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Curing and Cooking with Ruhlman & Polcyn's "Charcuterie" (Part 1)

600 posts in this topic

Ron, what kind of "cabinet" are you referromg to?

Susan, I can't find a pic of the exact unit I own, but this one is really similar to it:

http://stores.yahoo.com/epod2000/smokmounser.html

As you can probably see in the pic, there are dampers on each side of the cabinet and one on top. Hopefully, the method I described above will work out.

=R=


"Hey, hey, careful man! There's a beverage here!" --The Dude, The Big Lebowski

LTHForum.com -- The definitive Chicago-based culinary chat site

ronnie_suburban 'at' yahoo.com

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Ron, what kind of "cabinet" are you referromg to?

Susan, I can't find a pic of the exact unit I own, but this one is really similar to it:

http://stores.yahoo.com/epod2000/smokmounser.html

As you can probably see in the pic, there are dampers on each side of the cabinet and one on top. Hopefully, the method I described above will work out.

=R=

Thanks. I'm feeling exceptionally primitive with my Kettle. Hmmm. Might be time to look changing things.


Susan Fahning aka "snowangel"

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Ok, I have to admit it, my husband is a genius. When I was thinking out loud last week about what sort of contraption we could use for a curing box, since our extra fridge really needs to remain cold for food, he remembered that we have this -

gallery_16307_2661_11834.jpg

it's a mini-greenhouse, useful for starting seeds in cold weather. However, it never really gets warm enough here to make seed-starting a worthwhile endeavor, so it's just been a spider house for the past 5 years.

After a big scrubbing, removal of the seed trays, some retrofitting with a hanging bar, and rolling and tying my cured pancetta, voila

gallery_16307_2661_24753.jpg

a charcuterie shed. What's especially cool is the adjustable top, so that the air flow can be controlled pretty well. That, plus propping it up a little so there's air circulation underneath, and

gallery_16307_2661_31927.jpg

a 12 volt muffin fan running on 3 volts, plus a pan of salted water, and my already-beloved hygrometer

gallery_16307_2661_2615.jpg

make me hopeful that I can get this thing right. Men are so great for doing stuff like this! There's a lot of light in the pictures, but normally the garage is pretty dark, so I think it'll be a fine environment for curing. I just have one question:

gallery_16307_2661_28749.jpg

Did everyone's pork belly come with nipples???? Oh, and because I know you're wondering, yes, those doorknobs are little feet. Don't ask.

Oh, and on the Brinkman experiment, I have to say that I was an idiot heretofore. It has a gauge that ranges from Warm, through Ideal, to Hot. Because it never makes it up to Ideal here on the cool Puget Sound, I'd assumed that it wasn't really getting hot. But hey presto, put a thermometer in there and whaddya get? It's 270 friggin' degrees at the top of Warm! So not only is it too hot for cold smoking, it's even too hot for hot smoking. Now that was a real surprise. Of course there was no meat in there to serve as a heat sink, but I think all indications are that this is not meant to be a cold smoker.

The other surprise was to open my CharGriller and find it all full of white fuzzy mold. Not cute little white fuzzy mold, but Major Ick mold. We have a flame weeder that never gets used as such, but give a man a flame weeder that roars like a 747 and permission to play with fire, and even the nastiest mold doesn't stand a chance. The smoker is now clean, but there's not 5 hours of daylight left, so I'll be smoking my bacon first thing in the morning.

And just as a bonus, I fried up a little trimming of the pancetta, just to test the cure. Yum. Really.


Edited by Abra (log)

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Mine had nipples.

Since we're on the subject, my neighbor was over for dinner celebrating her 55th birthday with dinner at our house. She was joking about it being "double nickles" and my cousin from Montana didn't quite hear her and said something to the effect "Of course you have double nipples, doesn't everyone?"

My pork belly had more than 2! :laugh:

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I've probably handled 7 bellies to this point and not one of them had nipples. :sad:

Abra, that looks like a great set-up. I've got to improvise something similar for myself. I'm suddenly feeling deprived. :wink::smile:

Susan, I have 3 smokers, a Weber kettle and a Weber Genesis grill (gas). They all play very nicely together, and the only one I've really obsoleted is the gas grill, which was left here by the folks who sold us the house. You're always going to use that kettle; they're too useful to just abandon. So, even if you buy some new equipment every once in a while, you're not foresaking the weber, you're buying it a friend. :biggrin:

=R=


"Hey, hey, careful man! There's a beverage here!" --The Dude, The Big Lebowski

LTHForum.com -- The definitive Chicago-based culinary chat site

ronnie_suburban 'at' yahoo.com

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I've probably handled 7 bellies to this point and not one of them had nipples. :sad:

Abra, that looks like a great set-up.  I've got to improvise something similar for myself.  I'm suddenly feeling deprived. :wink::smile:

Susan, I have 3 smokers, a Weber kettle and a Weber Genesis grill (gas).  They all play very nicely together, and the only one I've really obsoleted is the gas grill, which was left here by the folks who sold us the house.  You're always going to use that kettle; they're too useful to just abandon.  So, even if you buy some new equipment every once in a while, you're not foresaking the weber, you're buying it a friend. :biggrin:

=R=

Thanks, Ron, for the kind words. I sort of feel like I would be betraying one of my chilren to abandon the kettle, so I need to figure out how to integrate it with something else. There's a reason I married an engineer! Just as soon as he completes the major surgery on my car, methinks he has another project on his lap!

And, yes, my belly had nipples. The 10-year old boys that are ever present at my house got quite a kick out of the idea that they just might be eating bacon from a woman pig (sic).

BTW, Abra, the skins around the nipples, (after the belly is smoked, but still warm) doesn't trim off as easily as the rest of it.

Edited to clarify.


Susan Fahning aka "snowangel"

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This is a sickness. Looking at that greenhouse, I'm thinking, "What about using our basement shower stall...."

BTW, it's nipplemania here in Providence.


Chris Amirault

camirault@eGstaff.org

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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So, can someone tell me whether/why we need to get the bacon up to 150? After 4 hours of smoking at about 80 degrees, the bacon is, surprise, at about 80 deegrees. The fire keeps going out and I'm sick of coddling it. It's had a lot of smoke. Do I need to put it in the oven and get it up to 150, or is it good to go as is?

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So, can someone tell me whether/why we need to get the bacon up to 150?  After 4 hours of smoking at about 80 degrees, the bacon is, surprise, at about 80 deegrees.  The fire keeps going out and I'm sick of coddling it.  It's had a lot of smoke.  Do I need to put it in the oven and get it up to 150, or is it good to go as is?

Abra, what you are doing, whether intentional or not, is cold smoking your bacon. You are fine. You just need to make sure that you cook it to 150 degrees before eating it.

At least that's my understanding...I'm sure someone else will chime in if I'm wrong.


Edited by Bombdog (log)

Dave Valentin

Retired Explosive Detection K9 Handler

"So, what if we've got it all backwards?" asks my son.

"Got what backwards?" I ask.

"What if chicken tastes like rattlesnake?" My son, the Einstein of the family.

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So, can someone tell me whether/why we need to get the bacon up to 150?  After 4 hours of smoking at about 80 degrees, the bacon is, surprise, at about 80 deegrees.  The fire keeps going out and I'm sick of coddling it.  It's had a lot of smoke.  Do I need to put it in the oven and get it up to 150, or is it good to go as is?

Abra, what you are doing, whether intentional or not, is cold smoking your bacon. You are fine. You just need to make sure that you cook it to 150 degrees before eating it.

At least that's my understanding...I'm sure someone else will chime in if I'm wrong.

That's my take on it, too.

=R=


"Hey, hey, careful man! There's a beverage here!" --The Dude, The Big Lebowski

LTHForum.com -- The definitive Chicago-based culinary chat site

ronnie_suburban 'at' yahoo.com

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Oh crap, now I'm really in trouble! As I was wrestling the skin off the bacon, my husband said "I'm surprised, now that I see you doing that, that the pancetta doesn't have the skin removed." I say that no, the instructions don't mention the skin, but hey, now that I think of it, pancetta never has skin. So I look again, and there it is, in the ingredient list, pork belly, skin removed.

Insert long string of really evil language here. Because, of course, not only is the pancetta rolled and hanging, but evidently the cure was meant to be applied to a skinless belly, and now I am so screwed. I could just cry.

So yeah, I can unroll it, skin it, and re-tie it. But do I need to re-cure the side where the skin was? Bacon is cured skin-on, but then it's not rolled and hung for two weeks. I am beyond pissed off at myself for not reading more carefully. Double, triple shit!

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Why heat it? I though most bacon was cold smoked (at least it is here), and then used however the recipe dictates. Normally I slice it thinly and fry it, or use it in a dish such as a stew or beans, but I have been known to slice it thin and eat it cold...

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I hot smoked some yesterday and have a slab in the Bradley right now cold smoking.  I'll be happy to do a side by side test and let you know.

Okay, so I hot smoked a portion of belly last Thursday in apple smoke and cold smoked another portion on Friday in hickory. No particular reason, other than I just added the apple slab to some sausages that were hot smoking at the time.

gallery_16509_1680_896820.jpg

I don't have any pictures of the hot smoked right out of the smoker, but here is the cold smoked portion right after removing it from the Bradley.

Both bellies were cured in the same method, for the same length of time. The only difference between the two was that the hot smoked portion spent an extra day in the fridge before the test.

I wanted to make sure we were sampling the same area of each slab, so I cut the test portions from the middle of each.

gallery_16509_1680_706521.jpg

The cold smoked slices are on the left, the hot smoked are on the right.

gallery_16509_1680_754591.jpg

Once again, the cold smoked slices are on the left. I didn't notice an real difference in the way either one cooked.

gallery_16509_1680_108151.jpg

Here they are, draining on a paper towel. Still, I don't notice any significant difference between the two.

I don't have any pictures of the food-gasm I had when I tasted each. God, this stuff is every thing that has been posted already...and more. WHY would you spend money on store bought stuff ever again?

The only thing I can say is that MAYBE the hot smoked slices were a bit drier than the cold smoked ones....But I think I'll have to do another test to really know for sure. Hell, maybe several more tests!

I'll not make any recommendations here. Your choice how you do your bacon. I can only say at this point, for myself, what ever differences are present are not worth making a big deal over.


Edited by Bombdog (log)

Dave Valentin

Retired Explosive Detection K9 Handler

"So, what if we've got it all backwards?" asks my son.

"Got what backwards?" I ask.

"What if chicken tastes like rattlesnake?" My son, the Einstein of the family.

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Is bacongasm a word? If not, it certainly should be. I can see that we will be eating a lot more bacon.

Thanks for the comparison, bombdog. For the time being, I'll keep doing what I did earlier this week!


Susan Fahning aka "snowangel"

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Great looking bacon! I agree, I'll be hard pressed to go back to store bought after the wonderful results of home made. When I gave my brother a year of "Bacon of the Month Club" a while back, their favorite of the year was a garlic stuffed bacon. I may try that next, where you insert whole cloves of garlic into the belly before the cure.

Now here's my peperone report. Two weeks ago I made a batch with only 2 grams of Bactoferm instead of 20. I also added 4 tsp of ground black pepper. I used a piston type stuffer instead of the auger on my grinder and only used the coarse plate to grind.

What a difference! The texture is much improved due to the change in grind and the new stuffer. It cured up great and has a more "meaty" flavor. I'll back the black pepper back to 2 tsp. next time, but all told, quite a success.

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This must not be my day. No bacongasms at my house. This is the finished cold-smoked bacon, and some eggs I had in the smoker too to see what they'd do. Not much, in case you're wondering.

gallery_16307_2661_56281.jpg

looks just like bacon, right?

gallery_16307_2661_64282.jpg

But it doesn't really "taste like bacon" to us. There were three of us tonight, and we all agreed that we want more smoke flavor, and I think it ought to have a more "cured" flavor as well. It tastes like a delicious, lightly salty, lightly sweet, lightly smoky piece of pork, but lacks that distinctive bacon flavor. I used the basic cure, and 1/4 cup of maple syrup.

Perhaps we're missing the hickory flavor, having done it over applewood? But I've had applewood-smoked bacon that was really smoky, so I'm skeptical about that explanation. Nonetheless, I think I'm going to put it back in the smoker tomorrow over hickory and see if I can get it a bit more thrilling. Any other suggestions? I hate to be a bacongasm wet blanket!

Thanks for the side-by-side, Bombdog. It's a surprise to me that there was so little diffference.


Edited by Abra (log)

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Abra, it sounds like you have had the day from hell.

For one thing, I think I would go ahead and put it back on the smoker. One of the things a whole mess of us have always thought, and we could be absolutely totally wrong on this is that the meat quit absorbing the smoke when it reaches about 140 degrees (F), so if you pulled it off at 80, that might have made a difference. Hopefully, you'll have better bacon karma tomorrow, and if you put it back on, you'll not think we are all crazy. And, given what bombdog said, I don't think there's any reason not to hot smoke it (at the 200 max suggested by the book).

BTW, what did you decide to do about the pancetta? I'd skin it, add cure to the unskinned side and re-hang it.


Susan Fahning aka "snowangel"

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Abra, one guess about the lack of smokiness may be that when cold smoking, the process requires more time. One book I own -- Professional Charcuterie by John Kinsella and David T. Harvey -- recommends cold smoking bacon for 10 hours, minimum.

As for the lack of cure flavor, my guess is that additional smoke may amplify that somewhat. But, if you started with a particularly large belly, it's also possible that it didn't cure long enough or that enough cure was not applied. I think the recipe in the book is for a 5# belly. If your starting with a larger belly, or one that is particularly thick, the amount of cure called for in the recipe may not be enough.

Sorry about the bad day.

=R=


"Hey, hey, careful man! There's a beverage here!" --The Dude, The Big Lebowski

LTHForum.com -- The definitive Chicago-based culinary chat site

ronnie_suburban 'at' yahoo.com

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Hmm, 10 hours, eh? There's a long way from 4 (mine) to 10 (theirs) and that might be a big part of it. There's no way I could stand to fiddle with a little fire of wet wood for 10 hours, though! As to the cure, the belly half was only just under 3 lbs, so I don't think the cure amount was off.

I'm still mulling over the pancetta problem. For sure skinning and re-hanging are in its near future, but as to adding additional cure, or just seasoning, and whether to re-roll or just let it hang flat, I'm not sure. I'm hoping Michael Ruhlman will come and save the day by telling me definitively what to do. But I really do appreciate all of your suggestions and commiserations. Normally I have more successes to report, so I'm uncharacteristically bummed tonight.

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Adam, bacon is almost always smoked here. Fruit woods like apple are common, but much of the bacon available in supermarkets has a really strong hickory smoke.

Sweet cures seem to be popular (maple, honey, brown sugar). Often too sweet for my taste. I used the dextrose version of the cure for the bacon I made recently because I wanted to cut back on the sweet flavor. The first batch was smoked over hickory because that's all I had at the time. I got some apple wood chunks for the second batch (much better!)

We can get pancetta here. I used to have to go to an Italian grocery to find it, but now it's turning up in regular markets. I still haven't found guanciale - my local supermarket carries smoked hog jowl, but I've never seen unsmoked outside of the Italian specialty stores.

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After reading this thread and playing with the new smoker, I (of course) had to order the book. I cannot wait to try some sausages, but I am especially looking forward to some bacon after looking at some of these photos.

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To the best of my knowledge here is ths skinny on smoke.

The smoke ring itself will stop formation after 140ºF

As far as smoke absorbtion, product will take on smoke for as long as you apply it.

At least I believe that is correct.

woodburner

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