Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Charcutepalooza - It's Bacon

I've discovered something about myself...at the tender age of 45 I'm amazed that there are still things I don't know...about myself that is.  I'm not amazed that there are things I don't know in general.  What I've discovered is that I'm an instant gratification kind of girl.  When I want something, I pretty much want it now.  Right now!  You are probably thinking...how could you not have known this about yourself?  How can this be a revelation?  Well, let me explain.

I've always been patient.  I've set my goals, worked hard, enjoyed my rewards.  I eat my veggies first, then my meat and then my dessert.  I save the best for last.  I savor the anticipation, the planning, the dreaming.  Sometimes, I've thought the lead up to an event was better than the event itself.  Just sometimes.  Until recently.  Recently, I haven't wanted to wait.  I don't want to anticipate, savor, plan.  I want the experience and I want it now.  As I'm writing this, not really knowing where it's coming from...I just realized where it's coming from and where it's going.

February 17th is the one year anniversary of my mom's death.  It's been lurking in the back of my mind...hovering there...waiting to step forward and make itself known.  I've been wondering whether it was going to be like a sharp slap in the face or a gentle caress of a warm and loving memory.  Now I know...I still have some processing to do...some coming to terms...some mourning and some celebrating.  It's funny, the death of a parent...the ways it affects you.  I've realized life is short (mom was only 67) and waiting for stuff is way overrated!  Hence, if I want it...now is okay...never know what tomorrow will bring. 

At this point you are probably wondering where the hell this is going.   Sorry...the title does say bacon doesn't it!  Ok...I'm participating in a year-long series of challenges...all wrapped up in bacon.  Well, maybe not all wrapped up in bacon...but this month's challenge has been all about bacon.  I'm playing with about 300 other bloggers in Charcutepalooza...the brain child of Cathy Barrow and Kim Foster.   We're going to be exploring Michael Ruhlman's Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing.  

The funny thing about where I am in my life right now with the whole instant gratification thing is that charcuterie is not about instant gratification.  It's not even about waiting a little bit.  It's about long, slow processes that yield incredible edibles...that in the end you decide are well worth the wait.  So, I find I have to restrain the instant gratification girl (or let her make cupcakes or cookies to keep her happy) to participate in this adventure.  And, I don't think this is a bad thing.

The first challenge was to make duck prosciutto...which I have made and it's waiting to be eaten.  As it was the first challenge, and many folks weren't quite ready yet, we are allowed to post about the duck prosciutto anytime this year.  So, stay tuned for my post on hanging breasts in my wine fridge and then in my closet!  For the rest of the year, we post our challenges on the 15th of the month.  Hey, that's today!  Yeah!  I'm on time.

February's challenge was all about salt cures.  There are two challenges each month...an apprentice challenge and a charcuterie challenge.  For February, I only managed the apprentice challenge...which was to make fresh bacon.  You heard read that right...we're making bacon!  It's actually a very simple process.  Get a belly (pork belly for this family), get some pink salt (have to order it...can't buy it over the counter in California), and dextrose, make a cure, pat your belly with the cure, bag it up, put it in the fridge, flip it every other day for 7 days (or maybe 9 if your belly's fat), rinse it, roast it, slice it, eat it!  

That's it!  Very, very easy.  Kind of!  Sourcing the belly and pink salt took a little effort.  Remembering to flip the belly every other day was a little difficult, since the belly resided in the fridge in the garage...so I didn't see it every day when I was getting the milk out.  But, I managed to remember!

We are not posting the charcuterie recipes, so please check out Ruhlman's book to see how simple it really is.  What we are posting is our own recipes that we make using the monthly charcuterie item.  When the bacon came out of the oven after it's slow roasting, I took a large nibble off the end and so did Ethan.  We both swooned with pleasure.  He wanted to know if we could slice it and eat it right then.  It was 9 pm and I had to say no, wait til morning.  So, in the morning we did slice it and fry it and eat it.  Just like that.  No special recipe...just fabulous, thick, juicy, crunchy bacon.

Did I mention that I had purchased two pork bellies, each about 14 lbs a piece.  The first belly, I cut in half and made a sweeter bacon (by adding some brown sugar to the cure) with half and a non-sweet bacon (which is actually going to be applewood smoked) with the other half.  So, we've got about 12 lbs of fresh bacon (a little weight is lost in the curing process as the bacon dries).  Think about that.  12 lbs!  When you buy bacon, you usually buy 12 - 16 ozs

When I got home from the new store on Saturday (another long week)...I was starving.  Because even though I help hundreds of moms feed their families every month, I can't seem to remember to feed myself when I'm working.  I decided a BLAT was necessary.  This is my own recipe...which everyone has made themselves, I'm sure (except, probably not with homemade bacon and maybe not with citrus sea salt).

BLAT - Bacon, Lettuce, Avocado & Tomato Sandwich

Two slices of country white bread, the softer the better.
Homemade Citrus Sea Salt
Sliced Tomatoes
2 butter lettuce leaves
Slice Avocado
3 thick slices of home made bacon

Fry up the bacon and drain.  Reserve your bacon fat to add to all sorts of things in the future.  Slather your bread with mayo, artfully arrange your tomato slices on one slice of bread.  Sprinkle with the citrus sea salt and fresh cracked pepper.  Arrange your lettuce leaves on the other slice of bread and add the avocado slices.  Strategically place the bacon slices over the avocado slices to cover as much of the bread as possible.  Do a little magic and flip the slice with the tomatoes over onto the slice with the lettuce, avocado and bacon.  Slice and eat.  (And don't tell anyone in your family about it, or they will all want a bite...even though they have eaten lunch already and you haven't!)

I can't wait to see what we're making next month...I bet you can't either.


Mosaica said...

Steph --beautiful bacon! I'm also planning a big bacon-makin' extravaganza right around tomato harvest time :-) Okay, well, I'll probably be making bacon when salad season rolls in this spring too.

Warm thoughts to you from Vermont :-)

Cher said...

Steph - that is so cool. I think you deserve both a BLAT (the sandwich) and a blat (a good cry - but only if you want or need one). This is bad, because now you've piqued my interest... (and I need a new hobby like I need a hole in the head :-) )

Anonymous said...

Kudos to you and your bacon! It looks really delicious!

Mardi @eatlivetravelwrite said...

Your bacon and BLAT are so beautiful! So glad you're playing along!

lola said...

This is fascinating! I've been wanting to make sausages. I need to check out Charcuterie.

Anne-Marie said...

I'm so sorry you lost your mom, Steph, and at such a young age. It doesn't matter how old they are or we are, when a parent leaves they leave a big hole. I wish you strength as you work through the anniversary of her passing.

Ann (napangel) said...

Everything is better with bacon, right?!

By the way, I've awarded you the Stylish Blogger Award!



Jen Vela said...

Thanks for stopping by! Your bacon is absolutely gorgeous!

Betsy said...

Your bacon looks amazing! I'm trying to convince my husband to join in the Charcutepalooza. He made the pancetta I used for this week's green beans recipe for FFwD (it's been in the freezer a while).

I'm sorry about your mom. It takes time to find space for a mother's absence, or at least that's the way I felt about it when I lost my mom (she was 68) about 4 years ago.

Lana said...

Yeah, you have all this time and curing bacon is really no work. As if! I admire you, really. Your energy is incredible.
I am sorry about your mom's passing. I am lucky that both of my parents are still alive, but I can only imagine the degree of solitude I will fell one day. You do not have the luxury of even pretending that somebody is taking care of you. You have to be it, once your mother is gone. Very hard to deal with that.
I recently lost a wonderful friend to a car accident. He would have turned 50 in a couple of months. I understand what you want to say with not wanting to wait any more. I feel the same. There is really no time to delay our wishes, our plans, our dreams. This is it.

Couscous & Consciousness said...

I'm so sorry you lost your Mum - that grief process is an interesting journey, and even long after that grief can creep up on you at moments when you don't expect it.

But yes, even though life is short, there are still some things that are worth taking your time over, and home-cured bacon is definitely one of them. Your BLAT looks wonderful - what are you doing with the other 19 lbs?!

Sue :-)

luciacara said...

This is so interesting! You are making me want to get this book - sounds really good. I'm ooking forward to reading more of your charcuterie challenges. We've had BLTs a bunch of times in the last week or so...my DH would love homemade bacon for 'em. Yours looks great.