It is that time of year again where we find ourselves elbow deep in porky goodness.
This year we have half a Tamworth hog, and so far the chops and sausage have been delectable. As usual we asked for the offal and we always get interesting reactions to the request. Often we get everyone’s livers, hearts and kidneys. One pork liver goes a long, long way. After making tons of pate’ we still end up feeding some to the dog and the extra protein is good for the chickens this time of year. Next year I’ll try making liver sausages… but that’s a discussion for another time.
The big effort this year has been sausage, bacon, guanciale, and ham. Iterating on our notes in the Charcuterie book, we made breakfast sausage with maple syrup, bangers, and chorizo. We made guanciale, which is still in the fridge salting, and fresh bacon. From the River Cottage Meat Book we made ham brine with cider and spices.
Both ham and bacon benefit from smoking but the method is different. Bacon needs a warmer smoke, not hot, but enough to get the meat temp to around 150° Fahrenheit. I have an old school charcoal smoker so this requires some skill. I am still honing those skills. 😉 The first batch took about four hours, and the next involved binge watching Netflix in 30 minute intervals into the wee hours of the morning. I finally figured out that adding charcoal around the edges an slowly pushing the hot coals toward the center of the grill which was heaped with damp apple wood pruning maintained the heat and the smoke well.
I fried off samples in the morning. Man that stuff is good!
The brine smells so delicious and after soaking in it for two and a half weeks its cidery, spicy tang still made my mouth water. Like all pre-smoking recipes this one called for letting it dry until a tacky “pelicule’ developed. This lets the smoke stick.
So out of the brine they come for a quick rinse in cold water…
and then we wrapped them in cheese cloth and hung them outside overnight… and this is why we harvest pigs in the late fall. Less feed cost and nature’s help with refrigeration.
Ham likes to be cold smoked in my opinion. Sitting in a smoker for 24 hours lets the smoke penetrate deep into the muscle. Given my aforementioned drama with the bacon this called for some mechanical assistance. I like simple no-moving-parts, no-special-fuel sorts of solutions. I hate the idea of those single serve coffee machines that come in individual plastic espresso pod thingies. Waste and being beholden to the maker’s whim for making the pods forever, and heaven forbid you don’t like the coffee they offer. (I just realized I am ranting… back to the smoker stuff.)
So I picked up an A-maze-n smoker. It burns pellets or sawdust, and I can experiment with my alder and apple. Lit with a propane torch, it merrily smokes for hours. I’ll try this with cheese and liver sausage soon too.
… and LeFemme is going to get tired of me giggling about the house each time I check to see that it is still smoking.