The brilliance of some minds simply astounds us occasionally.  When we ran across "bacon relish" it one such moment.  Sweet pickle relish, sure, ate tons of it growing up.  Bacon relish?  Never heard of it.  A search of the internet turned up an array of recipes with a spectrum of flavors.  Wow!

The Heavy Table had a very straightforward and easy version:

Half Cup Recipe:

  • 4 strips bacon, cut into small pieces
  • 1 c onion, diced
  • 2 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 2 tbsp low sodium chicken broth
  •  salt

Crisp bacon in skillet, then remove and drain on paper towels. Discard all but 1 tbsp bacon grease in pan then add onion and cook until soft and translucent. Add white wine vinegar, chicken broth, and bacon; cook until liquid has evaporated. Salt according to taste.

While Simply Recipes went tropical with their Pineapple Bacon Relish.  Yummm!

For 8 hotdogs:

  • 1/4 pound thick cut bacon
  • 1/2 large red onion, chopped, about 1 cup
  • 2 cups finely chopped fresh pineapple (about 10 oz)
  • 1/4 cup chopped sweet pickles
  • 1 Tbsp sweet pickle juice

Their instructions are to cook over low heat the bacon until the fat renders, remove the bacon, pour off all but a teaspoon of fat (save the discard for cooking!), turn heat up to medium and sautee the onion in it for 5 minutes. Chop the bacon up into bits, then combine in a bowl the bacon bits, the sauteed onion bits, the chopped pineapple and the sweet pickles.  We cheat here and simply buy sweet pickle relish at the market.  Also include a tablespoon of the sweet pickle juice if you have it.  

Doesn't that sound amazing?  Either recipe would go on a hotdog or burger and really wow your friends and family!  We just started making our own hotdogs.  Why?  Well, because they don't sell really big, plump, beefy hotdogs here.  Which is too bad.  A hotdog can make a great sandwich!  But like all outstanding foods, it starts with the ingredients and that means a great hotdog.  Enter the meat grinder and sausage stuffer. 

Here is our most recent hotdog, topped with Kuya's secret chili sauce.  It was excellent, but the next time we make them, we will definitely have bacon relish to top them! 

 
The Chili Dog
Bacon Relish would improve any hotdog!
The original Heavy Table Recipe is found -> Here

The original Simply Recipes Recipe is found -> Here


Whichever you try, or better yet ... try them both, the best bacon for them is the bacon you make yourself!

Love, Peace, & Bacon Grease!

 
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Pink Salt is commonly sold in the Philippines.  Which Kind is it?

Do you know what you are getting? There is a natural pink salt, sold in Hawaii or maybe it is the Himalayas.  What we are talking about here has nothing to do with it.  We are looking at two common mixtures of chemicals for preserving meat.  Pink Salt, also known as Prague Powder, InstaCure, and other trade names, is made to help preserve meat.  And there are two (2) kinds of it.  The manufacturers color it pink so you won't use it to "salt" your popcorn or other food directly.  It has to be used in carefully measured amounts and should never be substituted for regular salt.  It is not another form of sea salt, kosher salt, or rock salt. 

And remember, we said they make two forms of it?  Prague Powder #1 or InstaCure #1 have sodium nitrite in it.  That is intended for curing bacon, hotdogs and foods that may be cooked at a higher heat and that will not be cured by drying in the air for an extended period of time.  Bacon, whether dry cured or wet cured (brine) fits this category.

Prague Powder #2 or InstaCure #2 or Pink Salt #2 has sodium nitrate in it.  Sodium nitrate occurs naturally in many different foods including some most people consider very healthy.  Celery, beets, and carrots to name a few.  But when used for curing meat, it is limited to use in meats that are cured for an fairly long time, hung to dry and age in the air, even though that usually means in a temperature and humidity controlled room.  And it is forbidden to be used in making bacon in the USA. 

So what about the Philippines?  Our experience is that time and time again we found Pink Salt being sold as simply that.  For curing meat, to be sure, but no one had an idea if it was Prague Powder #1 or Prague Powder #2.  And that is a problem for you and the people that you feed.  Whether making sausage or bacon, you need to know what your ingredients are.  If your "Pink Salt" is not labelled, it is better not to use it.  Don't take a chance with your family's health. 

Bacon Cure #1 uses the Type 1 cure, which contains sodium nitrite.  No sodium nitrate, the stuff of Pink Salt #2.  It is formulated to accepted standards for the content and amount of sodium nitrite for curing bacon and other meats.  Use good products and know what your food is made out of.  That is common sense regardless of the color! 


 
We have not made this yet, but it looks pretty easy to do.  We ran into the recipe over at Hunter-Gardner-Angler-Cook. It looks very interesting and very apropos to SE Asia.  Here is how we will approach it.

The recipe calls for a number of things that may be hard to find ... Shaoxing wine or dry sherry to start with.  But we plan to substitute a dry white wine in its place since that is what those actually are.   The Sichuan peppercorns maybe a problem too.  They have a unique flavor, but even traditional black peppercorns should serve here.  Not exactly the same flavor, but better than not making at all!  Then everything else is do-able.  Well, everything except for the Pink Cure they call for.  Remember, do not use Pink Salt if you do not know if it is #1 or #2! What to do? Bacon Cure #1 to the rescue! 

The original recipe calls for:

  • 3 pounds pork belly, skin on or off
  • 1/2 cup Shaoxing wine or dry sherry
  • 1/2 cup kosher salt --- Won't Need with Bacon Cure #1
  • 4 tablespoons brown sugar - Use 2 tablespoons of Muscovado!
  • 2 tablespoons Sichuan peppercorns, ground - Substitute
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 5 star anise pods, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
Pork is no problem, but we recommend removing the skin first.  The dry wine, we will use Martini Extra Dry or any vermouth or similar dry wine should do.  Then add a bit of brown sugar but not quite as much as the recipe calls for since Bacon Cure #1 contains sugar.  Cinnamon, cloves, anise pods will be star anise, and garlic powder, though the garlic granules sold by McCormick are really great for this. 

What about the cure?  Easy - 3 pounds of pork belly means 3 level tablespoons of Bacon Cure #1.  You won't need to add Kosher Salt, but you can add the brown sugar, probably just 2 tablespoons of dark brown sugar will do.  Or even Muscovado since you will rinse it off before cooking. 

Make your mixture, add the wine, then rub over all the pork belly.  Put in a tightly sealed plastic bag and place in your refrigerator.  Turn it over once every day or two.  One week - seven days, and it will be done.  Be sure to rinse it off well, particularly if you used Muscovado brown sugar! 

Try slicing a bit off and frying it to check the saltiness.  If it is saltier than you like, simply soak the bacon slab in cool water for 1 hour.  Try the taste test again.  If you want even less salt taste, change the water and soak another hour.  Two hours with one water change removes most of the saltiness.  We often do it for one hour or not at all.  But that is the beauty of making your own bacon!  You can do it so it tastes just right to you. 

Mas Sarap!


Love, Peace, & Bacon Grease!


 
We occasionally treat ourselves to thick cut cured pork chops.  We often cook them on the Weber charcoal grill.  But they are fantastic whether cooked over charcoal, baked in your oven, or grilled on stove!

We use 1 to 2 inch thick pork chops.  Thinner ones will do, but thick ones are such a treat!  Even if they are a meal for two. 

1. Simply measure out 3.77 liters of water or 1 gallon. 
2. Add one level cup of Bacon Cure #1 to the water and mix well.
3. Make sure your pork chops are completely covered by the water.
4. Refrigerate your brine and chops for 2 days.  If your chops are thin, 36 hours will likely do.
5. Remove after two days, and rinse off.
6. Bake or grill your pork chops for a fantastic "hammy" taste!

You can add flavorings to your Bacon Cure #1 brine.  More sugar will make the chops taste more hammy.  Pepper corns, laurel leavers, or rosemary will help add new dimensions to your pork chops.  Feel free to experiment. 


Love, Peace, & Bacon Grease!
 
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The bacon you buy at the store is so nice and evenly sliced.  They have nice powered slicing machines just for that.  And there are similar machines for private individuals that are fairly economical.  But they are not required.  All you really need is a good sharp knife. 

But there are a couple of tricks, whether you use your knife or a powered slicer.  The most important one is chilling or almost freezing your bacon before slicing.  Note that I said ALMOST FREEZING.  Bacon is kind of greasy and slippery.  When it is almost but not quite frozen, it is much easier to work with.

We made bacon for quite awhile without a powered slicing machine.  And it was fine.  I enjoy a slightly thicker cut than is popular in the Philippines.  Thick cut bacon is a pleasure for me.  So hand slicing is very well suited to that.  My brother-in-law could hand slice as thin as any machine. 

We used both a chefs kitchen knife to slice and a meat slicing knife with its broader blade.  Both worked, but we most often reach for the meat slicing knife if we do it manually.   We use a cutting board when cutting almost any meat.  They are not expensive, they protect the meat from contamination and the knife from damaging itself or the surface you cut on.  One good trick when using a cutting board is to sit it on a moist dish rag or small kitchen towel.  The cutting board tends to stay in place and not move around while you are cutting your bacon.


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Not long ago, a nice economical powered meat slicer showed up on our door.  It is very handy and has only one drawback or failing.  It can only cut shorter pieces of bacon.  The beautiful long pieces that you can make at home and wrap around your hotdogs are too long to cut easily on the machine. 

But we can cut bacon much faster since the thickness is preset and the machine cuts through bacon quite quickly.  You do not need an expensive machine to cut bacon.  But you may have to adjust the length of your bacon to fit the "travel" of the machine.

These can be worth investing in if you enjoy serving hams and other sliced meats often.  Sliced bacon or a thinly sliced ham sandwich are a real pleasure to serve and to eat.  But a steady hand, a sharp knife, and a good cutting board will let you serve wonderful food too!

Making bacon is easy.  Slicing it is just a matter of practice.  And we save the ends to cut into chunks for fried rice and our morning omelets.  So don't feel you need to get every last slice from your pork belly.  Chunk it and use it anywhere you'd add chunks of ham.  You'll love it!


Love, Peace, & Bacon Grease!


 
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When you get in a hurry, things can go wrong!

I was finishing up some bacon while smoking it on my charcoal cooker.  But the weather wasn't cooperating and the wind was too high.  I couldn't control my temperatures so I decided to finish it in the oven.

It was late and I had been up for quite awhile.  So I decided to hurry the process.  I set the oven to 350F and put a temperature probe in the bacon.  I figured it would be good.  Well, it was good cooked by the time the probe went off in the bacon at 150F.  The outside was not just warm, it was cooked!  And my cookie sheet was full of grease that had rendered out. 

I knew better!  The temperature to do this is 200F to 225F.  Not 350F!  Not Gas Mark 7!  And I don't plan to make that mistake again.  Was the bacon ruined? No, it was still very edible.  But much harder to cut.  Thank goodness I had tall sided pans or it could have been a real problem.  And a good meat slicer to cut my bacon afterwards. 


Why do we finish bacon in the oven? It is not required, since many cultures will "cold smoke" their bacon and serve it.  It does a couple of things.  One it is double insurance against any sort of buggies or contamination being eliminated.  If you serve your bacon to any "at risk" folks, such as children under 5 years old, or elderly above 65 years old, not to mention anyone that is ill, warm finishing the bacon simply ensures that there is zero chance of a problem for them.  It is not required. 

And it improves the look of your bacon.  The outside takes on the darker reddish brown that is associated with good bacon.  So I always support warm finishing your bacon, either in the oven or by warm smoking if you have the equipment and wood for smoking meat.  It adds beauty and gives you peace of mind. 


So live and learn. 


 
Pig Candy is a great treat and always a favorite in our house.  It is easy to make. 

1. 1/4 to 1/2 cup of light or dark brown sugar (not Muscovado) for 8 to 12 slices of bacon.
2.  1/4 teaspoon of cayenne or of cinnamon powder - if you want spicy or sweet.
3. Coat the bacon lightly on the bottom side and heavily on the top.
4. Cook in the oven at 200F, watch closely, about 15 to 20 minutes
5. When the bacon is cooked and the brown sugar is melted, remove from oven.
6. Allow to cool for 5 minutes.
7. Enjoy!



Love, Peace, & Bacon Grease!

 
We grew up frying bacon in the skillet.  But is there a better way to cook your bacon?  Yes, there is!  In your oven.  A cookie sheet or pan will do a wonderful job of cooking your bacon.  We set our oven to 175C or 350F, even up to 400F.  It takes about 15 to 20 minutes to cook bacon this way, but you can do a pan full at a time. 

We save the bacon grease, since it is delicious.  We use if for fried rice, making gravy, all sorts of things.  We've even put in our ground beef for a really juicy hamburger!  Back to the oven.  When your bacon is finished, or even just before it is finished, pull it out.  Let it cool down, damp off the excess grease with a paper towel.  You have precooked bacon.  Next time you need some for breakfast or to chop up and add to your rice, it is already done!  How easy is that?  So convenient and you can have it ready in a snap. 

If you remove it from the oven before it is done, then you can finish it on the stove top when you need it.  If you wait until it is finished, then you simply have to warm it up to eat it.  You can do that on the stove top or in a microwave.  It will be warm in seconds!

One trick we use to get our bacon to look like those perfectly flat pieces the fine restaurants serve is called "Jaccarding".  Sounds difficult, but it isn't.  You just poke your bacon with a fork!  Just work from one end of the bacon to the other, poking it every few millimeters or maybe a quarter inch.  Between fork poking and the oven, your bacon will be just a pretty as that served in the nicest restaurant in Manila or Hong Kong!


Love, Peace, & Bacon Grease!
 
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Homemade bacon, there is nothing quite like it!  Fantastic flavors and it keeps longer than regular pork belly.  It is a favorite in my family and a gift our friends love to receive. 

We started making bacon at home and found it was very easy to do.  The only hard part was figuring out how much of each ingredient should be used.  Too much salt was not a problem, that was easy to fix, even after the bacon has cured, simply by soaking in fresh water for an hour or two. 

The challenge was sodium nitrite.  And we did not want any sodium nitrate in our bacon.  All the authorities say do not do that, it is bad for you.  It is even illegal in the USA to make bacon with sodium nitrate in it.  Only sodium nitrite - notice the difference? Sodium Nitr-I-te is okay, Sodium Nitr-A-te is not.  At least in bacon. Both are found in nature.  They occur in many edible plants.  But high heat and sodium nitrate is a no-no!

When we went to find curing salts, we ran into two serious problems.  The first was it was very hard to find.  The second was most of it was repackaged and unlabelled.  We could not tell what we were buying.  It might be what we were looking for or it might have sodium nitrate in it, which we did not want and would be a health hazard. 

So we decided to make our own.  With known ingredients so that it was safe to use.  And we worked on it to make it simple.   Seriously simple.  We don't expect you to be a food scientist.  Just a cook.  If you know how to level a measuring cup and measuring spoons, you can make great bacon at home!


In upcoming posts, we will share recipes and flavors.  We will talk about techniques to enhance your bacon.  And about food safety.  We will talk about problems we have had making bacon at home and how we solved them.  And we will share our love for good food.  So please visit us and share your ideas and experience. 

Love, Peace, & Bacon Grease!
 

    Author

    We love bacon! Here we talk about different approaches, flavorings, and both success and failures we have as we make bacon at home. 

    We make it twice a month at a minimum.  It finds its way into lots of dishes. 

    We love food in general, bacon, burgers, hotdogs, pizza, and ice cream are all high on our list of comfort foods.

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