Posts Tagged With: home cured bacon

Happy New Year!

I know it’s been a while, and a food blogging comeback isn’t necessarily in my list of New Year’s resolutions (though I do hope to keep up a little better in 2013)….but Micah and I just enjoyed a fabulous New Year’s feast that I absolutely had to share with you!

A customary meal on January 1st includes cornbread, collard greens, black-eyed peas, rice, and some sort of pork, with the idea that all of these foods will bring you good luck, wealth, and prosperity in the coming year.

Micah and I certainly would love to have a nice, lucky 2013…but y’all should also know by now that we have a hard time playing by the rules. 🙂

So, here’s what we enjoyed for our not-so-traditional New Year’s feast:

New Year's tacos!

New Year’s tacos!

Pork belly tacos on corn tortillas with black-eyed pea hummus and collard greens, plus some buttery basmati rice seasoned with smoked paprika, sweet onions, and crispy crumbled bacon.

To answer the most important question: yes, this tasted just as delicious as it looks!

I know I haven’t been around much lately and I miss you all terribly!–but I promise, we’re still cooking up a storm, and I do plan to pop into the food blogging world every now and then to see what you’re up to, too. 🙂

Here’s wishing all of you a happy, healthy, and delicious 2013!

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we are the big bad wolf (or, what we did with the pig that didn’t get away)

So, a while back, I pretty much swore to you guys that Micah and I wouldn’t be buying another pig head.

I lied.

Oops.

Here’s the thing:

Micah really, really loves curing him some pig meat.

He most recently made bacon from a pretty slab of pork belly, but one of his favorite and most frequent curing projects is guanciale, a salty and porky cured Italian hog jowl that tastes kind of like bacon on steroids.

And lately, we’ve been having trouble finding hog jowls from any of our usual sources. None in the Athens Locally Grown listings, none in the Moonshine Meats farm store.

It’s like every recently slaughtered pig within a 100-mile radius is mysteriously without cheeks.

We’re almost out of bacon, so the situation was getting urgent. Dire, even.

Micah emailed Eric at ALG, and he suggested that Micah contact Greendale Farm–who turned out to also be sold out of hog jowls.

But they did have whole heads.

So, guys, it was an accident, but yes…we did end up with another massive pig head in our refrigerator.

I’ll spare your gag reflexes and forgo the photo of the whole big ol’ head staring at you…but I do have to share the impressive amount of pantry staples one head will yield.

First, the jowls:

in about two and a half more weeks, we’ll be in hog heaven with this cheeky, streaky bacon

And here’s the rest of the haul:

look at that army of freezer jars…..

So, what exactly is all this stuff?

Well, here’s what one pig head will very generously give you:

  • about 3 to 3-1/2 pounds delicious home-cured hog jowl bacon
  • 3 gallons + 2 cups pork stock (freeze in 1- to 2-cup portions for easy additions to soups, stews, and sauces)
  • 1 cup lard (makes a great cooking fat, especially for brunch and Southern fixins)
  • about 1 pound pig skin trimmings (perfect for seasoning beans, greens, and soups)
  • about 2 pounds pulled pork meat (which we used to make some fantastic barbecue sandwiches)
  • 1 pork tongue (I have no idea what Micah plans to do with this, but it’s in our freezer…I’ll keep you posted!)

Micah spent pretty much a whole day prepping all this stuff, but now we’ve got a freezer and refrigerator full of delicious pork products that cost us next to nothing.

Was it worth it?

Yep, I do believe it was.

And, because I’m sure some of you are wondering:

No, we did NOT make any headcheese with this hog head. We picked the meat off of the skull, but we left all that weird cartilaginous stuff out of our harvest.

I swear, we’ll never make headcheese again.

Okay, so maybe I shouldn’t swear. I haven’t been too good at keeping promises lately. 🙂

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bacon, pecan, & chocolate chunk muffins

What do you get when you cross crispy, pan-fried, home-cured bacon with locally harvested pecans and sweet, creamy milk chocolate?

Muffins, of course!

I don’t know if you guys have missed my muffins for Monday posts, but I sure have missed making muffins!

Where have all my muffins been?

Well, here’s the thing. Since I’m a teacher, I have summers off. And during the summer, I don’t usually drag myself out of bed in time for much of a breakfast besides a big, strong cup of (possibly spiked) coffee. And Micah is perfectly happy smearing jam on some homemade whole-wheat sourdough or topping a bowl of creamy Greek yogurt with some sweet summer blueberries.

So, when I’m on vacation, the muffin recipes go on vacation, too.

But school has started back (with a vengeance–I’m crazy busy and kind of exhausted!)–so the muffins are back, too.

I wasn’t sure what yummy mix-ins I wanted to put in this week’s batch, but Micah suggested the perfect ingredient: bacon.

A quick scan of the cupboard revealed a container of pecan halves and a bar of milk chocolate.

Thus, this recipe was born.

And despite being full of bacon and chocolate, these muffins really aren’t that bad for you. Thanks to the whole wheat flour, they’ve got a little bit of fiber. Pecans, bacon, and Greek yogurt add protein. And using fat-free yogurt and no added oil or butter makes these relatively low in both fat and calories.

So I won’t feel guilty at all about devouring one of these tasty pastries for breakfast every morning this week. 🙂

a little bit o’ bacon in every bite

What’s in it:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup fat-free Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 3 slices bacon, cooked, drained, and crumbled
  • 1 1.55 ounce milk chocolate bar, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup pecan halves, roughly chopped

Step-by-step:

  • Preheat your oven to 400°F and prepare a 12-cup muffin pan.
  • In a small bowl, whisk together the flours, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  • In a larger bowl, beat the eggs, then whisk in the milk and yogurt.
  • Stir the dry ingredients into the wet stuff, then fold in the bacon, chocolate, and nuts just until everything’s incorporated.
  • Divide your batter among your 12 muffin cups. If you’re not scared of raw eggs (I’m not), then feel free to lick your spoon clean of all batter remnants, which will taste just a little sweet and just a little salty (just like these muffins will be very soon).
  • Bake the muffins for 13-15 minutes or until they’re golden brown and spring back a little if you press the tops.
  • Let the muffins cool in the pan for a few minutes, then remove from the pan and cool to room temperature.

These yummy treats are fluffy and full of flavor, with just a hint of salty bacon and a touch of crunch from the chopped pecans, punctuated with little pockets of sweet, creamy chocolate.

I might add a bit more bacon next time, but these are fantastic just the way they are.

In fact, I have to tell y’all that while Micah pretty much always enjoys my muffins, he does usually prefer to slather them with a little bit of butter–but he said that this batch doesn’t need any. 🙂

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project in progress, 6.10.12 – Micah’s home-cured bacon, part 2

Shame on me.

Micah and I have been enjoying his home-cured bacon for a few weeks now, and I haven’t even updated you on the progress.

My most humble apologies!

Quick recap:

Micah cured a pork belly to make homemade bacon. When it was curing, it looked like this:

pork belly curing in salt, sugar, and lots of garden-grown rosemary

For this step, Micah for the most part referenced a very detailed article from Oregon Live. Other sources for the curing part of the process include this recipe from Saveur and Michael Ruhlman’s recipe (because Ruhlman, author of a book called Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing, is pretty much The Man when it comes to curing meats).

No pink salt (Insta Cure No. 1/sodium nitrite) was used in our curing process because a) it was listed as “optional”; b) we didn’t have any; and c) added nitrates/nitrites are chemicals we try to mostly avoid.

Micah also left out the juniper berries because, well, where on earth do you buy juniper berries, anyway? So extra bay leaves and rosemary took the place of those.

Our slab of pork belly cured in the salt/sugar/seasoning mixture for about a week, during which time it was flipped and rotated occasionally and released a fair amount of moisture. Then, Micah cleaned off the cure and it was time for smoking.

Micah wanted to cold-smoke the bacon rather than hot-smoking it (which would have cooked it instead of leaving it raw). Of course, we don’t own any kind of fancy smoking appliances, so (as usual) we improvised:

Micah’s DIY cold smoker, constructed from everyday household items

Micah got the idea for this from the LA Weekly blog and (again, for the most part) followed their instructions, subbing an aluminum beer can for the tin can that they suggested.

To make your own cold smoker, you need….

  • a soldering iron (preferably one that’s never been soldered with before–we picked up a cheapie from the hardware store for about $15)
  • a large roasting pan
  • a wire rack
  • a tin or aluminum can, with the top almost completely removed so it makes kind of a flip-top lid
  • wood chips
  • ice packs
  • foil

You can see in the picture basically how all this is put together. The wood chips are inside the PBR can, and the soldering iron rests inside of that where it heats the wood to create smoke, but no fire–pretty cool! Once you’ve got your roasting pan smoker set up, you just put whatever food item you would like to smoke onto the rack, turn on the soldering iron, and cover the whole rig with aluminum foil to keep the smoke in.

The day Micah smoked his bacon, he had the smoker going pretty much all day, changing the woodchips out about every hour or two. Our whole house and porch and yard were enveloped in an intoxicating aura of porky smoke, which was fabulous. Even our hair and our clothes smelled like bacon. And I have to admit, while I always find Micah attractive, somehow he’s extra sexy when he’s bacon-scented. 🙂

When the bacon was done smoking late that evening, it looked like this:

just look at that smoky golden glow….

And it smelled incredible.

Since the whole slab was about three pounds, Micah cut it into six 8-ounce hunks, and we froze all but one of them.

Then, finally, it was time to try the bacon!

Micah sliced it nice and thick.  This is what it looked like raw:

nice ‘n’ streaky

And then we cooked it up good and crispy in a cast-iron skillet:

<insert drool here>

The verdict?

Amazing.

This bacon tastes like bacon squared, perfectly smoky and porky and delicious. The only change Micah said he will make next time (oh, yes, there will be a next time!) is to cure the bacon for a slightly shorter amount of time, maybe 4-5 days instead of a week, as this batch is almost, but not quite, on the verge of being too salty.

I think we’ve devoured half of this batch of bacon in just a few short weeks, enjoying it on burgers and sandwiches, with eggs and toast for breakfast, and crumbled over a bed of tangy, spicy collard greens:

served with black-eyed peas, summer squash, and cornbread, naturally

Not only has this project sold us on curing our own bacon from now on, but it has also inspired us to branch out into other curing and smoking experiments–I am itching to try making our own smoked salmon!

In the meantime, we’ve still got a pound and a half of beautiful home-cured, home-smoked pork belly in our freezer, and I can’t imagine it will last much longer.

After all, everything’s better with bacon. 🙂

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