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Curing

Bacon on the Cobb

Carnivores, eat your heart out.  You too, vegetarians.

Carnivores, eat your heart out. You too, vegetarians.

I cured another batch of pork bellies and wanted to smoke them this time around.  Some day I will build a multi-chamber cold smoker or at least one of those galvanized steal garbage bin units.  For now, I decided to test the Cobb bbq cooker‘s ability to act as a smoker.  I was partly inspired by the fact that google searches related to my first Cobb post have sent a significant percentage of the traffic to Food With Legs (give the readers what they want) but also this conversation on smokingmeatforum.com.  Follow the link and take a look yourselves but the short story is that a guy in the States used his Cobb to smoke a simultaneously frightening and appetising creation known, appropriately as a “fattie”.  A fattie or sometimes “fatty”, is a football-shaped meatloaf, stuffed with ham, onion, and blue cheese, and wrapped in a bacon weave.  If this excellent monstrosity can be smoked on the Cobb I couldn’t see why pork bellies wouldn’t work.

Pork belly pre-smoke; you can see some of the time left behind.

Pork belly pre-smoke; you can see some of the time left behind.

My first bacon post deals more with the process of curing the pork bellies (I added minced thyme leaves to the cure this time) so I’ll move straight into the smoking process.  I used a step here that I came across on the internet and have used for hot-smoking fish in the past.  The protein that is going to be smoked is pulled from the cure, dried and left in the fridge to further dry for about twelve to twenty-four hours.  This develops what is called a pellicle on the meat that apparently helps the smoke flavours “stick”. (more…)

Curing Salts Found

Natural hog casings and Readycure curing salts from Highland Farms

Natural hog casings and Readycure curing salts from Highland Farms

Many of the posts on Food With Legs over the past month have focused on preserving vegetables.  Now that the vegetable gardening season is finished and the weather is getting cooler I feel like it’s time for me to return to my meaty ways and do some posts on the delicious art of curing pork.  I have some bacon just finishing it’s curing process that I intend to smoke tomorrow but like the first round of home cured bacon from this one I also omitted the curing salts that the recipe calls for.

As I mentioned in that first bacon post there is a lot of chatter on chowhound about how difficult finding curing salts in Toronto can be.  Websites like stuffers.com will ship it but the cost of shipping can often be as much as the salt itself and in my review the waiting time for home cured pork is already long enough without waiting on Canada Post.  Three alternatives of searching asian markets for a sketchy product labelled sodium nitre (very confusing because both sodium nitrite and sodium nitrate are used in curing), having a Rexall phramacist order potassium nitrite and doing the complex conversions, or driving to Woodbridge to visit a company called Canada Compound were all the retail options available.  At least until I read a further chowhound post that mentions that Highland Farms carries Canada Compound’s Readycure product.  I found what I was looking for in the salt section. Jackpot.  I’m now set up with a kilogram of curing salts and only need to decide how I am going to use it.

I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised that a grocery store with the balls to have a stack of containers full of natural hog casings on top of the meat counter would have curing salt.  The Highland Farms at Finch and Dufferin really is a bizarre grocery shopping experience.  On the one hand there is the garish plastic and artificial green decor that screams of suburbia but on the other  we have the rosy-cheeked (it is getting chilly but I suspect the work of an early apperitivo) older gentleman quietly serenading his checkout line in Italian.

Home Cured Bacon

The oh so delicious finished product

The oh so delicious finished product

In common with just about every carnivorous (or omnivorous) human I really like bacon.  With Michael Ruhlman’s Charcuterie and this post from PauperedChef.com to guide me I decided to try and cure my own.

The first step in making bacon at home is probably the most challenging.  Major grocery stores, it seems, carry a dozen permutations (different brands, reduced salt, apple wood smoked, maple flavoured, thick cut) of factory-processed bacon but I have never come across a big piece of fresh, un-smoked pork belly in their refrigerated cases or at their meat counter. I know that European Meats in Kensington Market and T & T supermarkets across the GTA stock them but none of these options were convenient.  Surprisingly, the No Frills at Yonge and Steeles carries pork bellies (along with other pig parts like snouts, kidneys, and tongues) in their butcher case. (more…)

Preserved Limes

Kat has a great sense of style and we both love entertaining.  When we had her family over for dinner recently she had the idea of decorating the table with whole limes.  It looked great but what are we to do with ten limes?  (At 1/4 of a lime and 2 – 3 oz of gin per G & T that’s a lot of Bombay Saphire.)  As usual my motto is “when life hands you limes make some sort of preserve”.

Preserved Limes 1

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Salmon Curing

Salmon sits on top of the dry cure

Salmon sits on top of the dry cure

The idea of making food edible and less perishable without cooking it has been a big part of my cooking experience in the last year. This usually means applying some sort of cure, smoke, fermentation, or a combination of two or more. Most recently I attempted cured salmon.

I love the flavour and texture of smoked salmon but it tends to be quite expensive. I tried to hot-smoke salmon a couple of summers ago but the results were (almost) inedible because of too much saltiness. Also, even if it had been properly executed hot-smoked salmon is quite a bit different than the smoked salmon that I’m used to and is more like barbecued salmon with a strong element of salty smokiness. Cold-smoking involves a more intricate rig with, roughly speaking, a combustion chamber, a food chamber, and a some sort of tube that connects the two chambers and cools the smoke before it gets to the food. Not entirely out of the question but certainly not appropriate for a spontaneous food experiment. So, I was intrigued by The Paupered Chef’s post on fennel-cured salmon.

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