My apology for the lack of posts recently. Our camera died and we are waiting for batteries from Hong Kong to arrive so we can document visually the Liquid Smoke Bacon recipe. I can report on it now, since we just made it.
First off, is it the same flavor as true smoked bacon? No, it isn't. It is very close to the commercial bacon sold in the USA in terms of flavor. So while it is not the top of bacon, it is still quite good and substantially better than the bacon we have found in sold commonly in the Philippines, including those marked as "smoked" by the large commercial producers.
What is very nice about it is how easy it is to make! No smoker, no wood chips, minimum mess. You add two tablespoons of Liquid Smoke to the Bacon Cure #1, coat the pork belly, then 7 days in the refrigerator, turning over every day or two. Bingo, you have a very presentable bacon seen all through out North America.
Our next time of using Liquid Smoke we will do a couple of things different. We will add some other flavorings to the cure and we will give the cured bacon a second coating of Liquid Smoke before we "finish" the cure process in our oven. This should enhance the smoked flavor significantly and the the other flavorings will help give a deeper flavor.
Also, on the way for next year: Maple Bacon Cure #1. We will have Bacon Cure #1 with real maple sugar which is made from maple syrup. And to help you enhance that nice sweet maple flavor we will have a very limited amount of commercially made Natural Maple Flavor. Combine very small amounts of the Natural Maple Flavor with real Honey and you get an amazing taste. When you use that with Maple Bacon Cure #1, you will have an amazing flavor not seen in the Philippines except in the very top end, elite restaurants that use all imported products.
If you are interested in the Natural Maple Flavor to use with our upcoming Maple Bacon Cure #1, let me know since the supply will be very limited initially.
We will be updating the blog with reports, with pictures this time, of the Liquid Smoke recipe, our tests with Coco Sugar Cure for bacon, and more. At the end of December we will be attending an informal class in making Tocino Sausage and developing a recipe for it using Bacon Cure #1. We will also be looking at Longaneza Sausage, both cased and plain. We are all looking forward to that very much!
There has been lots of discussion about food safety and the use of nitrites and nitrates in processed foods. We share those concerns. We use our products to feed our own families. And happy healthy people are what we want. For ourselves and for you. And yes, it is all nitrogen.
Pork Belly, about to be turned into bacon.
Sodium Nitrite occurs naturally, as does Sodium Nitrate. In fact, when Sodium Nitrate is eaten, your body turns it into Sodium Nitrite. That is simply part of the process of digestion.
A survey of popular websites produced so many competing claims about Sodium Nitrite. Many were almost exactly the same as the claims about Sodium Nitrate. But they are not the same thing. It becomes very confusing and hard to know who to believe.
If it occurs naturally, can it be all bad? No, it isn't all bad. Can you, like anything, eat too much? Yes! Just as we balance the amount in our products, you need to balance the amount of processed meat you eat.
But we do not believe, based on the research, that sodium nitrite, in appropriate levels, is harmful. Otherwise the natural cycle in our body that converts Sodium Nitrate to Sodium Nitrite wouldn't be part of our normal body function. And it is a normal part of how our body converts various nutrients for use by our body.
Natural sources of sodium nitrates.
Sodium Nitrate, oh no! Well, it is not a toxic poison, as some want people to believe. It is found naturally in many different things that we eat. Grains and green vegetables have lots of it. Celery has it, spinach has it. You don't see lots of articles saying that those things are bad for you.
What there does seem to be agreement on is that Sodium Nitrate should not be in foods that will cooked over high heats. Bacon is one of those foods. In the USA, Sodium Nitrate is not supposed to be "added" to the cure for bacon. But Sodium Nitrite is used at specific levels, measured as PPM or "Parts Per Million".
The human body converts sodium nitrate into sodium nitrite as part of normal digestion. It does this when you eat celery, or spinach, or many fruits. All foods that are widely claimed to be very healthy for you.
But Sodium Nitrates do produce nitrosamines when cooked over a high heat. And that is why we do not have Sodium Nitrate in our Bacon Cure.
We believe that eating wisely, enjoying life, and not adding Sodium Nitrate to bacon are all good things!
The family favorite is honey cured bacon. We started about 5 kilos last night. The meat counter at the local SM had only so-so pork bellies when we visited them. They were not the nice thick ones we prefer. But that did not slow us down for a moment. After removing the skins, we cut the bellies into sizes easier to work with and prepared four small bowls with the correct amount of Bacon Cure #1 by weight for each piece. Simple. Then we took 1/4 cup of honey for each 2.5 pounds. The amount of honey is not crucial, you can use more or less, but you want to be sure that you use the correct amount of Bacon Cure #1 based on the weight of the pork belly you are working with.
When we cut these bellies down to smaller sizes to be easier to work with and it made them fit into the ziploc bags we have. The pieces ranged from 2.25 pounds to 2.8 pounds each. We adjusted our amounts of Bacon Cure #1 by using measuring spoons that were appropriate. Each pound got a level tablespoon. Then we figured the difference. The teaspoon measure worked if we needed 150 grams or 5 1/4 ounces of meat left after the 2 pound weight. A half teaspoon would handle 75 grams of met. And the 1/4 teaspoon would do 37.5 grams of meat. So it was just a matter of figuring how many grams were left after the 900 grams (2 pounds) the initial 2 tablespoons of Bacon Cure #1 would do.
Then we added 1/4 cup of honey. I had a bit of natural Maple Flavoring on hand, so we put a few drops of that in the honey to give a deeper flavor to them. A tablespoon of hot water made it easier to spread the mixture around. If you do it, add your honey to your correctly measured Bacon Cure #1 for each piece, stir the together and then coat the exterior of your pork belly.
The photos below show how easy to coat the pork belly. We have removed the skin and any bones or cartilage. Then cut into easier sizes to work with.
1. Coat the fat side with the Honey/Bacon Cure #1 Mixture.
2. Be sure that all of exterior is covered with the mixture.
3. Cover the other side of the pork belly. Try to spread the mixture evenly.
4. Cover all the sides and edges. Work it in gently with the back of the spoon.
Next time we will look at using Liquid Smoke if you do not have access to a smoker for flavoring your bacon. Until then...
Love, Peace, & Bacon Grease!
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
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!
Bacon Relish would improve any hotdog!
The original Heavy Table Recipe is found -> Here
The original Simply Recipes Recipe is found -> HereWhichever you try, or better yet ... try them both, the best bacon for them is the bacon you make yourself!
Love, Peace, & Bacon Grease!
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:
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.
- 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
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
Love, Peace, & Bacon Grease!