Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Smoked Hog Jowls

Hog jowls, pre-cure, raw

So I had this wild hair about smoking my own hog jowls after seeing that Crooked Gap Farm had some available, and also, I found a package at my local grocery store and of course thought to myself, I can do that!  I have smoked porked bellies, and this was basically the same.

I purchased about 5 lbs of jowls, I had assumed that they would be in one whole half moonish piece, well, they were not.  Imagine my surprise when I opened the packages and realized I had a large pile of jowl pieces.  But, too late, already thawed them and had to do something, so in the usual Merry method, I just plowed on, damn the torpedoes! yadda yadda yadda...

My cure mix per pound was thus:

1 Tbsp Morton's Quick cure
1 tsp maple sugar (or use brown sugar)
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 black pepper
1 tsp sea salt

After mixing the cure ingredients together and thoroughly coating each piece, I divided the lot and placed them in two gallon ziplocks and placed them flat in the fridge.  Since it was pieces, the curing would not take as long.  So everyday, for about 4 days, I turned each bag over, and well, I did massage them a little.

After 4 days, I rinsed them, fried up a little piece, and decided I needed to soak them in water a little to get rid of some of the saltiness.   After soaking a few hours, I drained them, blotted them with a paper towel, and left them out to surface dry while I got my smoker ready.  I chose not to let them dry overnight, and I thought it turned out fine.

My smoker is just the standard bullet style hot smoker, I started my fire, let it burn down, then added applewood chips to my smoke pan, I chose to dry smoke, as I didn't want to so much cook, basically to render down a bit and absorb the smoke.  I started with applewood chips, added applewood sticks to my coals whenever my heat started to fade, and chose to finish up with a little handful of hickory in the smoke pan, since these weren't going to smoke for a long long time.

It only took about 2-3 hours to smoke them to my satisfaction.  I did have to turn them frequently as the pieces are thin, and I didn't want them to cook, just to dry out and absorb some smoke flavor.

After smoking

After smoking, I placed them on a cookie sheet, not touching each other, and froze them so I could just pull out one piece at a time instead of having to thaw out and commit myself to using a whole bag.

So, how will I use these?  Well, some of the pieces are very much like pieces of ham, so I could fry those up for breakfast, but as I was smoking these, I thought a great way to use them would be for flavoring pieces.  Throw a piece in a pot of pinto beans or greens, or even a small piece in green beans as they are cooking.  Diced up small, and sauteed with an onion would be a great addition to your baked beans. 

But, by far, the best way I have used these was as a salad topping.  I prepared a green salad, adding a chopped up apple, and I made a simple honey mustard vinegrette.  I took one piece of frozen smoked hog jowl, chopped it up small, fried it, let it cool slightly and topped my salad.  Beats the heck out of that imitation bottle of bacon bits I can tell you!

Actually, any way that you use bacon as a flavoring agent, would be a good way to use these, and a bit more tasty as the pieces are thicker and have a more robust flavor than that piece of wimpy grocery store bacon.

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