WE ALMOST HAVE A KITCHEN

After about 6 months of working hard every weekend, we finally almost have a kitchen.  It has been a lot of hard work but so worth it.

We began with just an idea and a garage.  We talked to the health department, building department, zoning and neighborhood committee.  We got permission and the OK from all of them.  We drew out plans, got permits, hired contractors where needed.  We framed, we wired, we plumbed, we hung drywall and taped it, we painted it.  We made dirt and cleaned it up.  We bled and cursed and laughed and joked….  and finally we are getting down to the final stages of finishing up our kitchen.

We still have some painting to do, some lights to hang, and we still need our plumber to plumb all the sinks.  BUT.. we are so close.  There is light at the end of the tunnel and I am so excited.

It won’t be too long now and we will be finalizing recipes for our MAC and our BACON.  We will begin building our website and putting together our marketing campaigns.   Keep your eyes open for more updates.

In the meantime here are some pics of our progress.

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Ventreche? – WHAT IS IT?

I’ve been researching bacon from around the world.  I mean, the U.S. is not the only place that cures pork into the delicious awesomeness that is bacon.  The Italians have pancetta, the Irish have rashers, and evidently the French have ventreche.

What is it and what makes it different than all the other bacons?  Well, I am glad that you asked.  Apparently, in Gascony they have a lightly cured bacon called ventreche.  Unlike the bacon we are used to here in the U.S., ventreche is lightly cured using salt only.  No nitrites and other herbs and spices during the curing process.  It is very simply pork belly rubbed with salt, placed in a cool place to cure for 2 to 4 days, rinsed, rubbed down with black pepper and then smoked.

Ventreche is used in many recipes in Gascony from soup bases, to vegetable dishes, for searing meat like duck breast, or wonderful things like mushrooms seared in the rendered fat…  although I see no reason why we can’t use it in New England clam chowder, or on a pizza, or maybe even fried up crisp along-side some sunny side up eggs.  MMMmmmm mmmm good.

So, I tried my hand at it.  Admittedly, I had to borrow a recipe I found online here.  It was very simple to cure and I love any recipe which enhances the flavor of the main ingredient.

After curing, I smoked it lightly with hickory and cherry.  I then let it cool and sliced into it.  I fried up a slice in a skillet and tasted it….  wow, so good.  Unlike what we think of as bacon, it was more like really good roasted pork belly.

Gonna have to try some recipes using it as a base…  render it down and saute some veggies or something.

BTW – the picture is of the ventreche that I made.

Happy eating.

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

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.