Showing posts with label Tasting notes. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Tasting notes. Show all posts

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Black Bacon

Something terrible happened last weekend: I had some bacon and I didn't like it. This came as a bit of a shock because I love bacon - possibly even more than the internets love bacon. It's a well known fact that talking about how awesome bacon is makes up a third of all the material on the internet (the other two-thirds being naked ladies and pictures of kittens).

Technically one-third of the internet
To put this in context I'd been out with my brother and a couple of mates on Friday night. I woke up feeling a bit rough on Saturday and to ease our hangovers my brother made a round of bacon sandwiches. Now, in the hungover haze I do remember him saying as he handed me the plate that, "the bacon isn't the best". I think it was The Man's Value, Basic, Smart Price baconTM. Even so, my mouth (and hangover) was looking forward to some salty bacon deliciousness. Oh how wrong I was - my first bite led to an explosion of, well, watery, tasteless, nothingness. As the internet puts it, "Son, I am disappoint".


I know why this is of course. Ever since I started dabbling in charcuterie I've been making my own bacon. It went into overdrive slightly when I got the smoker up and running, but has returned to more sensible levels of production recently. During this time it seems that I've become a bacon snob. I've been using Phil Young's recipe posted on his excellent blog here. This has become my favourite bacon too, it has a nice balance of flavours and isn't too sweet. I've found that I like it best made with demerrera or dark brown sugar, then smoked for 10-12 hours with the ProQ. Of the woods I've tried (cherry, oak and maple) I like the taste of maple best, closely followed by oak. I'm going to try apple and hickory too as they come highly recommended. As an aside I've been getting my wood dust from Hot Smoked and found them to be very good.

This time I thought I'd try making some black bacon - bacon made with treacle - after I'd read about it in Maynard's book . I took the recipe linked above and added a tablespoon of black treacle. I put everything in a ziplock bag and let the pork cure for a week, giving it a massage and a turn everyday. The result is a darkly coloured black bacon joint. With my old friend my electric meat slicer I got over 30 slices of bacon - not bad for £6!

Black bacon

The bacon is pretty tasty, the black treacle taste is very delicate. If anything I'd say the bacon is slightly too sweet for my taste. Clearly some optimising is required: I think I'll reduce the sugar, or remove it completely, as the treacle does add some sweetness of its own. As it is it's a very passable sweetcure bacon.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Pfefferbeißer results and tasting

Fully-dried pfefferbeißer
So, the Olympics, Paralympics and glorious summer of British sport are over. We might as well all go and throw our TVs out of the window because I'm pretty sure TV will never be as good again. It also shows the England football team to be a bunch of over-hyped, over-paid, under-achievers. Hopefully we can all now agree they should be ignored until they go away. Or, failing that, they should be decommissioned and stripped for parts. But I digress...

I took the pfefferbeißer out of the curing chamber a couple of days ago. They have dried nicely  they've got a rough texture and are slightly chewy. The flavour is spicy: the pepper comes through, but isn't overpowering. One of my family members isn't too keen on the whole peppercorns; personally I like them, they add a bit of excitement when you're eating the sausage. The smoke smell has mellowed during the drying phase, so the smoke taste is actually quite delicate.

Slight case hardening maybe?

Nice bind, good separation of meat and fat, no air pockets – it's just the drying that it letting things down at the moment. I'm not totally convinced my case hardening problem is solved. In the centre of a few of the sausages (and only in patches) was a very small area, maybe 23 mm in cross section, that wasn't as dry as the rest. I'm not sure if this was due to case hardening, or if the sausages just weren't totally dried yet. Either way I'll definitely be making these again.


Sunday, 12 August 2012

Spicy lonzino results

Last week I cut open the spicy lonzino but I've only just got round to updating the blog. It had lost just over 30% of its weight when I took it out of the chamber. Feast your eyes on its meaty glory:

Not the greatest photo. Sorry.
It looks pretty good (ignoring the dubious photography), wouldn't you agree? It is pretty spicy, I got a chilli flake on the third bite that I wasn't expecting, but not ridiculously so. It tastes much better than previous lonzino attempts. I think that the longer hanging period (because it was much larger than ones I've done before) really helps to develop the flavour.

So, success then? Well, all is not as it seems. I mentioned in a previous post that my cured meats (particularly the salami) have been drying faster than the underpants on Satan's washing line. The same thing has happened to this lonzino: quite a bit of case hardening. In fact, the central one-third was still a bit too soft and won't be eaten. There was also a little bit of green mould growth on one end (where the casing had come away from the meat); hopefully this will be less of a problem in future now that I have a mould culture to apply to the outside before things go into the chamber.

The case hardening is almost certainly due to the fan at the back of the wine fridge. The fridge is Peltier cooled, so it needs a fan to move the air inside over the heat exchanger. If you disconnect the fan (which I have tried) the heat exchanger doesn't work properly and the chamber heats up. I can think of two possible ways forward:
  1. Hook up the existing fan/a new fan so that it can be controlled independently;
  2. Add an air diffuser to reduce the air flow 
I've decided to go with option 2 mainly because it's cheaper and simpler. I bought some muslin, wet it, and hung it over the rack in the back of the chamber like a curtain. The ends sit in a seed tray that is filled with water. I spent a few days moving the muslin diffuser back and forth to block the air flow from the fan and seeing how it affected the conditions inside; I seem to have it down now. The addition of the seed tray means that the diffuser also acts like a wick, drawing moisture that is then evaporated by the fan. So far, this has meant the relative humidity has stayed pretty stable. Time will tell I guess.

Friday, 20 July 2012

"Enthusiasm is followed by disappointment and even depression, and then by renewed enthusiasm."

-Murray Gell-Mann

That's right, disappointment. I said in my last post that I thought the salamis were drying too quickly: turns out I was right. The salamis have all lost ~40% of their starting weights, so I thought it was time to cut into one to have a look. Feast your eyes on an excellent example of case hardening: 

The salami version of the RRoD
The outside has dried too fast, forming a relatively impermeable layer preventing the escape of moisture from the centre, which is still a bit too moist. Although this wasn't a great success, some things give me hope:
  1. Great bind on the salami; high five!
  2. No fat smearing. Again, high five!
  3. Copious mould growth;
  4. Fermentation success (I'd checked with pH strips) as they have a good 'salami' aroma
All good things I'm sure you'll agree; however, the case hardening is a pretty big setback that needs to be investigated and rectified before I attempt any more salami. A quick read on the interwebs turned up some advice regarding case hardening: one suggestion was to vacuum pack the salamis and stick them in the fridge for a couple of weeks. I don't have anything to lose (and it was a good excuse to get my new vacuum packer out), so I did just that. I'll take a look at them in 10 days or so and see how they're doing.