project in progress – 6.3.12 – Micah’s home-cured bacon, part 1

in the beginning….

Micah has cured hog jowls to make guanciale many times, always with delicious results.

Once, Micah even butchered a whole pig’s head himself, slicing off two big, beautiful cheeks that yielded about three pounds of bacon, not to mention simmering the rest of the head for hours into several gallons of rich, porky stock…and then scraping the remains together into a loaf of headcheese, which we both discovered we really don’t like, at all.

Did you know that you really should shave or burn the hair off of a pig’s head before you cook with it? Neither did we, until we were faced with that hog’s stubbly mug.

And there’s something really unnerving about seeing a pig’s giant face every time you open the refrigerator.

Now, I’m not squeamish about where meat comes from, or, at least, where this meat came from. It didn’t bother me that our hog jowl bacon once had a face (in fact, was a face), because I know that this particular pig lived in squishy mud and green pastures before he so graciously gave his life up for us. No nasty feedlot, no cramped pen full of sewage, no yucky chemicals or drugs. He was surely as happy as a farm pig could be.

I’m not going to argue that any animal deserves to die, and I’m not going to evangelize about the marvels of meat to my vegetarian and vegan friends. All of us must make choices we are comfortable with. I am comfortable with eating animals if they have been treated humanely, respected, honored for what they provide us.

This pig, unlike any other pig I’ve eaten, ever, had a face that I got to see, had features I can still picture. He was scraggly with coarse, short hair. His ears curled and flopped just a tad, right where they came to a point. His snout looked perfectly suited for rooting, and proud of it, too. He smirked. His eyes were closed, but his tongue stuck out of his mouth just a little. What a joker.

As much as we enjoyed the guanciale and the stock, Micah declared he’d never buy another pig’s head after that.

Until a week or two ago.

“You know what we oughtta get?” he inquired, in the midst of a conversation about how we have too much food in our freezer. “Another pig head.”

I’ll let Micah handle that on his own if he wants, and of course I’ll be happy to help him enjoy the fruits of his labors.

Except the headcheese. Unless maybe we find another, better recipe…

In any case, we don’t have room in our fridge right now to store a whole pig head or to cure a pair of hog jowls.

Why?

Because Micah is already busy curing a pork belly to make regular old bacon. Of course, given the gorgeousness of this slab of meat (from our friends at Moonshine), not to mention the generous heaping of fresh rosemary from a friend’s garden, I feel pretty confident that this bacon will be anything but ordinary.

Micah’s been reading up on the process, including how to cold-smoke the meat after it cures, and I’ll share links to his resources plus more photos of the progress very soon.

Also, this means you can certainly expect to see some recipes featuring this lovely bacon once it matures.

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Categories: links, musings | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

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10 thoughts on “project in progress – 6.3.12 – Micah’s home-cured bacon, part 1

  1. Wow. I am so impressed! Micah is brave. I saw a whole pig’s head in Fergus Henderson’s first book. It calls for a disposable Bic razor, the cheapie one without 5 blades and three emollient strips.

    One day when I have a bigger fridge and a more people to feed, I am going to literally tackle the beast!

    But this bacon in progress? Oh, man. Hey, um . . . can I come over?

    🙂

    • Come on over! Don’t mind the mess (which is pretty much always the state of things over here, especially in the kitchen). When should we expect you? 🙂

      We bought a bag of disposable razors specifically for that pig head. I think the unused ones ended up in Micah’s travel bag. Guess we’ll have to get ’em back out if another hog finds its way to our kitchen…..

      • Let me know when the bacon is ready, and I’ll be there!

        That’s so funny that you have a big bag of them. I guess they must get dull quickly. Hopefully Micah doesn’t re-use them on his own face . . .

      • The used pig razors were disposed of, as far as I know, but if Micah’s clean-shaven cheeks start smelling like hay, I’ll let you know. 🙂

      • Haha! Hopefully he will be able to distinguish between the ones reserved for porcine use 😉

  2. Can’t wait for the recipes. Especially as I haven’t bought bacon in months.

  3. We cure bacon all the time. It is great and you will never want store-bough again…

  4. Pingback: quick lunch extravaganza – when life gives you bread, make sandwiches « humble feast

  5. Pingback: project in progress, 6.10.12 – Micah’s home-cured bacon, part 2 « humble feast

  6. Pingback: we are the big bad wolf (or, what we did with the pig that didn’t get away) « humble feast

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