Tuesday, January 25, 2011

home cured bacon

I love bacon, and I read a post on Michael Ruhlman's site about how to cure your own bacon at home, so I decided to try it.  I bought a pork belly at Garrett's butcher shop in Algood, TN.  It weighed about 3.5 lbs.  I followed Ruhlman's directions, which involved making a cure of salt, honey, black pepper, bay leaves, thyme, and garlic.  You rub this cure all over the pork belly and put it in a big plastic ziploc bag, and store it in the refrigerator for a week.

The pork belly shrinks some during the week, because the salt is drawing some of the moisture out of it.   When you get it out at the end of the seven days, it's smaller.  You rinse the cure off, and then you bake the pork belly at a low temperature in the oven until it reaches 150 degrees internally, which took about two hours in my oven.

At this point I removed the skin on the underside of the pork belly.  I froze some of it, for seasoning soups later, and Molly the Border Collie ate some of it.  It is very tough, like shoe leather, but she just swallowed it whole.

I sliced up some of it immediately and fried it, but it was hard to slice when it was warm right out of the oven.  A day or two later, after it had chilled in the refrigerator, it was much easier to slice.

This bacon is very lean, compared to the bacon we buy at stores.  I think the reason is that many pigs these days are bred to be lean rather than fatty.  I learned from the ever-useful Oxford Companion to Food that in the 19th century, when bacon was the main meat for working class and rural people of the British Isles, there were many breeds of bacon pigs.  Now most bacon pigs descend from Yorkshire Large Whites and Danish Landrace pigs.  ( Some of my ancestors were from Yorkshire; maybe that's why I like bacon so much!)

Friday, January 7, 2011

Snow on Brangus Lane

This winter there has been a lot of snow on Brangus Lane.  When I got here on December 12, four inches fell during the night!  Since then, there have been lighter snowfalls from time to time.  On Wednesday huge, beautiful, silver-dollar-sized flakes fell for an hour or so.  The snow helps to insulate the greens under the row covers from the cold.  Here you can see the garden with two beds with Agribon spun-bonded row covers laid over greens:

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Star Wars cookies

I got these cool Star Wars cookie cutters from my sister Marian for Christmas.  They represent Boba Fett and a generic Storm Trooper.  To make them, I used the 1-2-3 cookie dough recipe from a cookbook called Ratio.  You weigh out one part sugar, two parts butter, and three parts flour, mixing the butter and sugar together first. This makes a very basic shortbread cookie, which I varied a bit by adding some vanilla flavoring and an egg yolk.  Then I rolled it out and cut out the cookies.  Boba Fett looks more like a domed adobe house than like a bounty hunter, but maybe that's just me.

I also played with another Christmas toy, which is a measuring cup attached to a digital scale.  Very handy, and very good for aficianados of Ruhlman's ratio system.