THE SMOKEHOUSE

SmokehouseMy brother and I finally put our heads together and started a build.  We are also putting a full blown kitchen into part of my garage just for curing and smoking meat and making awesome mac ‘n cheese! (in fact plumbing was run into the space yesterday)….WOOT!

 We designed the smokehouse so that the floor of the smokehouse is at exactly the same level as the door into the kitchen.  Eventually we will have a covered walkway between the kitchen and the smokehouse.  This way, we can load up racks with meat in the kitchen and just roll it straight into the smokehouse.  Easy!

 

Firebox:  I converted a 55 gallon drum into a firebox using a kit you can purchase at a hardware store.  I lined the inside with fire bricks. (purchased on craigslist for $15 and then power-washed, inside and out)

THE FIRE BOX

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Floor:  We decided to raise the floor of the smokehouse up onto concrete footings.  The floor is made out of 2×6 untreated lumber and wrapped in aluminum flashing to keep it protected from the weather.

 

THE FLOOR

Framing:  We framed the walls with 2×4 lumber (untreated) from the local hardware store.  In one of the pics you can see how the door of the smokehouse will line up with the door of the kitchen.

 

FRAMING

 

 

We’ll be able to walk right out to the smokehouse.

 

Door:  I picked up an old closet door for $10 bucks and some old pallets for free.  I decided to face the old door with pallet boards and then treat the exterior facing boards with marine grade poly (spar varnish).  The inside of the door is lined with 1/4″ untreated plywood.

 

FREE PALLETS = DOOR.  YES!

Walls:  We found untreated cedar fence slats at the local Home Depot for $2.49 each and grabbed up a bunch of them.  We also grabbed a few 2×6 cedar boards and used a table saw to slice them up into 2″ wide strips.  We used the cedar pickets and cedar strips to do a board and batten wall design. (got that idea from this site!!  THANKS!!)

Roof:  I had some old tin roofing out in my barn.  The roof is 1/2″ untreated plywood covered in the tin roofing.

 

Eventually there will be storage under the overhang.

 

 

 

 

Inside the house.  Ain’t it perty?

Almost there:  We still have a few things to do, like add shelving under the overhang for storage of wood, etc.  I have run smoke through it a couple of times and it drafts well.  I think I need to add a damper to the chimney to control the flow of smoke out of the house.

I am also thinking about getting a programmable PID controller and hotplate so that I can have better control over the internal temp when I need it.

Here are some current pics.

 

 

Won’t be too long now before we can start smoking and selling bacon!!

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Beer Cured Buckboard Bacon, Anyone?

Time to try something new.  I have done buckboard bacon which is simply bacon made from the pork shoulder or butt instead of the belly.  I have also dry cured many, many slabs of belly at this point.  So, I figure it is time to start learning and trying a few new things.

Today I decided to do a wet cure using beer and to cure a cut of pork I have never tried to make bacon from.

I purchased a pork loin roast.  The loin is typically what Canadian bacon is made from.  It is much leaner than the belly or the shoulder.  I chose a loin roast of about 5 lbs with a really good fat cap on it.

I then decided that I would cure it in a wet brine made with beer.  I took a walk down the beer isle, trying to decide what style of beer would work best.  Beer and bacon go really well together….  I’ve thrown back a few while munching a great BLT…  I settled on Killian Red Ale.  I like the deeper, sweeter flavor and thought it would work well.

Now for the fun part, to make the cure.  I settled on a pretty typical cure with just a few extra herbs and spices added…  Here is what I did.

Ingredients
Ingredients
  • 5 pound pork loin roast
  • 1/2 cup of kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup of brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cure #1
  • 1 tablespoon ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon marjoram
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 quart water
  • 1 bottle Killian’s Red Ale
  • Ice

I heated up the water in a large pot until not quite boiling.  I stirred in the salt, cure, and brown sugar until well dissolved.  Then,  stirred in all of the other dry ingredients.  Last, I added the beer and then enough ice just to cool the cure down to room temperature.

I then cut the pork loin roast in half (just to make it fit in the pot) and added it to the cure.  Place a bowl on top of the roast so that it is kept from floating out of the cure.

Into the fridge to cure for a week.  I’ll turn the meat around in the cure every other day or so.

Next weekend I’ll smoke it and slice it.  I’ll add another post then covering how I smoked it.  I am thinking about using a cherry and oak blend.  I usually do an apple blend, but I think I want a sweeter wood and I really like cherry….  cold smoked for several hours… yes please.

****************  ONE WEEK LATER  **********************

It is now February 1, 2015.  Yesterday I loaded up the ol’ smoker with this beer cured bacon along side of some of my brown sugar and molasses cured pork belly.

First, I took the pork loin out of the cure and rinsed it well under cold water.  I must say it smelled amazing.  The combination of garlic, pepper, onion and bay really balanced well with the sweetness from the beer.

I set the loins back in the refrigerator, uncovered for about an hour to let the loin dry out a bit.

SMOKING

I used my MasterForge 40″ electric smoker with the cold smoker attachment (I’ll write up a real review on this at some point) and loaded up the cold smoker with a combination of apple and oak.  I ran the smoker at 85 degrees for one hour without smoke to allow the cured pork to dry out a bit more and to form a pellicle.  (Honestly not sure if I let it dry long enough, but it took on the smoke really well either way)….

I then turned on the cold smoker to begin the smoking process.  This raised the internal temp of the smoker to about 95 degrees, which is too high, so I lowered the temp back down to about 75 degrees.

Oh MAN does that smoke smell good once it gets going.  My wife says that it is her favorite cologne; the smell the smoke leaves in my clothes.  Gotta love a woman who loves a man that smells like smoked pork.  🙂

I let it cold smoke for about 7 hours before raising the temp of the smoker to 200 degrees and bringing the internal temp of the pork to above 150 degrees.

When I pulled the loin from the smoker, I must say that the smell was intoxicating.  The beer really shines through in the recipe.

Let it cool in the fridge over night before slicing and tasting.

TASTING

I through a couple of thin slices in a pan this morning and fried them up.  Smelled so good…  kind of like a ham mixed with bacon and because it is made from the pork loin, it is much leaner than regular bacon as well.  Which is actually the way it tastes.  It is a cross between a piece of pan fried ham and bacon.  The beer really hits forward with a slight hop flavor, followed by a subtle sweetness.  The saltiness from the cure, spice from the pepper and garlic and subtle remaining sweetness round out the taste.  It truly is like eating a kicked up slice of ham with a finish of bacon.  Nothing wrong with this at all.

Beer Brined Pork Loin Bacon

Where I buy my pork belly.

I’ve been searching around for places to buy pork belly.  I have found 4 so far so I thought I’d post what I have found.

1.  Frandeka Meat ShopSoulard Market – St. Louis, MO

I love this place.  They do keep pork belly on hand.  It is frozen, usually in 3 to 5 pound slabs.  Ask the guys behind the counter an they will let you pick out the slabs you want.  They get their deliveries in  on Thursdays so if you can make it there on a Thursday or a Friday you will have the best pickings.

They also carry everything from goat and raccoon (yes, raccoon) to lamb, beef, pork, alligator,  bison….   if you have not been there before it is a must.

2.  Jay’s International Foods – South Grand, St. Louis, MO
3172 South Grand, St. Louis MO, 63118
314-772-9393

Another great place to shop.  Authentic international/ Asian market.  If you go to the back of the store, to the right is the meat counter.  They have slabs of fresh belly.  The ones I got were about 1.5 to 2.5 pounds each at $2.95 per pound.  This is the best price per pound I have found so far.  The guys behind the counter were very nice and let me select the pieces I wanted.

Jay’s International also has a great selection of fish, seafood, and many exotic (at least to me) foods from around the world.  I truly enjoy just walking through the store seeing what there is and wondering what the heck you do with much of it.

My last trip, along with the pork belly, I purchased a whole octopus for a Greek octopus salad and a whole red snapper which I grilled.

3.  Zerna’s Meat and Used Cars – Grey Summit, MO
2231 Highway 100, Labadie, MO. Tel: 636-742-4190

Yes, you heard me right.  Behind the used car lot is a meat market.  And a darn good one.  The couple who run the place are incredibly knowledgeable   and helpful.  She runs the front of the store and he is in back butchering the meat.  I called last week and was told they have pork belly slabs at $3.99 per pound.

They have AWESOME buffalo jerky and summer sausage which they smoke themselves.  They also carry fresh pork, beef, buffalo, and many other sausages, smoked meats.   Please check them out if you are ever that far out Highway 44.

4.  Don’s Meat Markethttp://www.donsmeatmarket.com/
4012 South Broadway, St. Louis MO 63118

Great service and an awesome assortment of quality meats.  I purchased a case (about 50 pounds) of pork belly in slab form at $2.59 a pound.  This will be a regular place for me.  Check them out.

Chocolate Heaven – Recipe #3

Well, 86% said you want to try it and the other 14% said that, yes, I should make it.  So, I did.  I mixed up the cure and and got the pork belly a curin’. (I’ll update this post again next week once it is finished curing).

INGREDIENTS

Chocolate Heaven

Cured with cocoa, coffee and molasses this is sure to be a salty sweet slice of crunchy heaven.

Ingredients (per 5 lbs of pork belly)

4 T Sea Salt

1/2 C packed brown sugar

2 T Dark Molasses

1 tsp Cure #1 (pink salt)

2 T dark cocoa powder

2 tsp dark roast coffee grounds

PROCESS

I am just going to post the pics with descriptions.  After all, a picture is worth a thousand words, right?

Gather together all of the ingredients you and tools you need.
Gather together all of the ingredients you and tools you need.
Start by adding the brown sugar and molasses to a mixing bowl.
Start by adding the brown sugar and molasses to a mixing bowl.
Mix the sugar and molasses together into a paste.
Mix the sugar and molasses together into a paste.
Add all other ingredients, minus the curing salt.  REMEMBER - if you want to taste the cure, do it BEFORE you add the curing agent.
Add all other ingredients, minus the curing salt. REMEMBER – if you want to taste the cure, do it BEFORE you add the curing agent.
After mixing together all other ingredients (and tasting if you are going to do so) add the pink salt/ cure #1.  Since I am making enough cure for 5 lbs of belly, I followed the instructions and added one level teaspoon.
After mixing together all other ingredients (and tasting if you are going to do so) add the pink salt/ cure #1. Since I am making enough cure for 5 lbs of belly, I followed the instructions and added one level teaspoon.
This is the package of cure #1/ pink salt.  Please remember to store it away from other spices and away from children and pets.
This is the package of cure #1/ pink salt. Please remember to store it away from other spices and away from children and pets.
Now for a bit of math.  AAAHHH - NOOOOOO!!!   Yes.  Since I am not curing 5 lbs, I need to figure out how much cure to use. In this case, I am curing 1.5 lbs of pork belly.
Now for a bit of math. AAAHHH – NOOOOOO!!! Yes. Since I am not curing 5 lbs, I need to figure out how much cure to use.
In this case, I am curing 1.5 lbs of pork belly.
After calibrating the scale for the weight of the bowl, I weight the cure.  8 oz.
After calibrating the scale for the weight of the bowl, I weight the cure. 8 oz.
Since I am only using 1.5 pounds out of 5 lbs, I divide 1.5 by 5. 1.5 / 5 = .3 or 30% I need 30% of the cure used for 5 lbs of belly. 8 oz x 30% = 2.4 oz So, I measure out 2.4 oz of the cure.
Since I am only using 1.5 pounds out of 5 lbs, I divide 1.5 by 5.
1.5 / 5 = .3 or 30%
I need 30% of the cure used for 5 lbs of belly.
8 oz x 30% = 2.4 oz
So, I measure out 2.4 oz of the cure.  (store the remaining cure in an air tight container for later use)
Rub the 2.4 oz of cure into the meat.  be sure to cover all sides and edges of the meat well.
Rub the 2.4 oz of cure into the meat. be sure to cover all sides and edges of the meat well.
Place the pork belly and the remaining cure into a 1 gallon zip-lock bag and place in the fridge for 7 to 10 days.  Remember to turn the bag over every day or so.
Place the pork belly and the remaining cure into a 1 gallon zip-lock bag and place in the fridge for 7 to 10 days. Remember to turn the bag over every day or so.

Once the belly is finished curing, I plan on rinsing the cure from the belly really well.  Then, I am going to apply a second cure to the belly.  It will be a mix of just cocoa powder and sugar.  I will leave that for one more day before smoking in an effort to give it a darker chocolate taste.

I will update the next steps next week.  Stay tuned.

Vacuum Seal – A New Toy

I received the new vacuum sealer in mail today.  Since I sliced up the bacon yesterday I figured I would go ahead and vacuum seal and freeze what the wife and I would not use in the next couple of weeks.

I have to say, I really like the sealer.  Very easy to use.  AND, it makes the bacon look cool, like I bought it from the store or something.  🙂

Vacuum Sealing

I purchased an inexpensive Rival vacuum sealer from Amazon.  Here is what I bought.  Rival Seal-A-Meal  It worked great.  Super easy to use.  You can get all sorts of pre-sized bags or a roll of  the seal material to make your own custom sized bags.  I used the pre-made 8″ bags today.

I am not going into any great detail with this post.  I am just going to post some pics of the process.  They are pretty much self explanatory.

I first weighed out 12 oz portions.
I first weighed out 12 oz portions.
I added pepper to the edges of the Sweet and Spicy bacon.  it wasn't peppery enough.
I added pepper to the edges of the Sweet and Spicy bacon. it wasn’t peppery enough.
I then laid out what I needed to vacuum seal the bacony goodness.
I then laid out what I needed to vacuum seal the bacony goodness.
Then, I neatly placed the bacon into the bag.
Then, I neatly placed the bacon into the bag.
Following the instructions, I sealed the bacon up.
Following the instructions, I sealed the bacon up.
The final product.  Sealed up and ready to freeze.
The final product. Sealed up and ready to freeze.