Friday, February 19, 2010

the great bacon caper

This is a repost of my homecuring bacon post - combined here in one post plus an appetizer recipe using your new homemade bacon.

I received my 13lb pork belly on pick up night at the Coop. Wow, can a pork belly be pretty? Never having seen one whole and in the raw, it looked perfect. I researched my process, and was instructed to square up my belly, but truthfully, it was mostly trimmed and the ends squared off, so I only had a little to trim, more about how to use those later. I cut the belly in 3 pieces, stacked them on a sheet pan and applied the dry cure on another sheet pan. Next time I will apply the cure in a pan the fits inside my sink as I found I am quite messy. The cure wound up all over.

 The cure mixture I used:

1 tbsp Mortons Tenderquick per pound.
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup kosher salt
2 tbsp black pepper

After rubbing and patting the cure mixture in over all surfaces of each piece of belly, I put each one in its own 2 gallon ziplock, squeezed out the air, and laid them flat, label side up in the fridge. Why label side up? So I could remember if I forgot to turn it. Turn each day and I will do this for seven days, then prepare the belly pieces for cold smoking, which I will attempt on my gas grill.

After curing for seven days, pour off the liquid, rinse off the excess salt, and soak for one hour to decrease saltiness. Let sit uncovered in the fridge over night to dry and create a tacky surface for the smoke to cling to. Now you are ready to smoke

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes.

Today was the day I tried smoking on a gas grill. Make sure your gas bottle is full or you will have to either fill it or switch to charcoal, like I did. So I filled a foil packet with hickory chips and set it on the lit burner of one side of my grill and all was well until the gas ran out. Switching to charcoal entailed lots of babysitting, making sure the chips don't catch on fire and, making sure that when the chips catch on fire they don't roast your bacon, as mine did. So my smoking time was cut short. I did salvage my bacon, was able to cut off the rind, and fried up a few slices. I will be blunt, I did not hold much hope for this bacon, but, in spite of the smoker fubar, it was good, surprisingly good! It was a bit salty, so I will soak the last piece to remove some of the saltiness before I try AGAIN to smoke it. The first thing I notice is the fresh taste, meaty and tender. It tasted like the best bacon tastes, the fat a bit crispy, the meaty part juicy and tender. The salvaged bacon is cooling in the fridge to firm up before I slice it in meal portions to freeze. This test taste batch was sliced thick, when I use my slicer and cut the rest of it thin, I may have a product that I can cook and serve without reservations.

Bacon w Wrapped Apricot appetizers

One way to serve your delicious home cured bacon is in this easy and quick appetizer

Bacon Wrapped Apricots
1 bag dried Mediterranean apricots, or whatever is available
12 slices bacon, cut in half
Small jar plum jam 1/3 c soy sauce (more or less to taste)

Wrap each slice dried apricot in bacon, secure with toothpick. Bake at 350 until bacon is cooked. Let cool slightly before serving with dippin sauce.
Heat jam and soysauce together until jam is melted, mix well and serve with apricots as dipping sauce.
Can serve apricots warm or at room temperature.

vanilla rum

I love to give homemade gifts. My family and friends, bless their hearts, can count on it! They are usually the recipients of my homemade inspirations. Well, last night I had an inspired idea to make homemade vanilla. So researching on the net, I found the process is pretty simple. Whole vanilla beans in a cup full of vodka, rum or brandy. The minimum bean count seems to be 3 per cup of high volume alcohol. Some recipes say add a simple sugar syrup or corn syrup, most just use the two ingredients. Well, I had no vodka but I did have some cheap rum and three 9" long pods, so I gave this recipe a go:

Homemade Vanilla Rum Flavoring
3 - 5 whole vanilla beans, more if beans are 5" or less
1 cup of vodka, rum or brandy - different sites recommended cheap some recommended high quality, you decide
Split each bean down its length. My beans were long so I halved them also. Container size will decide if you halve yours or not. Put split beans inside an airtight glass container. I used an old honey jar I had handy, and fill with alcohol. Let sit in dark, cool place for a month, shaking daily or every other day. The longer it sits the stronger the flavor. Supposedly this keeps indefinitely, just keep topping off with more alcohol as contents get low and add a split bean occasionally. Since I will probably make and give future jars as gifts, I will use a pretty jar, strain the vanilla and add a fresh bean.

crackers in my bed

This is a repost from my Coop blog.

I have been wanting to try a homemade cracker recipe for a while now, and I found an easy one, this is a very slightly modified farmhouse cracker from Mary Janes Farm magazine.

Pumpkin Seed Crackers
1 1/2 c flour
1 1/2 tsp cream of tarter
3/4 tsp salt
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 oil
1/2 c water Soysauce
Roasted salted pumpkin seeds
Oven 350.
Lightly grease cookie sheet.

1. Combine dry ingredients
2. Add oil and water and stir until dough forms. 3. Roll out thin on a lightly floured surface. Brush surface with soysauce, cut into shapes and transfer to cookie sheet.
4. Press pumpkin seeds onto surface of crackers.
5. Bake for 15-20 depending on thickness. Transfer to racks for cooling.

For basic farmhouse crackers:
blend an egg,
2 tsp sugar and 1 tsp balsamic vinegar, and brush dough after rolling out on floured surface. Sprinkle with sesame seeds. Cut out, transfer to cookie sheet and bake

An apple a day....

This is reposted from my Coop blog, I canned these last fall, what a delicious treat this winter it has been. This has also made some yummy apple crisp.

an apple a day...or a quart Canned some pie filling this weekend, fun and easy. If you have a windfall of apples and want to do more than applesauce, try the following recipe. I used a blend of golden delicious and honey crisp apples. Pack your apples tightly and use a chopstick to get rid of airholes. It makes 6-7 quarts.

Blend together-
3 cups sugar
1 cup honey
1 cup cornstarch
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp cardamom
1/4 tsp ground clove
1 tsp. salt

Stir in 9 3/4 cups of water and cook until thick. Add 3 tbsp. of lemon juice. Pack sliced apples into hot jars. Fill with syrup leaving 1/2" head space. Process 20 minutes in water bath canner

Breakfast sausage

Nothing beats fresh sausage, not the frozen since God was a boy stuff you buy, but fresh homemade sausage made with fresh ground sausage and in my recipe, I add bacon! Being a member of my local coop gives me the opportunity to use fresh, chemical and hormone free local meat, it does make a difference, although, just making this from scratch with grocery store meats will also let you taste the difference. I make up patties and freeze the prior to cooking so I can cook as much as I need. If you want this spicier, add 1 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper. You will also notice how much leaner this is than commercially made sausage, so don't overcook!

Breakfast Sausage

3 lbs ground pork

1 lbs smoked bacon - a nice fatty bacon is perfect

2 tsp kosher salt

1 1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper

2 tsp ground sage

2 tsp thyme

1/2 tsp rosemary

1 tbsp brown sugar
1/2 red pepper

Cut bacon into 2" chunks and process in food processor until finely chopped. Mix together with ground sausage and rest of ingredients. Form into patties and fry, taking care not to overcook.

*FREEZING form into patties and place on wax covered baking sheet sides NOT touching until frozen firm, about 3-4 hours. Store in airtight container.

Chocolate Gravy, dont worry, its a country thing.

If you grew up in eastern Oklahoma, north Texas, western Arkansas and I can't speak for anywhere else, you might be familiar with chocolate gravy. No, its not made with grease or drippings. Its similar to a warm liquidy chocolate pudding, made to be eaten over hot buttered biscuits for breakfast. Growing up, this was a birthday treat, Christmas breakfast or just something mom did to make you feel special. I also cook up some homemade sausage patties to go along with. Don't knock til you try it! But again, its a country thing!

Chocolate Gravy
Makes 1 1/2 cups or so

1 cup white sugar
2 heaping tbsp flour
3 tbsp cocoa powder-I used hershey special dark
1 1/3 c milk
1 tbsp butter
1 tsp vanilla

Whisk dry ingredients together in med saucepan, whisk in milk, stirring out lumps. Cook until thickened, stirring constantly. Take off heat and stir in butter and vanilla. Serve with buttered biscuits.

merry's buttermilk biscuits

This is a great recipe, I freeze these unbaked, then take out and bake what I need for supper. This recipe makes 12 biscuits using a 2 1/2 inch square cutter. Before baking and right after I pull these from the oven, I brush the tops with melted butter so this is not a low calorie recipe!

Preheat Oven 425

2 cups all purpose flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp sugar
1/3 cup cold butter
1 cup buttermilk
2 tbsp or more melted butter for brushing tops

Mix together dry ingredients, make a well in middle and pour in buttermilk. Stir until fully incorporated. Turn out onto floured board and using lightly floured hands, pat into 1" thick circle. Dough will be moist so handle gently, dip cutter into flour and cut out biscuits. Do not twist cutter, just cut straight down. Lift out biscuits carefully and place 2" apart on lightly greased baking sheet. Brush tops with butter and bake until golden at 425 degree oven for 13-15 minutes. When done, remove from oven and brush tops lightly with butter again. If you want to save a few calories, leave off brushing with butter after baking.

*FREEZING - cut out biscuits, place on wax paper covered baking sheet, close together but sides NOT touching. Freeze until firm, about 3-4 hours, store in airtight container. Before baking brush with butter and bake for 16-18 minutes.