Air dried bacon

"Everything's better with bacon" is a phrase I'm getting tired of hearing. You hear it at least once in every season of top chef. Don't get me wrong, I'm a huge fan, I just wonder if some chefs use it as a flavour crutch. Like "I've got a weak menu idea, I know I'll infuse it with bacon!"

Perhaps my attitude is just a reflection of my wealth. Arrogant posturing from a bacon-rich snob. After all, I can't remember a time in the past 4 years I haven't had 4kg of home cured bacon kicking around in my fridge and freezer.

Perhaps this sounds appealing to you? You could have so much bacon it becomes a standard commodity in your life like butter or salt. It's very easy to achieve. Just make it a whole pork belly at a time. Don't mess around with piddly small pieces from the supermarket. Go large! Follow my green bacon recipe.

Once you've got that recipe down, I highly recommend hanging your just smoked bacon up to dry in your curing chamber. The one in the photos took one month. You can see the colour has darkened and deepened and its covered in glorious noble white mould! The flavour is really just a strengthening of all that was good about it before you aged it. After one month it doesn't develop any funky aged flavours just more depth. I had to scrape off a couple of small blooms of green mould, but by and large it took care of itself.

So buy that whole pork belly this weekend. Greed is good.

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Posted
AuthorTim Stewart
CategoriesWhole Muscles
The finished product

The finished product

My family on my father's side have always been crazy for trout fishing. My grandparents moved to Turangi into a house right by the Tongariro river so they could indulge their angling passions on a daily basis. My grandfather used to fish his limit and then everybody else's on a day out on the lake. He used to regularly bring home around twenty five fish. This was back in the eighties.  

He had a classic kiwi fish smoker he'd made out of an old fridge and the chest freezer in the garage was packed full of mysterious fish preparations. My grandmother made a lot of chowder she would pack into old instant coffee jars and freeze.  I presume they got through it all themselves. I don't recall being served it. I'm kind of glad, unfortunately granny June was not a great cook. She hated it. No love in her food.

When it was lunchtime on a day out fishing on the lake, the family would cruise into stump bay and wrap a just caught trout in wet newspaper and throw it on a small fire of willow branches. When it was done we'd pack moist flakes of it into buttered sliced white and feast underneath the bare, ghostly willows.

Until I had cold smoked trout, this campfire preparation was the best way I'd ever come across for cooking trout. Then my friend Alex found a man in Turangi to cold smoke some of his catch for him and after I tried it I never looked back. Unfortunately I haven't been back to stump bay either.

The process for cold smoking trout is identical to the cold smoked salmon recipe I've posted earlier except for a 50/50 sugar salt cure. The trout seems to prefer less sweetness in the cure. 

Thanks to my buddy Alex Swan for catching the fish in all the photos! 

 

Cold Smoked Trout 

1 trout, gutted, scaled, filleted and pin boned. 

1/2 cup of sea salt

1/2 cup of brown sugar

Thoroughly combine the salt and sugar and then gently cover both sides of the fillets with the cure.  

Place it in a zip-loc bag and remove the air or vac pack it. Place it in the fridge. Flip it over every day and check for firmness.

The batch in the photos only took 3 days to cure. They are not particularly big fish these days (when I was a boy.........) 

When It's reached the desired state of firmness, rinse the fillets thoroughly, dry them well and then leave uncovered in the fridge overnight or for a couple of days until they have a nice tacky surface. 

I hang mine in my wine barrel smoker overnight with a Pro Q cold smoke generator 

I use apple wood sawdust in mine. Try beech if you can get it. I avoid manuka due to it's strong resinous qualities.

Give it another day uncovered in the fridge afterwards to let it firm up again and then you're good to go. 

As far as eating it goes, use it as you would salmon. If you need hot smoked trout, bung it in the oven for a few minutes.

One thing to bear in mind is that you want to avoid any flesh right next to the skin or blood line which has a strong fish oil taste and aroma. Unfortunately this makes using very small trout quite wasteful. 

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I know quite a few people who really treasure duck or goose fat. Around Christmas time they lay out a rather large sum for a very small tin of it to cook their potatoes in on the big day. The rest of the year is spent saving up and planning their next annual extravagance.

Lard however is often ignored or perhaps just forgotten.  Lard is nothing more sinister than rendered pork fat. Don't get it confused with dripping, which is rendered beef fat (also good stuff). Lard is very smooth when its solid and is great to work with in pastry situations. It rubs into flour so easily. It can be used in sweet and savoury applications, Lardy cake and tortillas for instance.

It also makes damn fine roast potatoes. On a par with potatoes roasted in duck or goose fat in my opinion, and a hell of a lot cheaper! 

When you're making a lot of sausages you often wind up with spare back fat. I usually just render it in a pot with a little water and simmer it slowly for a few hours. This is a fine technique, but it makes a mess of the pot and produces a strong (although delicious) aroma that permeates the whole house.

Recently I thought it was time to try some strategies I read about in Modernist Cuisine, Nathan Myhrvold's incredibly flash 5 volume masterwork.

One being sous vide, the other pressure cooking it in preserving jars. 

The sous vide technique involves vacuum sealing it in a bag and then cooking it at 88 degrees Celsius for 3-4 hours. This turned out a decent clear product with a pure flavour, but not a high yield. It's very tidy however. The only mess is your straining setup.

The pressure cooking technique involves packing your back fat into preserving jars with .4% of the fat's weight added in bicarbonate of soda. Place the jars in a pressure cooker with water up to about half way and pressure cook for 4 hours. 

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What came out of that cooker really surprised me.   Extremely clear liquid fat with a really high yield. It was still bubbling in the jars at room temperature for 2 hours! I didn't want to mess with the jars while they cooled partially out of fear they would explode and because I knew the lids would be a bitch to get off while hot.

When cool I took off the lids, reheated them in water again to melt the now solid fat and then strained them. The fat was almost as clear as water.

In conclusion I would say both methods were great. Superior to dry rendering in every respect. My favourite would have to be the pressure cooker though. Bigger yield. Clear result.  That'll be my new standard technique.

I think I'm gonna need to make some fried chicken now.  I guess that'll be my next post!

I still vividly recall my first bite into a sausage from a street stall by the Brandenburg gate. I was 20 years old and on a rock'n'roll tour of Europe, totally clueless as to what type of sausage it was. All I knew was it was huge, cheap and it made an awesome popping sensation as your teeth pierced it's fried crust.  It had a pale interior that leads me now to believe it may have been veal. It was not a smoked sausage but had that wonderful northern European spicing of garlic, coriander and mustard seed. I had grown up hating sausages. In New Zealand at the time they were bland, fatty and all essentially the same no matter what flavour they aspired to. That moment was an awakening. 

This year my husband Murray wants a German sausage fest. for his birthday party, so with the two german sausage styles outlined below we will try to rekindle some of that moment by the Brandenburg gate! 

So Murray and I spent the weekend making two kinds of sausage.  Jagerwurst is a pork shoulder sausage with a mix of fine and coarse ground meat that is hot smoked. The other variety is the perennial favorite, the Hot Dog. It's a beef sausage that is also hot smoked. Both of these recipes are from Charcuterie by Michael Ruhlman and Bryan Polcyn. The photos below capture the process of making the Jaegerwurst.

  

     Pork shoulder for the Jagerwurst being spiced. Lots of coriander in this one

  Pork shoulder for the Jagerwurst being spiced. Lots of coriander in this one

The initial grind for the Jagerwurst is coarse. Note the frost on the auger. Everything must be cold!   

The initial grind for the Jagerwurst is coarse. Note the frost on the auger. Everything must be cold!

 

One half of the meat is ground again through the fine die

One half of the meat is ground again through the fine die

After the coarse and finely ground meats were beaten together in a stand mixer I stuffed it into a large sheeps casing.

After the coarse and finely ground meats were beaten together in a stand mixer I stuffed it into a large sheeps casing.

The Jaegerwurst before linking

The Jaegerwurst before linking

The finished, smoked and packed product. Apologies for the leap!

The finished, smoked and packed product. Apologies for the leap!

So in the next post I'll have some shots of how the whole menu came together! 

Below is a link to recipes where there is a detailed recipe for Jagerwurst

Posted
AuthorTim Stewart
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