Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Bring'n Home the Bacon...

I don’t think I mentioned that I was taking an online class all about fermenting.  It has covered fermenting of all sorts, dairy, vegetables, tonics, fruits, condiments, relishes, brine pickles and curing meats as well.  The whole process of preserving food through means other than canning or freezing is fascinating to me.  This is the process our ancestors figured out to keep food edible without killing their friends and families, not to mention themselves, sans the luxury of a refrigerator…I realize there was a pretty big incentive there but it was still pretty ingenious!  And then there is the part about the beneficial bacteria that is formed during fermentation that aids us with digestion and may help our immune systems.
So I have been fermenting all sorts of things, mostly dairy, in the form of yogurt and kefir.  I did make some mead with our honey, and I’m going to start some sourdough soon.  The next thing on my list was to cure some meat…and since we have a wonderful vender at our farmers market who is a pig farmer and raises his hogs on lovely food and in a nice environment, and I have talked with him and know how his pigs are taken care of I thought that curing some bacon would be a good first step.
 I figured what could be better than some good bacon.  I mean I have a friend who claims it’s the 4th food group!  And without all the added nitrates and nitrites found in commercial bacon, well it’s practically health food!  I purchased a 2LB. piece of pork belly, the thought being that for a fairly small investment I could give it a whirl and see what I came up with…if the whole thing went bust I wouldn’t be out much…

The process is really quite simple as the main ingredient is time…

Home Cured Bacon

2LB Slab Pork Belly

2TBS Coarse Unrefined Sea Salt

2TBS Unrefined Cane Sugar, Honey, or Maple Syrup - I opted for Honey since my gals had given me a  nice supply last year and I thought it would give it that extra home made touch

3TBS Spices of Choice (Pepper, Pickling Spice, Fennel, Nutmeg, Etc.) - Thinking about flavors, I decided to go with Fennel and Black Pepper, I thought that would work well with the Honey…

 First mix the salt, sugar of choice and spices together and rub them thoroughly into the slab of pork belly.

Then tightly wrap the pork belly in 100% cotton cheesecloth and place it in a resealable plastic bag.

Place the bag into the refrigerator.  Now for the next 7 - 10 days you will need to turn the pork belly daily.  This causes the pork to cure evenly.

I waited 10 days…tap…tap..tap…

Remove the bacon from the refrigerator, unwrap it and rinse off any excess spice and pat dry.

Preheat the oven to 200D.

Place the bacon on a baking sheet and bake for 2 hours or until the internal temperature registers 150D… using my trusty meat thermometer my bacon reached the desired temp. in about 1 hour and 40 minutes.

Allow the bacon to cool to room temperature, then slice thinly.

Wrap the sliced bacon and refrigerate where it will keep for about 2 weeks or freeze where it will keep for around 6 months.
Well, having already waited 10 days, as soon as the bacon was cool and sliced I cooked up a couple pieces so that my husband and I could see what had been created…OMG!  This is bacon, the likes of which I have never had!  Now I like bacon as much as the next guy, but this stuff is off the hook!  I do need to figure out a way to slice it really thin, as my slices - try as I might - were a little thicker than I would like, but as far as flavor…guess I won’t be buy’n bacon any more!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Farm On!

I’m sure you all remember back in January that I was going to become a farmer, well maybe some Lilliputian version of a farmer…however, there were a few road blocks that needed to be driven around before I could get going.  First, it decided to rain for most of January and being a bit of a fair weather farmer I wasn’t quite ready to slog around in the mud to get this thing started…then it rained in February…same song second verse. Second, the property sold!  Yikes!  Visions of my farm dreams being dashed before they ever got started began to haunt me, but my husband contacted the new owner and asked if we could proceed and he graciously gave his permission. So finally by mid March the rain had subsided and I set out to see what I could do.  So, you know what likes rain…weeds, and you know why farmers
are skinny (at least the real ones that I know) because this is really hard work!  Actually, I’m thinking of writing a diet book ‘Farm Yourself Skinny’ catchy title don’t you think? But I digress…after many hours weeding, weeding, weeding I decided that the 20x25 plot I had originally dreamed of was really unnecessary and 15x15 could probably feed two adults and a few friends quite nicely! So 15x15 it is!  Once I got the whole thing weeded, yes I did it all by myself, the soil seemed fairly soft, thanks to all that rain, and the hard work of all worms who were making their home in my little plot.  It was pretty great!

But then, more rain…

This time however, after the rain it got warm rather quickly and the bummer about that was when the soil dried out it turned to stone…so-o-o-o we borrowed a roto-tiller from some actual farmers we know and my husband toiled away for a good part of a Saturday breaking up the dirt. The next day our neighbor took us in his truck to get a yard of top soil and the three of us managed to spread it over the plot…notice how I keep conning more people into helping me…anyway, we worked all day moving soil,
creating rows and finally planting!  I brought over all the little starts I had going, several varieties of tomato, same with peppers and eggplant as well as all the seeds I had planned to direct seed, sweet corn and popcorn, two varieties of beans, beets, several types of squash, watermelon and zinnias.  I got them all in the ground and watered them carefully, and we toasted the whole thing with a beer, just for good measure.
I will keep you posted on how it goes but so far everything is still upright and the seeds are beginning to sprout, so I think this is going to be good!