Thursday, March 10, 2016

Beer Brine Bacon

It's fair to say that I enjoy making stuff. By 'making stuff' I don't mean building things, mechanical prowess, and being an all round jack of all trades. While I can knock together a few bits of wood to make a firewood stand, or use logs scavenged off our land to make a garden fence, I am not the kind of person who wants to have a fully functioning workshop in his garage. When I say that enjoy making stuff, I mean that I enjoy making stuff to eat and drink.

I am sure you know that I brew my own beer, but I also make bread, love baking (I do a mean almond shortbread), making chutneys and jams is a great way to kill an autumn afternoon, and recently I have started making my own bacon.

My early stabs are the curing arts were very simple, face bacon using a pig cheek, and belly bacon dry cured in little more than salt, sugar, and some spices. I get my pork bellies from our local Whole Foods, and it works out that a pound of meat, some salt, and a little time results in a bacon that puts the mass produced stuff to shame, and costs pretty much the same. Mrs V and I now refuse to buy bacon at all, which reminds me that we are running low so I should sort it out and make some more.

Being a Brit though I grew up on bacon being 'back bacon', that is taken from the loin with a bit of the belly still attached. Sure we had streaky bacon, but I always preferred a rasher of back. Confident in my curing chops (pun intended), I decided to try and source the relevant cut of meat to make a wet cured back bacon. Serendipity intervened one Saturday morning when I noticed a loin roast at Trader Joe's that bore an uncanny resemblance to what I was looking for. A little short on the belly bit, but sometimes you just have to take what you can get. My first back bacon experiment went well, and tasted great griddled in a cast iron pan.

Wet curing uses a brine of salt and water, and what is beer other than water with malt, hops, and yeast? So I thought to myself that I would make beer brined back bacon. The genesis of this idea was reading about a cure for hams used in Suffolk in England, which uses a dark beer for the liquid. While there is plenty of crossover between making ham and bacon, I wanted to research the idea of Suffolk cure bacon rather than ham, thus I came across this post on Adventures With The Pig.

Taking that post as a jumping off point, I settled on the following cure:
  • 2 tbsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp black peppercorns
  • 1 tsp celery seed
  • 1 tsp coriander seed
  • 2 tbsp molasses
  • 5.5oz Starr Hill Dark Starr Stout
  • 2 bay leaves
I ground up the peppercorns, coriander seed, and bay leaves in my pestle and mortar, mixed in with the salt. Having squared off the piece of meat, thus giving myself a very fine pork chop for my tea, I put said pork in a large Ziploc bag, chucked in the cure mix and rubbed it thoroughly into the pork. With that done, I poured the molasses onto the meat, and through the bag so as not to sticky up my hands, rubbed that into the meat as well. Finally I poured in the stout, sealed the bag - pushing out enough air so that the liquid covered the meat, and let it sit in the fridge for 7 days, turning each morning just to ensure an equal cure. After a week, it came out of the back and looked like this:

Having patted it dry, the now cured bacon went back in the fridge for another 7 days to dry out before slicing and freezing for future use. One thing I have learnt is that I either need a better knife for slicing the bacon or I need to invest in a meat slicer. Naturally I had a couple of slices to make sure it wasn't terrible, and indeed it was far from!

My next wet cure bacon plan is to replace the stout with Schlenkerla Märzen so that I can get some smoky character in the finished product while I learn how to manage my smoker. I think I can safely say that another step toward my 100% homemade fried breakfast has been taken!

1 comment:

  1. For Christmas, I did similar with a ham but with cider instead. After 24 hours, the ham had started to cook.