Tonight I started the first two projects I will make from Charcuterie. I bought some skin-on pork belly, and had a pork loin hanging out, so I decided to make two kinds of bacon - American and Canadian. When my husband found out which cut is used for Canadian bacon, he joked, "Those Canadians sure eat high off the hog." Har-dee-har-har.
Bacon sure seems simple enough. First, you get pork belly (which is one of the hardest parts around here). You rub it with a cure that includes salt, pink salt (sodium nitrite), sugar and whatever seasonings you wish to add. We decided that peppered bacon would be great. Pink salt is a very pale, feminine pink. I can't believe that self-respecting, manly butchers chose this color on purpose. Maybe their wives suggested it. I know, I know, it makes the meat an attractive color in a way that blue, for instance, wouldn't. But it's just so - pink.
Once you rub the belly with the cure, you put it in a bag and refrigerate it for about a week, or until the meat is firm. Every day you flip the bacon over to evenly distribute the brine that will form. I used a foodsaver bag, but didn't make a vacuum seal. The instructions don't call for it, and I figured that it was better to err on the side of caution, since anaerobic bacteria are pretty nasty and I didn't want to have my first batch of bacon spoiled.
Once the meat is firm, you smoke the bacon until the internal temp reaches 150. That seems high to me but I guess I'll follow the instructions this time. I know I've seen other people cold smoke it at a much lower temp, but for the first one I'll behave,
While that went into the fridge for curing, I prepared the brine for the Canadian bacon. The instructions call for a "bunch" of thyme and a "large bunch" of sage leaves. I have no idea what that means so I guessed. I'm not a huge sage fan so opted to use just a few leaves. An aside on these leaves - I layered them in a container with kosher salt many months ago. I expected them to be dry and brittle but as you can see, they are flexible. It's a great way to keep sage when the weather gets cold and your plants are about to freeze. The photo is a little out of focus - sorry about that. I haven't completely figured out the new camera.
In addition to the sage and thyme, the brine has kosher salt, sugar, garlic and pink salt. The instructions direct you to heat the liquid to dissolve the sugar and salts, then cool it in the fridge before adding the meat. I opted to just use part of the water to dissolve the salts and sugar, add the rest of the room temp water and add ice cubes to hasten the cooling process. Time is precious! And I am lazy! The pork loin swims in the brine for 48 hours, so until then I'll just have to cool my heels. You can smoke the Canadian bacon, but Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn (the authors of Charcuterie) say you can get acceptable results just roasting it in the oven. I might just do that since I don't know if I want to play with the grill this week.
Stay tuned - results to follow!