Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Smoking in the rain: Canadian bacon

Many years ago, when I was growing up (yes, I am old), chicken used to be the lean diet meat, and pork was juicy and fatty, definetely no good for dieting, with the distinct flavor - love it or hate it. I don't want to know what they do to the poor animals now, but the roles have reversed to a degree: the huge chickens that you buy in a grocery store are almost 50% fat (unfortunately, it doesn't improve the flavor), and the pork is lean, and yes, mostly tastless. The good thing is, pork easily accepts flavors during marinating or curing. The leanest cut, pork loin, after curing and smoking becomes wonderful Canadian bacon.

I used Canadian bacon recipe from my favorite Charcuterie book. Since I had 2 smaller pieces of pork loin, and because of the shape of the dish, I cut the brine recipe in half; I've also adjusted the quantities of the ingredients a little, to accomodate my taste for less salty meat, and unlimited garlic. To cure two 2-pound pieces of trimmed pork loin I used
2 liters water
1/2 cup kosher salt
1/3 cup brown sugar
20 gram pink salt
bunch of sage
bunch of thyme
6 large garlic cloves

The pork spent 2 days curing in the brine, covered and refrigerated. 
I then took the pork out of the brine, rinsed it under cold running water, dried with paper towels, tied in a few places to keep the shape, and let it rest at room temperature while I was busy starting my primitive charcoal smoker. This took a little over an hour of blowing on the charcoals, trying to contain the sparks while not getting burned myself, moving the hot and sparkling smoker farther from the house, running to the store to get more charcoal, moving the smoker closer to the house to protect it from the beginning rain, swearing in four or five languages all the while. Finally, the little no-good termometer on the lid moved to the mark between "warm" and "ideal" and froze there. No matter what I did, it wouldn't go higher.

Not to waste all the heat, I also smoked a couple of shallots, a boiled potato, a head of garlic, and a couple of handfuls of sea salt.
At my smoker's uncertain temperature, it took the pork about 4 hours to get to the internal temperature of 145 degrees. By that time the exterior was covered by beautiful, glossy and aromatic smoked "skin".
I let the bacon cool, removed the twine, sliced it, and vacuum-packed most of it for storage.

The next day I decided that my homemade Canadian bacon deserves homemade English muffins for breakfast. The recipe I used, , calls for shortening - I replaced it with melted unsalted butter.

Also, it took only 4-1/2 cups of flour, instead of 6 in the recipe, to make workable, relatively soft dough - must be due to variations in flour and humidity.

I was very happy with my adjusted recipe, and by 3 pm I already had a perfect homemade breakfast:
Toasted English muffin, Canadian bacon, lightly poached eggs, chives from the garden, Hollandaise sauce made with 1 egg yolk, 1/2 unsalted butter, juice of 1 lemon, salt and freshly ground white pepper; Turkish coffee.
By the time I finished breakfast, it was time to think about dinner.

Slow food.

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