DSC08493watermarkWe’ve been working on a lot of spring projects as we wrap up February and move into beloved March. The break is over. Let the craziness of spring begin.

When we moved into this house, built in 1995, it had a front and back deck. The inspector mentioned in his report that both of them needed to be replaced. Well, not only was that obvious (you could see the wood rotting away in places), but in an effort to bring new life into them in order to sell the house, they had been painted a color that I can only describe as mauve. They were poorly designed, not to our taste, and downright hideous. But…so were a lot of things IN the house. Like every single light fixture, and the 1970’s wood stove, complete with orange and avocado green tiles. So it has taken us some time to get to the decks. But this winter, my sweet sweet husband tore off the old front deck (some of it literally using his foot), put in new piers and framing, expanding it considerably, and when the weather and money permitted, worked on getting the new decking in. This one is even attached to the house with actual concrete anchors rather than just nailed into the siding. Read the rest of this entry »

Ready for the Smoker

Ready to go into the smoker. Note the pork belly hangers are actually old wire hangers, trimmed down by my sweet husband at my request, so I could get 4 bellies in the smoker at once vertically, rather than on racks.

Way back in July 2010 (wow, I’ve been writing this blog for a while!) I wrote a piece on curing your own bacon. And its a good post, and reliable and solid advice. However, in the last 4 years I’ve amended how I cure my bacon a bit, after buying Michael Ruhlman’s book Charcuterie (Charcuterie is defined as all things relating to preserved meats). One of the things we noticed about the original cured bacon recipe is that it tended to burn easily in the pan. I attribute this to the large amount of sugar in the cure. I’ve also come to realize that a little bit of nitrite in your meat (like cholesterol) is not the end-of-the-world, cancer causing scourge we once were led to believe. See this fantastic rant by Ruhlman on the No Nitrite hoax in natural food markets or this more recent piece by Chris Kresser on why bacon isn’t the enemy.

So, the last time we made bacon, in 2014, we adapted our recipe to use pink salt (also known as Instacure #1). Pink salt contains 6.25% sodium nitrite. Adding it to your bacon rub or brine ensures 1) no nasties are gonna grow while its in the smoker and 2) retention of color. We also found this bacon to be less prone to scorching in the pan.

So without further adieu, is how we cure our bacon now. Either method works. Either method is likely very safe. Mostly we just like that the bacon is no longer burning in the pan.

Smoked Home Cured Bacon

Out of the smoker and oh so fragrant and yummy. We’re still using apple wood to smoke our bacon, and probably will for another 20 years, given how much we still have and where we live. It’s a readily available product, given the pruning that happens around here every year.

Home Cured Bacon Recipe (Redox based on this Ruhlman recipe, combined with Alton Brown’s advice)

Dry Cure Mix

  • 1 lb kosher salt (other salts may weigh less or more – if switching, use a scale)
  • 8 oz sugar
  • 2 oz (10 tsp) pink salt (InstaCure #1 – 93.75% table salt – aka sodium chloride, and 6.25% nitrite). Any old fashioned butcher will likely carry this, or you can order it online.
    Note: This will make more cure than you need. Just bag and tag it and use it later. It doesn’t go bad.

Bacon

  • One 3-5 lb slab pork belly. Ruhlman gives directions for skin on, but I’ve never gotten a pork belly with the skin on, so I shorten the cure time a bit because the skin is off.  If you find your bacon is coming out too salty, decrease the cure time the next go-round.
  • ¼ cup dry cure

Optional:

  • ½ cup maple syrup or packed dark brown sugar (or other sweetener – we like molasses)
  • Up to 5 cloves smashed garlic
  • 3 crushed bay leaves
  • 1 tbsp cracked black peppercorns
  • Any other herbs/spices of choice – see original posts by Ruhlman or Brown for suggestions.

Coat entire surface of pork with cure. Add optional sweetener, herbs, spices and/or garlic. Put belly in large zip top bag. You want a tight fit here so cure remains in contact with the bacon as it releases juices. You’ll likely need a gallon bag. Refrigerate for up to 7 days, flipping bag to redistribute cure every day. Have a tray underneath in case your bag leaks. Belly should feel firm when fully cured. If there are still squishy places, leave for up to 2 more days.

Bacon Cures Test

Where the bacon hits the skillet. This was a taste test of all four kinds we had smoked to see which one we liked the best.

Remove from cure and rinse thoroughly. Pat dry.

Dry meat in front of a fan for an hour to form the pellicle, which is essentially a skin that allows the smoke particles to stick. (I rotate the rack in front of my box fan 1/4 turn every 15 minutes.)

Smoke with method of your choice for about 4 hours.

Here are the recipes we recently tried.

  • 1/4 cup cure, 1/2 cup molasses, 1 tbsp crushed black peppercorns.
  • 1/4 cup cure, 1/2 cup molasses, 1 tbsp crushed black peppercorns, 1 tsp red pepper flakes.
  • 1/4 cup cure, 1/2 cup honey, 3 tbsp mustard powder.
  • 1/4 cup cure, 1/2 cup maple syrup, 1 tbsp black pepper, 1 tbsp mustard powder.

Our favorites, when we did a taste test of all four, were the molasses with the red pepper (surprise, we like all things spicy) and the maple syrup version. Play with the herbs and spices, based on what YOU like. I didn’t go in for the garlic. Too much for a breakfast meat, but that’s just me. Really, the sky is the limit as long as you get the dry cure part right.

Home Cured Bacon

Note how lean this bacon is. Not a bad thing in our book.

Also note that Ruhlman gives a recipe for bacon that isn’t smoked. Instructions state to “put it on a sheet tray and put it in the oven (put it on a rack on a sheet tray if you have one) and turn the oven on to 200 degrees F. (if you want to preheat the oven, that’s fine, too). Leave it in the oven for 90 minutes (or, if you want to measure the internal temperature, until it reaches 150 degrees F.).” So essentially, you can cook your bacon in a hot smoke smoker or you can cook your bacon in the oven, but you SHOULD cook your bacon before its considered “cured” and relatively shelf stable. He states that your cured bacon will keep in the fridge for a few weeks or in the freezer for several months. I’ve been known to push both of those times (we freeze bacon for up to a year – if it lasts that long).

This last batch of pork belly, when we purchased a whole pig from a local farmer, was leaner than usual. The farmer had warned us that the belly would likely not have a ton of fat. Turns out, I prefer my bacon a bit on the lean side, so we had NO issues with this. It’s wonderful and we are SO happy to be making our own again, after being out for about 6 months.

Miles Away Farm Blog © 2015, where we don’t eat bacon every day, but when we do eat bacon, we like it home cured, and we savor every bite!

IMG_20150130_131933watermark

Carrots. Healthy, nutritious and cheap.

I recently ran across an article in my Facebook feed, about a reporter taking the “Food Stamp” challenge. He attempted to eat only what he could purchase with the “average” food stamp allotment for an able bodied adult with no dependents, which is $29.69 a week. I had a bit of a rant about it on my personal Facebook page, pointing out that SNAP (the new name for food stamps) stands for SUPPLEMENTAL Nutrition Assistance Program. It’s not meant to be your sole source of nutrition if you are an able bodied adult. I also pointed out that the reporter had made some poor food choices, such as prewashed salad greens and nutritionally empty white bread. I proudly claimed that while it would be tight, I could certainly do much better nutritionally, and that I could ABSOLUTELY feed myself for $30 a week. Read the rest of this entry »

Welsummer Rooster

My Welsummer rooster Cray. He’s just recently finished his molt. Isn’t he gorgeous?

I’ve been raising chickens since about 2002. I grew up with chickens when I was really little, and it took me about 30 years to be able to get back to it. But with the exception of the year we moved from Colorado to Washington, I’ve kept chickens for the last 14 years. This was BEFORE the proliferation of back yard chicken raising blogs, websites and books. I bought a copy of Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens, my husband built a coup (which was also a dog house/pen – they shared a dividing wall – which helped keep the chickens safe from predators but also safe from the dogs at night). I talked a bit about all of this here.

It’s really only been in the last few years that I’ve raised chickens with more of an eye to getting them to pay for themselves by selling the eggs. Here is a brain dump of factoids I’ve learned about raising chickens over the last 14 years, all in one place. Read the rest of this entry »

Red Wine (L), Pear (R)

Concord grape wine vinegar on the left, pear cider vinegar on the right. Both in recycled whiskey bottles.

Vinegar, if you believe the natural living information feeds, can be used for everything from killing weeds to cleaning your windows to pickling your cucumbers to dressing your salad (all true). They also claim it can help you lose weight, kill heartburn, and remove warts (more hit and miss), and the true believers will tell you it kills cancer cells (well, in a test tube). Regardless, it’s a fantastic substance to have on hand. I generally buy it by the gallon during canning season, and have used it as a natural cleaner for years. Read the rest of this entry »

Homemade Mustard

Coarse beer mustard on the left, Dijon on the right.

I’ve talked about how learning to bake your own bread and make your own yogurt and granola are probably the gateway recipes when striving towards a more self-sufficient lifestyle. I think making your own mustard should be added to that list. It’s super easy, it’s almost impossible to mess it up, it doesn’t cost much (I recently bought about 2/3 cup of bulk whole yellow mustard seed for $2.25 – enough for 12 oz of finished mustard), there are about a million variations, and it can be really really tasty. Read the rest of this entry »

I love the space between Christmas and New Years. Time to organize. Time to relax. Time to assess the old year and plan for the new. Wishing you all a happy and healthy 2015.

May you see the beauty in the small things.
Moss on a tree Read the rest of this entry »

Happy Bell PepperWhat gardener doesn’t live for the warm season crops? The squash, the corn, the peppers, and of course, swoon, the tomatoes. As we work our way through the 2nd week of December, and approach the shortest day of the year on December 21st, I dream of the summer just past and the summer to come. Here’s what worked, and what didn’t, for me in 2014. Read the rest of this entry »

IMG_20141123_124614watermarkThis wonderful and simple recipe was sent to me by my friend Lauri. It’s originally from Ortega, and calls for their 4 oz canned chilies. Since I roast and freeze my own chilies, I just use those. This makes a great breakfast (the leftovers are great for work the next day), and we’ve been known to have it for dinner when we are awash in eggs or in a hurry. Prep time is really fast, and its on the table in less than an hour. It’s also a great change of pace from the “all things turkey” after the Thanksgiving week-long leftover fest. Read the rest of this entry »

DSC08274watermarkWe’re on the tail end of a week where daytime temperatures haven’t gotten above freezing. Like the rest of the country, we’re in path of the “Polar Vortex” coming down from the great white north. It’s very unusual for it to be this cold (with snow on the ground to boot) this early in the season. Thankfully, Walla Walla is a big fat Zone 7 climate, and we haven’t gotten below zero, even at night, in the three years I’ve lived here.

We had an incredibly long fall, where we really didn’t get a significant frost until November 11th. I went out and picked the last of the tomatoes, hot chilies and sweet peppers a few days before. Seriously crazy. Our average first frost date is normally in late September, or early October at the very latest. Read the rest of this entry »

Jennifer Kleffner

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 307 other followers

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 307 other followers