughter, and good food to eat. In addition to regular articles some of the magazine staffs put out books about different aspects of homesteading, and curing bacon and other meats can likely be found in some of them. In the '70s a series of books called "Foxfire" I, II, etc., detailed interviews with the elderly in an attempt to preserve their first-hand information on how to do all kinds of things that we don't do for ourselves any more. I'm pretty sure that some aspects of meat preserving were included, but it's been eons ago, so I don't know if bacon, specifically, was covered. You might also be able to find out more of the fine points from someone who does that on an Indian Reservation or from your County Agricultural and Home Extension Office. Good luck in bringing back what is rapidly becoming a lost art.
Aug. 14, 2011 6:52 am
MM, wow, I don't know anyone actually had a smokehouse---I've only read about them!! How cool is that?? And thanks for the advice on the Foxfire books, I'll try Amazon for those. And I love the fact that "putting up" food was a group project, because to me that is the essence really of cooking: comradarie and spending time with people we care about...the byproduct of which is edible. I will also take your advice on the Ag Extension---A&M has a big department. But just yesterday, we ate the first of the bacon, and (not trying to brag), it was as good or better than any store bought!! Thanks for posting!
Aug. 14, 2011 6:51 pm
Okay, today was the beginning of a ham attempt...well, actually, it started yesterday. I haven't found a single recipe that seems to fit the bill, so I made up my own between two that have produced good results for other meats. Yesterday I made a brine and put a 4.35 lb. boneless picnic roast in it---for 24 hours. It came out today, and I washed it and dried it. Then I made a dry cure that the pork was rolled in, and the "cure" was pressed on to all sufaces and left for only three hours. It is amazing how quickly this cure draws moisture from the meat!! So the first brine is to add flavor and moisture, and the cure removes moisture, and changes the meat texture to that of ham. (I hope.) Then the cure was rinsed off completely, and the roast was dried and it is spending the night in the refrigerator developeing a pellicle. Tomorrow, when it is smoked, I will post the pictures of this adventure! Since this is really seat of the pants, I am ging to look for a copycat version of the Honeybaked Ham glaze...worst case scenario: I lose twelve bucks.
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Aunt Zibba

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Raleigh, North Carolina, USA
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Fort Worth, Texas, USA

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About Me
When I was in 6th grade, my mom had surgery that kept her in bed for 8 weeks. She wrote six recipes on index cards for me to do the cooking for the family (of 6!) While babysitting for my (Greek) neighbor, she asked me what I planned to cook when I got home: I showed her mom's spaghetti recipe, featuring tomato soup! She handed me a bag of herbs, and I got hooked on cooking after that. Mom's food was really awful, but it's what I grew up eating: now I don't want to waste a single calorie to mediocre food!
My favorite things to cook
Too tough to answer! I have lots of favorites---from main courses to sweets and treats. I grow herbs and vegetables, as well as perennial blackberries and asparagus---so I also do a lot of canning, preserving and jelly-making. I really enjoy creating new flavors, like my "famous" Pomegranate Hatch Jelly. Much more intense than Raspberry Chipotle!
My favorite family cooking traditions
THANKSGIVING!! Since my Mom really hated cooking, I started doing the Thanksgiving meal when I was quite young. Today, we generally have 25-30 people---lots of family and lots of friends. The more the merrier!! I start on broth two months ahead of time...and regularly teach people how to make STRESS FREE GRAVY!
My cooking triumphs
Mmm...flourless chocolate cake. My "Wicked Patch" jelly (pomegranate hatch chili combination), as well as a cranberry jalapeno chutney that I make for Thanksgiving.
My cooking tragedies
I once tried to use a downdraft as a smoker...heat built up, melted the grates. Big mistake---I removed the makeshift cover and the flames lept up five feet, setting off the alarm, and calling the fire department. I had four (good-looking) firemen show up at my front door to advise me that I had burned dinner. Thanks,guys!
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