Makin’ Bacon 2

Makin’ Bacon 2

After the success of Makin Bacon and then being raided by the kids, we needed more.   The pork belly  was a bit more difficult to procure than we had envisioned.  Pork belly can be hard to find in retail establishments on a regular basis. Locally: Panos, a few butcher shops and even Costco had none. When were in Oregon last month Colin and Jean took us to a great restaurant supply place which had some, but it was not likely to survive the trip back to Wisconsin.   So we kept looking…  On our last trip to Costco, I stopped to ask the butcher and he showed me where it was hidden (under the pork loins).   So we bought 2 packages and happily headed home with 20 pounds of pork belly.

 This lead to  Batch 2

This was started 6/30/18 and using the same curing mix as we had previously used, we had:

15 lbs  in 3×5 lb slabs with 75g of cure blend  each

5lb slab with 80 g cure blend  plus  2 tsp Penzey’s BBQ3000 and 1Tbsp crushed black pepper

These went into the garage fridge for a week  in the covered with Saran wrap in the crisper drawers and were then turned once per day. At the end (day 6),  they were pulled out, rinsed and then placed on racks over jelly roll pans for a day in the fridge. This gives the meat a chance to dry on the surface and develop a “pellicle”. The idea here is to dry the surface of the meat a bit so the smoke can penetrate without creating a nasty sooty film.

Smoking

The BGE was set for 220F and the slabs were placed on the 3 tier  rack. At this point I realized that 5 lb slabs were too big for the Large BGE with the 3 tier rack and then had to slice them into smaller sections. Next time I will cut the meat into  3 lb slabs .

These were smoked at 220F for 2.5 hours . The meat was at 150F at  50 minutes and then held more or less . However, once again at the end of the time the fire kept raising despite being damped down and controlled with the  HeaterMeter.   I think that eventually the fat dripping off causes too much combustion to control. So at that point, I pulled the slabs. These were then wiped down with paper towels to remove any excess grease and soot and then placed on racks in the garage fridge to cool for slicing.

Slicing and bagging

We sliced for “normal bacon” thickness.  The slices were stacked and vacuum bagged. Teal insisted that the “spicy” be kept form the “normal” bacon.   However on taste testing she actually liked the BBQ3000 version, but just not for breakfast.

So we have not only another successful batch, but are starting to prove out that the reduced salt and reduced nitrates cure actually works !  The bacon is delicious as proven by frying up samples as we sliced and bagged. The color is great  – nice pink meat.  So I think we have a successful recipe. We will do another batch in a month (or sooner if the kids raid the freezer too much).

20 packages including one of the “ugly bits” which are destined for salads and baked beans.

Next time we will do more of the BBQ3000 version . It is delicious and I can’t wait for the tomatoes to be ready for BLTs.

Lightly Smoked Chicken

The Chicken

It was brutally hot and humid this weekend (at least for Wisconsin, 78-80 F dew point is not my favorite).  So we were looking for something that we could make that did not not require much attention allowing us to retreat to the air conditioned indoors while it cooked.

The goal was to have a brine that was not critical for timing and then to smoke / grill also at a non-critical temp that did not require constant attention in the miserably hot and humid weather.  We chose legs and thighs to provide juiciness and flavor (and the price was right for thigh and leg quarters.).

We prefer to have air chilled chicken that is not already loaded up with a  brine of questionable contents. In our area the Smart Chicken brand fits the bill. By the time we finished, thunderstorms had moved through the area producing a nearly 20 F degree drop in temperature and providing a pleasant evening.

Brine

5 cups cold water

2 lemons quartered, squeezed of juice into the brine and then thrown in

5 TB Mortons Kosher salt. We are aiming for a 5% brine. Other brands will vary a LOT.

3 nice fresh bunches of sage, oregano and thyme. 3-5 stems each . Leaves of the thyme stripped from the stems and the balance chopped finely.

1 tsp fresh coarse ground black pepper

Stir the brine until the salt is disolved

Add the chicken which has been broken down into the primal cuts. Legs are cut from thighs, etc. You want the recognizable pieces that folks will eat with their fingers .

Put the chicken in the brine and refrigerate for 2-12 hours. Remove, pa dry with paper towels and air dry on a rack at room temperature for 30-120 min . This is critical to dry the skin a bit, develop the “pellicle” and avoid sooty chicken.  The chicken will not be in the “danger zone” long enough to worry.

This light 5% brine will not over-salt the chicken so the time is not critical. We did 5 hours for this batch.

Grill

Start the grill / smoker with lump hardwood charcoal.  Add a couple of good sized chunks of a fruitwood just before adding the chicken. We use cherry.

Close the grill vents down so the grill stays at about 275F . Add the chicken on direct heat skin up. After 30-60 min flip and cook for an additional 30-45 min.  Remove and serve. Skin should be nicely bronzed and slightly crispy.  With the relatively low temps the times are not critical. You do have to watch for fat flare ups that may mar the bronzed perfection.

Yum.

 

 

Sourdough whole grain variant

The kids got me a couple of Emile Henry ceramic bakers for my birthday.  One is baguette pan and the other is a bread loaf pan.  Today was the first trial of them.  The bread was made in between all of the yard work and errands that needed to get done with our slow spring and sudden summer —  95F today.

This is based on the Multigrain sourdough recipe  but I was out of the KAF Harvest Grains Blend.   So to substitute I used the following mix which was soaked in the boiling water:

  • 1/4 c poppy seed
  • 1/4 c steel cut oats
  • 1/4 white sesame seeds
  • 1/2 c roasted / salted pepitas / sunflower seed mix (from Farm and Fleet)

The dough was a bit wet, I probably had too much water in the starter feed but then added more bread flour to make up.  Again the dough was mixed and rested for 30 min before the kneading.  First rise was 2 hrs at 76F (I had to run out and go get more herbs for the garden) .   After rolling to shape, the top was brushed with water and the black sesame seeds were springkled on .  Second rise was 1 hour at 100F.

Bake at 425 F for 33-38 min with the last 5 min uncovered.

YUM! Thank you: Jessie, Elyse and David for the bakers.

Canadian Bacon

With the low price specials on whole pork loins ($1.99 /lb for 10lbs),  I could no longer resist making some Canadian Bacon (or Back Bacon as they call it up there).  The recipe is based on the one in Charcuterie by Ruhlman and Polcyn with some more spices added. I have not yet adjusted the salt and pink salt as this is my first attempt and we generally don’t cook this until browned as we do with Bacon.

Brine

  • 4 liters (2 gallons) water
  • 650 grams kosher or pickling salt
  • 480 grams white sugar
  • 75 grams pink salt / Cure #1
  • 1 TB ground Nutmeg
  • 1 TB ground Allspice
  • 1 TB granulated Garlic
  • 2TB dried Sage
  • 2TB dried Thyme
  • 2 Bay leaves crumbled

I would have used fresh herbs but they are not up yet this spring.

Mix well. Note the salts and sugar are by weight. This is important as the density varies dramatically between types and brands.

Brining

Cut the pork loin in half. Trim off the silverskin and surface fat. This was a 10.5 lb pork loin after trimming.

Submerge in the brine and weight down with a plate or 2. Place in refrigerator for 48 hours. Since I was also doing a batch of Smoked Chicken Legs and Thighs  at the same time, this ended up in the crisper drawer of the garage fridge. This is actually quite convenient.

Cook and taste a sample to check for saltiness.  Slice a couple pieces off the end, rinse and pan fry. At the 36 hour point it was a bit saltier than we like so half the brine was poured off and replaced with water.

At 48 hours Remove, rinse and pat dry. Taste test again.  If OK place back in the fridge uncovered for 12 hours to equalize and from the pellicle.

Smoking

Hot smoke with cherry wood at 230F, until an internal temp of 150 degrees has been held for 30 -60 min. This takes about 4 hours. At this point, it is fully cooked and could be served ready to eat. Ours is slabbed like smoked pork chops and thin sliced for pizza and sandwiches.

The verdict

Delicious. Teal said we may never buy ham again!

 

Multigrain Sourdough

Another variation on the Multigrain Sourdough Boule from the King Arthur Flour website.  Each iteration is improving.

Starter

The night before ,feed the starter using 1/2 c starter , 2 cups flour, 1.5 to 1.75 cups warm water. Cover and rise over night at room temp +.   Our lower oven after baking in the top one is perfect. Using the proof setting of 100F  is actually too warm and the rise is not as nice later.

Ingredients

  • 1.5c KAF Harvest Grains Blend  + 1/4c poppy seeds
  • 1c boiling water
  • 3c fed starter
  • 2c whole wheat flour
  • 1.5 c bread flour
  • 3 TB sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp Instant yeast (I use SAF)

Add the harvest grains to the water and let soak for 20 min

Mix and rise

Mix everything together and let sit for 30 min to hydrate the flour. This is especially important for whole grain flours.  Huge improvement in texture

Knead for 7 min  – Kitchenaid with dough hook and #2 . Mixer will get warm.   Dough will be soft moist, and very sticky

First rise 90 min at 100F in the mixer bowl covered with a hot wet dish towel.

Liberally butter the inside of a dutch oven (including the lid).

After the first rise scrape the dough into the dutch oven. No need to knead. Even out the top. Cover with the wet towel again .

Rise again for 40-60 minutes at 100F until doubled.

Bake

Preheat oven to 425F .

Move to the hot oven and bake covered on convect for 30-35 min.

Uncover and continue baking 10-20 min and check the internal temp. 190F is done.

Remove from oven when done. Rest in pan for 5 min, then turn out onto wire rack.

Eye of Round Roast

Rare Roast Beef sandwiches

Having the ideal tools now in hand I decided to tackle one of the tastier but more difficult cuts of meat to do well. This is the Eye of round.

This bullet shaped piece of meat is extremely lean and has sinewy bands through it. If you are not careful it can end up tough and chewy.

However prepared this way it is tender and delicious. The  secret is in not overcooking the meat and then slicing it extremely thinly . This cuts through the connective tissue and makes for a very tender sandwich without pieces sliding out of the sandwich when you take a bit but cannot easily bite through.

Spice blend

1TB freeze dried shallots (Penzey’s)  – ground in mortar and pestle

1TB Italian Seasoning  – add to the shallots and grind finely

1tsp Penzey’s seasoned salt -4S

2tsp granulated garlic

Cook and serve

Coat the roast with the spice blend and seal in a vacuum bag

Cook sous vide at 136F for 8 hours.  Some recipes call for 24-36 hours

Remove from the bag reserving the juice and pat dry

Sear directly over charcoal with cherry wood chunks. This will give a nice crust in 60-90 seconds per side. Brown all of the sides and the flat end . The browning adds a nice flavor component especially with the seasoning blend used.

Set aside to cool . I placed ours in the freezer for 30 min

Slice thinly. I set the meat slicer to 1.25. The rare meat stays together in nice thin slices and does not crumble as it might with a longer cooking time.

Serve on hard rolls with fried onions and cheese. Teal likes Muenster.  I prefer blue or Montamore with a good mustard.  this is time to break out one of the exotic ones

Store the rest of the meat in a closed container. Add the reserved juice and pack down. This will minimize the oxygen exposure preserving the flavor for 10 days or until gone.

Teal says this is her favorite sous vide recipe so far.

Penzeys spices https://www.penzeys.com/ is a local company with stores across the US.   Truly superior spices and a wonderful  view f public policy.

Entryway bench

Teal has wanted a bench by the front door to use when putting on shoes. This would be better than sitting on the stairs.

Last time we were at Kettle Moraine Hardwoods, the local lumber mill, we came across an interesting Elm slab that was about the right size. So it went in the truck with the rest of the lumber.  Our floors are Red Elm, so this complements them nicely.

The slab had cracks in it due to the knots. The largest cracks was filled with some  matching fine sawdust. All of the cracks were then flooded a few times with thin Cyanoacrylate glue.   The slab was then planned and belt sanded.

Teal wanted the front edge left as a live edge, but it still needed some clean up.   This was done with spokeshaves and sandpaper. The edges were rounded over with a block plane.

The top was finished with: two coats of Bona DTS sealer, lightly scraped between coats to get rid of the raised grain fibers, and then sanded with 220 grit. Then, two coats of General Finishes Enduovar Polyurethane Matte lustre finish were applied.  These were all brushed on as this small surface area did not justify breaking out the sprayer.

The legs were a bit of a problem as there is a heating duct coming up right were one of the legs should go.  This lead to an unconventional design idea. The legs would be curved, and support it in the front and a ledger bar screwed to the wall in the back.

The legs are made from two 1/8″ sheets of steel. The template was made fr0m 1/8″ hardboard. The curves were made with the aid of a thin batten (wood strip)  that was bent to shape and traced.  The template was cut out on the bandsaw and the edges sanded smooth.  The steel sheets were stacked and the template clamped to them and the pieces were then cut with the plasma cutter (and it was snowing again that day).

The edges of the steel were ground clean. It is very hard to weld through the plasma cut edge as is as the steel forms a nitride / oxide coating during the plasma cutting.

The bottom end of the “Y” was also spaced apart. This gives the legs a bit of a flair. 1 small scrap of 1/8″ steel was placed in for the first 3 inches or so.

The edges were then TIG welded shut and ground to a nice curve.

The top of the legs is a piece of 1/8×1″ steel  and the feet are 1/4x1x3″ steel. These had the corners rounded, holes drilled in the top pieces and then were also TIG welded onto the legs.

Given that I am new to TIG welding, through the process I stuck the tungsten tip more than once. The TIG welding process has a bit of learning curve, especially for someone that does not chew gum, as that would preclude walking for me.  Managing the torch and then adding the filler rod without getting the electrode contaminated is a bit of a trick and I also roasted my fingers a few times in the process. Once the electrode is contaminated, definitely stop and change it out, trying to make do, just makes a mess and things get way too hot.  I can safely say my tungsten grinding skills are now quite good. Welding will take more practice, but I did get a few really nice beads along the way. I think getting a really nice bead now and then helps suck  you in and makes you forget the frustrations of the learning process.

Afterwards the legs were given one more pass with an 80 grit flap disk and were ready for painting.  One coat of primer and 2 coats of satin black. I like the Rustoleum Pro spray paints for this.  They dry fast and hard and have a decent re-coat window. I have used these for most of my tool  builds & rebuilds.

Makin’ Bacon

Background

We had been searching for a lower nitrate bacon alternative. This is due to the nitrates combining with the meat and forming nitrosamines when cooked at high temperatures (e.g when you cook the bacon until crispy). The so called “uncured” bacons that we had found uses celery juice or extract rather than Sodium Nitrite.  However celery is very rich in naturally occurring nitrates. The uncured bacons with the celery  in many cases have MORE nitrates in them than  than those made with sodium nitrite! See this article where it was quantified. https://www.cooksillustrated.com/ho…/5734-nitrate-free-bacon.

We also prefer a less salty bacon and with a mild smoke flavor such as from apple or cherry.  We have an abundance of cherry wood for smoking.

So I did some research, on the web, bought the book Charcuterie by Michael Ruhlman, and talked to co-workers. Finally, I was confident I could do this and set out to buy some pork belly (where did I see it in a store last?).   After a few false leads I ended up at a small local grocery with its own butcher shop – Panos in Waukesha.  There I procured an 11 lb slab of meaty pork belly – skin on.   I took it home and the skin came off without too much trouble.  I tried making chicharrones but that was a disaster.   However the bacon turned out great!

One of the important things when curing meats is to do everything by weight, not volume. The density of salt can vary by two to one (e.g table or canning salt vs a coarse kosher salt.  I dry cured the bacon for a week before smoking.  The cure recipe below has far lower levels of nitrite than any of the recipes I found on the web. The justification for the lower level still being safe is the bacon will be cured in a refrigerator, hot smoked and then eaten quickly or frozen. This minimizes the chances of botulism growth.  I would not try this low a level for a dried salami or other products cured at room temperature (but those are not generally cooked crispy either).

Basic Dry Cure (adapted from Charcuterie)

450 grams kosher or canning salt

225 grams white sugar

28 grams pink salt (cure #1)   – note this is HALF of the amount recommended in the book

This was mixed up and then applied to the meat. I had 2 pieces 1.9KG and 2.2 KG which used 70g and 85g respectively (approximately 1/4 cup) .   The cure was rubbed in well. The balance is in a jar waiting for the next project.

The smaller piece was to be spicier.  TO this I added the following:

3 bay leaves crushed

4 large cloves garlic finely chopped

1.5 tablespoons black pepper coarsely cracked (next time I will double this)

1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

The spices were mixed and then rubbed all over the piece.

The bacon to be slabs were placed in glass baking dishes and covered with plastic wrap and then put in the fridge in the garage. They were turned once a day. The weather was unseasonably cold so the fridge temps were probably lower than planned (26 degrees when I inserted the probes for smoking).  There was not much liquid given off.

Smoking prep

The night before smoking, the bacon was rinsed well and then placed on skewers over the baking dishes and returned to the fridge uncovered. This allowed the outer layer to dry and from a pellicle which helps the smoke penetration.

Smoking

The Big Green Egg was fired up and set for indirect heat. 2″ thick chunks of cherry branches were placed on the charcoal. The Heatermeter was set for 205 degrees. Temperature probes were placed in the thickest part of each slab.  It was a very windy cold drizzly and snowy day  (good thing the Heatermeter case is waterproof).  When the meat hit 130 degrees I rotated each by 180 degrees so the outer edges would not get too done  as the slabs filled the grill and were not entirely shielded from direct heat.  At 3 hours the meat was 150 to 175 degrees and the smoker temp was rising due to the high winds (I don’t have a damper on the fan yet) . So I pulled the bacon off the smoker and put it back in the fridge.

Taste

This bacon is great. The right level of salt and spices and very meaty. Nice pink color even with the low nitrite level. I had taken a few strips the night before smoking to taste and make sure it was not too salty . However it did not fry up near as well as the smoked bacon.

Teal and I like both flavors and the savory one will be great for salads, BLTs, etc. The bacon cooks up very crisply.

At the moment the house smells like a good old fashioned butcher shop and smoke house – yum.

Slicing

We got a new meat slicer for this and other cooking projects. It worked like a charm. So easy and consistently thin slices (the way Teal likes them).   Of course you could slice by hand especially if you like thick cut bacon. It will just take longer and you would probably want to slightly freeze the meat before slicing to firm it up even more. The bacon was then divided up and vacuum packed for freezing.  We ended up with almost 8 lbs of finished bacon.

Conclusion

This is definitely something we will do again. There is not a huge amount of applied time involved, but you do have to wait for the meat to cure.  Not hard and a great payoff. While the bacon was smoking, David and I also brewed up 2 batches of beer .  Teal was very patient with us and helped out as well.

We have bacon that tastes great and we know exactly what has gone into it.

Next I wonder about doing some pork loins for canadian bacon. They were on sale last I looked.

 

Crib – Mattress frame

The mattress needs to be height adjustable. With this design there are 3 heights available. High, low and floor.

The frame is made of 3/4×3/4 ” 14 gauge steel tubing. It is sized to fit about 3/4″ inside of the wood frame.

The frame is supported at the corners, however the screw and nut locations would collide with the sides. So I used buried nuts welded into the end rail pieces prior to assembly. To do  this the holes are drilled (#7) and tapped (1/4-20 ) 3/4″ from each end. A sacrificial bolt is inserted and a nut is placed on it finger tight. The nuts are then welded in place. I used a MIG welder.  However the day was windy and my skills rusty after the long winter so they are not the prettiest of welds.  (so feel free to pick on my weld quality)

I have often used this technique for buried fasteners when bolting through relatively thin stock like this or for beds where the nut plates are buried in the wood legs.

The holes for the webbing were then drilled in the  sides. It is much easier to do this while the frame is still in pieces. I always make a list of the hole distances prior to marking and drilling. This is easy in a spreadsheet and minimizes the chances for an error half way through and the piece ending up looking like swiss cheese.  I will use #8 x1/2″ hex head self tapping sheet metal screws. The holes are 9/64″ or #28 drill.

The frame was then welded up, welds ground flush, flap disk sanded (120 grit) primed and painted.

The webbing is 2″ light polypropylene webbing. I ordered a 150 foot roll and used most of it.

The webbing ends are folded over and secured with the screw and washer. If you have restrung an old aluminum lawn chair, you know the drill.

When securing the second end the triangle tip should hang over the side by about 1/2″.  Now you start the screw through the webbing. Next you use a nut driver or impact driver and hex bit to lever the screw over after catching the tip in the hole. This adds just the right tension. Use hex head screws, I can’t imagine how frustrating this would be with just a straight screwdriver.  The long straps are tighter than the sides and installed first as I did not want to bow in the sides

The frame is hung from these small pieces. They make the hole spacing forgiving and provide access to the screws that are otherwise hidden mostly by the frame. 1/4″ long spacers are placed between the straps and frame. These were made on the 3D printer, although you could also pay the price at the hardware store.

Now ready for delivery. Gap around the mattress is one finger thickness – just about perfect.