Monday, May 11, 2015

Makin' Bacon? Easy Peasy!

People who deny the facts of evolution completely puzzle me. Even putting aside the fossil record, DNA evidence and untold hours of programming on public television (Have you pledged yet?) do these people ever look around them? Stuff is changing all the time, for heaven's sake.

Cured and ready to smoke.

And I'm not even talking about the famous example of the beaks of Darwin's finches on the Galapagos Islands, where "an immigrant first settled on one of the islands [and] it would undoubtedly be exposed to different conditions in the different islands (where) it would have to compete with a different set of organisms. ... Then, natural selection would probably favor different varieties in the different islands."

You don't have to look any further than this blog, which in geologic time has only existed for a millionth of a nanosecond, but it has evolved from a simple food blog with restaurant reviews, farmers’ market reports and recipes to a forum for discussion of issues about our food system, from the fields to our plates. And the recipes have changed, too, as I've learned more and tweaked them to fit the way we're eating now.

In the smoker.

Take Dave's bacon recipe. On the recommendation of a friend, I bought him Michael Ruhlman's Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing, considered the primer for those interested in learning about cured meat. In the five years since he cured and smoked his first pork belly, he's adjusted it to his own tastes, to the point where we have a hard time stooping to store-bought because even the most highly-touted examples simply don't measure up.

So if you're at all interested, it's incredibly easy. The only special equipment required is curing salt, large zip-lock plastic bags, a charcoal grill or smoker and a thermometer, then a week for the curing. Seriously, that's it.


And, of course, Dave's notes, which are here in his own words:

"The bacon recipe is based on the Michael Ruhlman recipe, with a couple of changes. I use half as much kosher salt as the recipe calls for—a quarter cup makes it way too salty. I use Diamond Crystal kosher salt (I understand that Morton’s is a bit different). I use a little more garlic than called for—8 to 10 cloves, maybe. I don’t think I’ve ever made it with the optional thyme. I have made it with the optional juniper berries once or twice, but most of the time not. I usually make 12 or 13 pounds at a time, so I double the recipe as I’ve altered it. I usually have two pieces of belly, each rubbed and placed into the big plastic bags in the fridge on a Saturday or Sunday for smoking the next weekend. I turn them once a day. I put it in my Weber Smokey Mountain smoker, on the grates over a water pan, at a low temperature—I try to keep it about 200-225 degrees—over Kingsford with four or five chunks of soaked maple or cherry wood (not too much or the bacon’ll be too smoky and bitter). I smoke it until it’s about 145 degrees internally, usually about three or four hours."

As this changes—and evolves—I'll keep you posted!

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