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.