Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Maple Bacon with Chilli and Black Pepper

To celebrate moving into the new house I decided to initially stick to something simple and make some back bacon. I spotted a recipe for honey-cured bacon with chilli and black pepper on the sausagemaking forum  (so all credit to JerBear) but tweaked the recipe slightly, substituting maple syrup for honey and including less salt (read the discussion following the recipe; I use Phil Young's online cure calculator here). I used the standard equilibrium dry curing method, where you stuff all the ingredients in a ziplock bag along with the meat and give it a good shake/massage.

This little piggy went to market...
The loin was cured for just over a week, massaging and turning every day. After that I took it out, washed it off and left it in the fridge overnight to form a pellicle. Before putting it in the smoker I sprinkled the meat surface with freshly ground black pepper and chilli flakes. I pressed them onto the meat surface rather than rubbing them in. The bacon was cold smoked for 12 hours over maple.

The slicer of Champions gets a work out

I couldn't resist and had to fry some up there and then for a bacon sandwich.

Sunday morning sandwich, still in dressing gown...

On a side note I always add sodium ascorbate (the sodium salt of vitamin C) to my bacon cure. This is in order to inhibit the formation of nitrosamines  carcinogenic compounds formed under certain conditions by the reaction of nitrite with protein; such as the high temperatures involved in frying (nitrite reacts with secondary amine groups i.e. proline residues; but that's enough of that science fans). Now I know this isn't strictly necessarily and that in the UK we have no rule on adding ascorbate to bacon (nor is there one forbidding its use); we're also free to use nitrate in our bacon cures. On balance my personal opinion that ascorbate addition is worth it.

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Happy New Year

Happy New Year everyone. I'm afraid I won't be updating the blog for a while, well, a month or so  I'm due to go away with work this weekend for two weeks, then move house the week I get back. My time for the next month will be spent packing, working, moving, unpacking and decorating.

To keep me entertained until I get back I've got this (it was a Christmas present):

Luckily our new house will have quite a bit of space so I'm already planning the man cave, complete with meat products. I might try my hand at a chorizo or saucisson sec to celebrate the new house...

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Duck and Armagnac Rillettes

A few weeks ago I posted about some confit duck that I'd made. I said then that the plan was to make them into rillettes. Well, I've got this week off work so it's the ideal time. I'd told Sandra at work my latest plan and she bought me in a present: a jar of rillettes de canard that she's got while on holiday in France. So I've now got something to aim for.

That's French for 'potted duck'

As some of the rillettes will be given away for Christmas I bought some small jars to make them look like I'd made a bit of an effort.  Before I started I washed the jars in hot soapy water and put them in the oven at 120 to sterilise them. The lid were covered in boiling water from the kettle.

Duck and Armagnac Rillette Recipe

  • The meat from 6 confit duck legs (see here for my confit adventure);
  • 2 tablespoons of the confit fat
  • The reserved confit stock (I used 2-3 tablespoons)
  • Armagnac (or any other spirit)
  • Pepper

I used a kilner jar to store my confit duck, so the first thing was to get the duck out of the solid fat. I just warmed the jar a little bit to soften the fat. It was a bit of a messy affair. And by a bit I mean 'a lot', and I 'a lot' I mean it went everywhere. So I'd suggest using gloves. Really. Use gloves (it also makes you feel like you're in an episode of CSI, or satisfies your inner latex fetish, whatever). 

From the left: melted fat, armagnac, duck stock and meat
  1. Strip the meat off the bones and place in a sturdy bowl. Grab a wooden spoon and pound the bejesus out of it to form a coarse paste.
  2. If using, taste the reserved stock (to gauge for salty it is), add a small amount to the meat and beat it in until it's combined. Keep tasting and adding more until it's just salty enough. I added around 2-3 tablespoons.
  3. Re-render the fat and put it through a sieve (this removes any rogue skin, meat or bits of bone that you might have missed). Add 2 tablespoons of fat to the meat and beat it to combine; at this stage it will start to take on a paler colour and look more like pate.
  4. Add 2 tablespoons of Armagnac and a good grind of pepper and give everything a good mix.
  5. Add more Armagnac and pepper to taste. Hint: don't take a big swig of Armagnac before you do the tasting (as I did), it means you won't be able to taste the Armagnac. But you will start to enjoy making rillettes much more 
  6. Add to your sterilised jars and seal with fat.

Making the rillettes isn't that difficult, it just requires a little bit of time and elbow grease. Covered with fat and kept in the fridge they should last a little while, though they're so tasty they probably be gone faster than a plate of cookies at a weight watchers meeting.

Take rillette, apply to face

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Tyrolean Lonzini

Christmas is fast approaching, so I've been hard at work crafting things. I put two lonzini into the curing chamber a couple of weeks ago. I really hope they are ready in time as I am planning as giving them as gifts!

My other Christmas gifts ready to go

I used the recipe from Scott of the sausage debauchery fame. He doesn't go into details as to specific amounts on his blog, so I just free-styled (recipe below; I used a mix of cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg as a substitute for allspice). One was cased in a beef bung, the other was left uncased and cold smoked twice (12 hours a time) in a mixture of roughly 50/50 oak and apple. So i guess that technically it's a speck: although it should probably have a thicker covering of fat to qualify. I was really hoping to smoke it four times, but the smoker has been having trouble in the sub-zero temperatures we've had this week - it burned about one-quarter of the way round each time, then went out. I persevered, but gave up after the 8th time.

Here's the recipe that I used:

Tyrolean Lonzino (all credit to Sausage Debauchery)


Ingredient Weight (%)
Pork loin
100%
Salt
3.3%
Cure #2
0.25%
Rosemary
1.0%
Cinnamon
0.1%
Nutmeg
0.1%
Cloves
0.1%

The cure was mixed up and applied to the loin (90% to the meat, 10% on the fat). The meat was put into a ziplock bag, sealed and left to cure for 10 days. One was cased in a beef bung (see the spicy lonzino post), the other was smoked before hanging. Fingers crossed they're ready in time.

Ready for Christmas?


Saturday, 17 November 2012

Duck confit



This week, with the cold nights drawing in, i put the kettle on, had a brew, and thought about my next project. I was reading through the closest thing I have to a holy book - HFW's River Cottage Meat book - when I came across the recipe and pictures for duck confit. What could be better in this cold weather than meat poached for hours in fat until it's meltingly tender? It's something I'd thought of making one day, but never actually got round to (as with many things that I say I'll do 'one day').

"Sod it", I thought to myself, "I should make some".

I stood up (inadvertently spilling tea across the table) and proclaimed in a booming voice ,"I will make duck confit" pointing across the room I added, "To the Man Cave!". Sadly the effect was diminished somewhat by the room being empty, and the fact that I don't have a Man Cave. Or a booming voice.

No matter, a plan was beginning to form in my mind. Not only could I confit some duck, but I could also use some of it to make duck rillettes (that's potted duck to those of us that aren't French).

In their book Ruhlman and Polcyn say "confit should not bring potpourri to mind when you eat it". Wise and obvious words, I'm sure you all agree. I tried to keep the flavours fairly simple as the rillettes will have other flavours added. I trawled the intertubes and my book collection for cooking times. As usual they were all different (ranging from 2 hours to 10 hours), so I went straight down the middle with 5 hours. I managed to squeeze 6 duck legs one of the larger-sized Kilner jars (although I had to just put the meat of the final two legs in, no bones). I'm storing them in fat to let them mature for a few weeks before making the rillettes.

Duck Confit Recipe


Ingredients 
Ingredients
6 duck legs;
2 tablespoons salt;
2 cloves of garlic;
2 bay leaves;
1 teaspoon fresh thyme;
6 peppercorns;
Fat (enough to cover the legs; I used goose fat and lard for reasons given below)

1) Using a pestle and mortar smash up the salt, garlic, bay, thyme and peppercorns.

2) Take half of the resulting herby, garlicy salt and rub it into the duck. Turn the duck over and rub in the remaining salt. Place the duck into a suitably-sized container. Cover with cling film and leave to cure in the fridge overnight (and for up to 24 hours if you'd like; I left mine for 16 hours).
3) The next day discard the pink juice that the salt has leached from the meat and rinse off the duck pieces. Make sure to dry them of properly with some kitchen paper. Arrange the pieces in an oven-proof container - a single layer if possible, but two layers is fine. 

4) Melt the fat in a saucepan and pour over the duck making sure the legs are completely submerged. It was at this point that I discovered that I didn't have enough fat. I had failed to recognise that 2 jars of fat would not, in fact, cover 6 duck legs in a container that holds at least ten-times the volume of a single jar. Undeterred, I returned to the supermarket, found that goose fat was no longer on offer, and settled for some good old lard.

Brain-stem tease...
5) Cook for 5 hours at 85 °C. Your kitchen will fill with the aroma of slow roasting duck: a delicious, bewitching smell that caresses your brain-stem and makes it scream "Yes, yes, open the oven, eat it, EAT IT NOW!".
6) Allow the confit to cool. It will keep for up to one week in the fridge if you leave it in the original container. If you want to keep in longer (as I did) you'll need to remove the stock/duck juice layer underneath the fat. Remove the duck pieces from the fat (you might need to heat it a bit to loosen them; be careful they'll be very fragile). Re-melt the fat and strain it to remove any bits. Place the duck legs in a suitable container and pour over the hot fat. Try and get a fat layer at least 1" thick over the top of the legs. They'll keep for a few months somewhere cold and dark.