The word “bacon” usually refers to pork belly that has been cured and then smoked. An exception is back bacon, which is cured pork loin. “Canadian bacon” is what Americans call back bacon that has been smoked.
Below are some notes on making bacon at home.
A Quick Tour of the Pork Belly
Before I started buying pork by the side, I ordered slabs of belly from Irvings Farm Fresh. A 5 lb slab was typically around $25.
Below is a slab of pork belly. You’re looking at the inside of the pig; the opposite side is covered with skin. The right side of this slab would have connected to the front shoulder of the hog. The left … Continue reading.
A detailed introduction to sausage-making at home: ingredients, equipment, theory, and procedures.
What are sausages?
Sausages are ground meat, usually stuffed into a casing, though there are certain sausages that aren’t in casings. For instance there are sausage “patties” and sausages en crepinette, which are patties wrapped in caul fat. For now let’s be content to say that sausages are ground meat stuffed into casings.
Why do we grind meat?
1. To tenderize
Meat is made of fibers that are surrounded by connective tissue, which are then bundled together in more connective tissue. Highly exercised muscles tend to be higher in connective tissue. Examples include:
- on a pig: shoulder, hock, neck
- on a cow: chuck, brisket, shortrib, shank
… Continue reading.
Traditionally, in North America the hock is a section of the front arm bone of the pig. On one end the elbow joint is severed. On the other, where the arm of the pig meats the body, a cut is made and the arm bone is sawed through. So on one end of the hock there is a clean joint, and on the other the circular cross-section of a bone.
In traditional British butchery it is the analogous section from the hind leg that is called the hock; that from the front was known as the hand.
Nowadays, whether taken from the forearm or the hind leg, both cuts are considered hocks. They are almost always processed into ham, that … Continue reading.
In the States this preparation is called Canadian bacon, but we usually call it back bacon. It’s more or less the same process as regular bacon, only done to a section of the loin instead of the belly. There’s an old style of back bacon from eastern Ontario called peameal bacon, in which a cured section of loin is rolled in peameal (crushed split-peas) before being smoked. Peameal bacon is still made down east, though nowadays cornmeal is used.
Back bacon is usually made from the eye of loin: the large, round muscle often made into centre-cut pork chops. You can also use the rib- and sirloin-ends of the loin, which have more fat and flavour than the centre. I … Continue reading.
A while back I wrote a post on cold-cut Bath chaps: a boned-out pig’s head, cured, rolled around the tongue, tied, poached, and sliced. While I was extremely happy with the look of those Bath chaps, they were pretty bland. I figure that the cure leached into the poaching liquid.
I had another go at the chaps with this fall’s pig. This time, instead of using a whole head, I used only one jowl, cured, and wrapped around the tongue.
After rolling and tying, I seared the meat over high heat. Once chilled, I vacuum-packed the chaps and simmered them for two or three hours. This was not proper sous-vide: though the meat was vacuum-packed, it wasn’t cooked in … Continue reading.
This is the single most useful preparation that I learned in Austria. It’s invaluable to establishments that use a lot of cured meat, but also a good trick to have in the home kitchen. It’s called Fleischknödel (approximately: “FL-EYE-SH KNUH-dl”). Fleisch just means meat, while Knödel is a type of dumpling that is popular in Austria and Bavaria. Fleischknödel is a fantastic way to use up leftover meat, whether cooked or cured.
Most cooks are familiar with how to use scraps of raw meat. When butchering a side of pork, for instance, you reserve the miscellaneous bits of meat and fat so they can be ground and used in sausages and forcemeat.
There’s also leftover trim when cutting cooked and … Continue reading.
I recently picked up some pickerel from Rebekah’s Fish at the Strathcona Market and took my first stab at cold-smoking on my barbecue.
To hot-smoke on my barbecue I just remove the grate from the righthand side and put foil packets of wood chips directly onto the flames. I put the meat on the left side, which remains off. This way the meat isn’t over direct heat and will cook evenly. With the right burner on a medium-low setting, the wood chips smolder and the average temperature inside the barbecue stays around 250°F.
The point of cold-smoking is to impart the flavour of the smoke without cooking the meat. Examples of food that you might want to keep raw are … Continue reading.
Würstlstände are Austrian sausage stands. They punctuate the sidewalks of every city in Austria. People from all walks of life crowd around these kiosks for, say, a quick lunch, or a post-bar snack: a sausage, fried or steamed, served with some manner of bread, mustard, and beer or pop.
While certain types of sausage appear on almost every würstlstand menu, it can be frustrating trying to pin down their characteristics, as a huge variety of sausages can go by the same name. Bratwurst, for instance, is sometimes based on pork, sometimes on veal, sometimes stuffed into slender lamb casings, sometimes into wider hogs…
Here are some very general descriptions of the most common würste:
- Burenwurst – Apparently a
… Continue reading.
While outsiders might consider Wiener Schnitzel or Apple Strudel the national dish of Austria, most Austrians acknowledge a special sausage called Käsekrainer (“KAY-zeh KREYE-ner”) as their greatest culinary achievement.
In a nutshell Käsekrainer is a sausage filled with little cubes of cheese. Like many classic Austrian preparations, it is not entirely an Austrian invention. Käsekrainer has the same relation to Austria that pizza and hot dogs have to the United States: they are unquestionably of foreign origin, but they have been adapted and adopted by the new country.
If you’ll allow me… let’s break down the word Kasekrainer…
“Käse” means cheese.
Krain is the German name for the Slovenian region of Kranjska, historically called Carniola by English-speakers. This is one … Continue reading.
Heurigen (“HOY-ree-gen,” singular heuriger) are special taverns in Austria that serve young wine or cider, depending on the region.
The word heuriger literally means something like “of the current year”. So for instance new potatoes are called heurige erdäpfel. With regards to wine it refers to wine from the last vintage, ie. wine that has not been bottled or aged. Heuriger taverns open up for a couple of weeks at a time so that guests can drink young wine and eat plates of cold food such as cheese, spreads, bread, and charcuterie. The word for these savoury accompaniments is brettljause (“BRET-tel YOW-ze”). Brett means board, as the food is usually spread out on a wooden board. Brettl, … Continue reading.