We’re Calling Our Valentine’s Bacon Done
February 14th, 2011 · 2 Comments · Posted in Blog, Recipes
Just as the sun was setting yesterday–eight and one half hours after I had first placed our cured pork belly in the smoker–the meat registered an internal temperature of 150 degrees. I declared our bacon done.
The bacon might have cooked a little quicker if the outside temperature had been warmer than 56 degrees–pretty warm for February. An instant-read thermometer inserted into the smoking chamber registered just under 190 degrees.
You might wonder what I did all day, besides occasionally adding fresh wood chips to the smoker. Well, shortly after noon my sister Linda called asking if we’d like to join her and husband Tom for lunch at one of our favorite Chinese joints: Joe’s Noodle House in Rockville, Md.
I don’t exactly recommend the drive to Rockville. Imagine your worst strip mall nightmare and multiply it 1,000 times. Making a left-hand turn off Rockville Pike is a major undertaking. But Joe’s Noodle House is special–authentic Szechuan and a menu with infinite choices.
I pulled up the Chowhound site to remind myself what the preferred dishes are at Joe’s. Gastronomes like the place because y0u can sample things like smelts with peanuts, seasoned shredded pork ear, duck tongue with basil, and pork kidney. I’m totally ready for the nasty bits. But in mixed company, we rarely order anything terribly exotic.
I normally stay away from starchy foods, but this is one occasion where I make an exception. I even had a couple of Tsingtao beers to wash it all down.
We just aren’t motivated that often to drive to Rockville, and unfortunately for us, that’s where all the great Chinese restaurants have located. The downton Chinatown–dwarfed now by the Verizon Center sports arena and the development it spawned–is a shadow of its former self.
By the time we got home from Joe’s the bacon had acquired a gorgeous mahogany color. The smoky aroma was quite intoxicating. When the meat had cooled enough to handle, I removed the skin–not difficult at all with a sharp boning knife. It peeled away smoothly, revealing an unctuous layer of silky fat. We’ll cut the skin into pieces and freeze it for later. It makes a great condiment for other dishes–or so I’ve been told.
I had to taste our handiwork, so I cut off a slice and fried it. Do I really need to tell you how good it was? I was startled and gratified by how distinctly all of the brown sugar, maple and hickory flavors asserted themselves. And of course the texture of the meat is unlike anything you’ve ever purchased from a store. It feels like real, honest-to-goodness meat on the tongue–almost primeval. How can we ever go back to store-bought bacon again?
What a great Valentine’s gift to ourselves. Thank you, Bev Eggleston and EcoFriendly Foods for supplying this incredible pork. And thank youi, Charcutepalooza, for leading us on this great meat curing adventure.