For the January-February 2013 Daring Cooks’ Challenge, Carol, one of our talented non-blogging members and Jenni, one of our talented bloggers who writes The Gingered Whisk, have challenged us to make homemade sausage and/or cured, dried meats in celebration of the release of the book Salumi: The Craft of Italian Dry Curing by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn! We were given two months for this challenge and the opportunity to make delicious Salumi in our own kitchens!
It's been a rough few months and it's only the beginning of 2013.
Right before Christmas, I caught the flu. Then, right after New Years, I caught a cold. Needless to say, I got a very late start on this challenge.
Then, the second week of Jan, we lost one of our beloved pets, Max
, unexpectedly. Needless to say, grief compounded with seasonal depression really set in and starting on this challenge got pushed even further back.
About that time, Caena, our Akita
, started trying to chew her skin off, yanking her fur out and necessitating us resorting to a cone of shame. Then, a week later, we discovered a serious issue with mold/mildew in our bedroom, which resulted in our having to empty the bedroom to bleach and paint the walls with Kilz primer. It also required the moving of our 20 gal fish tank
from the upstairs to the downstairs, as we think that, combined with the humidifier and absolutely no circulation beyond a fan in the hall, in that room, is what caused the mold/mildew.
Caena went to the vet- turns out she may have a mold/mildew allergy, which after a round of antibiotics and Prednisone, along with twice weekly baths using medicated shampoo, has cleared up nicely. That week, I broke down and went as simple as I could with this challenge, which meant making homemade bacon.
So, since I already had a pork belly, all I needed was a cure for it. I will admit, this actually cured for 2 weeks, because I got sidetracked by packing up all the books (7 boxes worth, close to 600-700), and moving out what we could from the bedroom, then priming the entire room with 2 coats of Kilz, next thing I know, it's the following week and I'm busy repainting the entire bedroom with 2 coats of lovely semigloss paint, so it got put off until last weekend. Umm, 2 weekends ago counting this past weekend.
The PDF file has links to sources for the 'Pink Salt', or you can go the simple route like I did and just use the Morton's Sugar cure, which works great. Initially, I added maple syrup to it, but between the natural flavoring that comes with the sugar cure and the smoking, the maple syrup flavor was lost. And we learned not to let the pork belly cure for longer than the week it's supposed to. Why? Because if you eat more than 2-3 pieces at a time, it tends to start tasting rather salty. And really, it's bacon, who can only eat 2-3 pieces? }:P
I really wanted to use Applewood smoking chips, but short of ordering them online, that just wasn't feasible, since locally, they're only around in the spring and summer. So instead, we went with hickory. Soaked for about 30-45 minutes prior to use.
Fired up the smoking box on the grill, added some dry smoking chips to help bring the heat up to temp. And then waited. Once the smoke built up and the temp inside the grill itself reached 200 degrees, the pork belly was added. Then it became a waiting game, where every 15-20 minutes, I'd add a few handfuls of soaked smoking chips to keep the smoke quantity up while the soon to be bacon smoked.
About 2 hours later, we had slabs of bacon! I will admit, I looked at the internal temp wrong, and well, it got a little hotter than I wanted. But it was still very good looking bacon.
I let it rest for about half an hour, then I carefully sliced the skin (aka the rind) off, trying to leave as much of the underlying fat as possible. And hour after that, while it was still warm but I was too impatient to wait any longer, I sliced it down into thick cut slices of yummy bacon.
Homemade bacon cooks just like store bought. But you know what? It smells oh so much better.}:P
And it tastes oh so much better than storebought too. Right now, I have my last 3lb piece of pork belly curing in the fridge. This time, I went with the plain sugar cure and added roasted cinnamon to it. Saturday, I'll smoke it. Then next week, I'll take it to my butcher, whom it turns out, will slice it for me on his meat slicer! WooHoo! and I'll also pick up the pork belly I ordered and make more bacon and I'm thinking of trying my hand at some pancetta.
By the way, if you're interested in making cured meats, bacon, sausage, etc, definitely check out the PDF file and go get yourself copies of both Charcuterie
. They are well worth it!
And definitely check out the slide show of other Daring Cooks' cured meats
! They're delicious looking!THE RECIPES.(PDF FILE)