Standing in line in Montalcino, Italy at an open air market… waiting hungrily for a slice of that whole, deboned, herb rubbed, salty, roasted pig on the butcher’s counter. The one with the perfectly crispy skin.
“Sliced or on a sandwich’ the server asks each patron in Italian as they step up to the counter. ‘Sliced’, I say when it is my turn. He grabs his knife and slices away at the aromatic roast until I tell him to stop. He hands me pork slices, wrapped in butcher paper, and I cannot wait to sit down and dig in for my first taste of porchetta.
So, what exactly is porchetta? It is a dish that originated in central Italy in the province of Rome. It is a whole pig, deboned, arranged in layers of meat and fat and salt and herbs and then roasted to perfection. The skin is crisp, the meat is salty and tastes of herbs like garlic, and thyme and rosemary and fennel. It is pig perfection.
I took inspiration and created the recipe for my ‘Porchetta Bacon’. The dry cure is filled with savory herbs that lend themselves well to the flavor and aroma of this bacon.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
I like bacon. I like making bacon from scratch. It is no secret. By now, anyone who knows me knows that over the past couple of years I have been curing and smoking my own bacon. Many of you have tried it, liked it, and asked for more.
So, I figured I would pick up the blog again. I have revamped the look and will be posting on a more regular basis. Please stop in often and check out what’s new.
To all of you who have requested my bacon… thanks! You have inspired me to keep on going and to maybe even open an honest business selling the stuff. 🙂
Here’s to inspiration, dreams, and the determination to make them happen.