It’s been a while since I have made any post here. Business has been quite good lately and I have also taken on a new gig – Continue reading
One of the things I like to do when I have time is to explore ethnic and specialty markets (and hardware stores). I was on my way to do some test shots with the fabulous Heather Winters and stopped by Mitsuwa Marketplace, a Japanese market in Santa Monica. I am always inspired by the vast number ingredients that line the shelves and awed by the fact that I generally have no idea what most of it is! Even the shelf tags are of no help as they are usually a literal translation of the kanji printed on the labels. While checking out the meat and seafood, I found cooked sardines, prepared chicken glazed with soy and miso, and some cool stacked pork satay.
We were also playing around with some harsh lighting to go with the doughnut shot for a promotional collateral piece. Again, I love the starkness of this shot – it tells a definite story.
Peace – J
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I know it’s cliché, but I had to say it. Bacon. Bacon, bacon, bacon! Who, with the exception of SOME vegetarians and those with certain religious predilections, doesn’t love bacon? It’s the one thing most former carnivores cite as missing the most in their veggie filled diets. I grew up in the era when my mom kept a can of bacon drippings in the refrigerator. Not to preserve the sanctity of the plumbing, but to cook with. Mmmmm, bacon! Unfortunately, since passing the 40 year milestone, I have been warned by my doctor that my cholesterol is a bit on the high side and I have since adjusted my diet. However, I still eat bacon once or twice a week and since my intake has been somewhat restricted, I want the very best bacon. So I borrowed a copy of Charcuterie by Michael Ruhlman & Brian Polcyn from the Los Angeles Public Library, which if you didn’t know has one of the biggest cookery book collections around, to learn about curing bacon.
Using Charcuterie as a benchmark along with info from a few websites dedicated to the craft of charcuterie, I made my first attempt at curing bacon. The obvious starting place for me was Maple and Brown Sugar Cured Bacon that I smoked with maple wood for some added sweet smoky delicious-ness. BTW – curing your own bacon is EASY. And if you don’t have a smoker or don’t want to smoke your bacon, then it is SUPER EASY.
Now I don’t own a smoker and before I invest in one and never use it again, as I am prone to do, I used my Weber kettle grill. The kettle produced a perfect result, but you have to stay close-at-hand to keep the temperature constant – kind of a pain in the ass as it take around 4 hours to smoke. To regulate the temperature of the grill, I used a digital meat/roast thermometer, the kind that you stick the meat with a probe that is connected by a cable to the readout on the outside of your oven. I ran the probe all the way through an apple and placed it on the opposite side of the grill from the coals to check the internal temperature when the covered grill. I’m going to buy a smoker.
Smoked Maple and Brown Sugar Bacon
4 to 5 pounds pork belly
2 cup kosher salt
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1/3 cup pure maple syrup
Wood chunks or chips for smoking (optional)
Rinse pork belly under cold water and pat dry with paper towels. Cut into one or two smaller portions for easier handling, if desired.
Combine salt, sugar, and maple syrup.
Rub over all sides of pork and place in large zip-top bags or fit snugly in a single-layer into a shallow pan that just fits. Squeeze all the air you can from the bag and seal. Place in the refrigerator and turn to redistribute the cure once a day for 7 to 9 days.
Remove cured belly from bag and rinse well under cold water for several minutes. If you are not going to smoke the meat, preheat oven to 180°F, place belly on a rack over a baking sheet and bake until the internal temperature of the meat reaches 150°F. If you are going to smoke the meat, place bacon on a rack over a baking sheet and refrigerate uncovered for 12 to 24 hours, this allows for the pellicle to form – something for the smoke to stick to.
Fire up the smoker and try to keep up temperature between 180°F and 200°F. Smoke the belly until the internal temperature reaches 150°F; adding smoking chunks every hour or so. Depending on the size of the belly, this will take between 3 and 5 hours.
Remove from oven and let cool. You now have bacon!!! Slice off a few pieces, fry it up, and give it a try! At this point, the bacon will keep one to two weeks wrapped in the refrigerator. If you are not going to use it all right away, cut into desired portions, wrap tightly and freeze for three to four months.