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Ham, Glorious Ham

My ham came from this locally-raised pig at Sanagan's

During the Christmas and Easter holiday seasons those giant waist-level refrigerated bins at grocery stores fill with hams of all shapes and sizes.  Over the past several years the selection has improved, in my opinion at least, away from those re-constituted, mechanically-formed miniature satellites towards a lot more options that have a bone and look like they may once have belonged to an animal.  But finding a fresh (uncured, unsmoked) leg of pork is still a tall order here in Toronto.

Being a good citizen of the 21st century I turned to Twitter and asked the first three purveyors I could find: Sanagan’s Meat Locker, Olliffe Butcher Shop, and Fiesta Farms.  On top of the amazing mental picture of a butcher in a heavy-duty, blood-spattered apron replying to my questions (with his vacuum packed iPhone, of course) I also received prompt answers from all three.  Fiesta is considering carrying fresh pork legs in the future but don’t now, and luckily the other two had what I needed.  Wanting to support the new guy on the block (of Baldwin, a street I lived on in the not-so-distant past) I made my way down to Sanagan’s.

The characteristic that impresses me most about this butcher shop is how efficiently they use a small space.  There’s meat everywhere and definitely no sauce and spice rub aisle in which the timid customer could hide.  To underline this point the large, free-standing butcher block to the right of the door displayed an entire pig, split into three primal sections (head and forequarter, rib and loin, and hind legs).  As you can tell from the picture at the top of the post this pig looked much more like Babe than like the 250-pound behemoths we might usually think of as slaughter size. (more…)

Cinnamon Dessert Bacon

Finished dessert bacon ready for the oven

Finished dessert bacon ready for the oven

Last weekend I entered a charity bake off and my Bacon Blondies did quite well.  This wouldn’t have been a proper Food With Legs project if I hadn’t cured and smoked the pork belly to make my own homemade bacon.  I will post the full recipe for the blondies in a separate post but today I’m going to focus on the bacon.

Making homemade bacon is a process more than a recipe.  I have posted before about how this process starts by searching for ingredients.  Fresh pork belly is not in every grocery store but I have found a reliable source at my local No Frills (Carlo’s at Yonge and Steeles) and curing salts are even more difficult to find.  This was my first time using Canada Compound’s ReadyCure product and because it contains only  one percent sodium nitrite (versus the six and a quarter in pink salt, Prague Powder, etc.) I needed to do some math to adapt the recipe.


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  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…)