Saturday, January 12, 2013

2013: the year of bacon. The quest for the perfect rasher

Rasher is a word in the English language that refers to a thin slice of bacon.  It's a wonderful word that conjures memories of sizzle of bacon frying in the pan, the salty taste of the first crunchy bite of bacon stolen from the cook, and the smell... oh the smell...

If you ask for 6 rashers in the store, they shouldn't have to ask you, 'what?'  A rasher is bacon, bacon when slices, is a rasher.

It's like saying there is a murder up above, or look at that parliament in the tree over there (murder refers to a group of crows, parliament a group of owls).  English is rich with words that have very specific meanings and context.  It saddens me how few people use these.  A flock is almost never called a flock (unless it is referring to sheep, chickens, or mixed birds) and bacon should never be called a slice.

For me, the year 2013 is the year where I will learn to make the king of all meats: Bacon.

I hope to be making a lot of bacon (and other cured meats) this year.  But it's not so easy as it sounds.  You have to find a good recipe and even more important you have to find a source of ingredients that you trust.

I picked up this book from the Library: Charcuterie .  It has all sort of recipes for salting, smoking, drying and preserving meats.  It also has some really interesting recipes for vegetables too, including a really good sauerkraut recipe, and a lot of great sauces.  But the reason I'm interested in it is for the Bacon!

They have a basic bacon recipe and some really neat variations.  I cannot wait to try them all.

But there is one thing I need to make bacon, bacon.  It's the modern equivalent of an ingredient people have been using to cure meats for centuries: Pink Salt, Cure Powder 1, or Prague Powder 1.  It's salt and Sodium Nitrite and is a controlled substance in Canada.  Apparently you can use this to make something that goes boom - I didn't look into what it was exactly because things that go boom only interest me if I can eat it (like popcorn).  But it did make me laugh when I found out why it is a controlled substance: Exploding Bacon...mmmmm....

But seriously, it's also one of those ingredients that you really have to use correctly.  Consume too much or use it in the wrong way (like for table salt - that's why Americans colour theirs pink, to avoid this confusion) and bad things happen to your body.  But use it correctly, and it no only tastes great, it protects you from harmful bacteria in cured meats.

It took me over a month to find somewhere that sells this pink salt stuff.  In the end I found a company out of Vancouver called Stuffers.  They have the most impressive service I've seen in many years.

I emailed Stuffers with a vague question that went something like, "I want to make some bacon and I need this number one stuff that I think might be somehow related to pink salt."  And they replied, "oh yes, you need exactly this. I have a shipment going out later today and one tomorrow, it will get there sometime next week." It was the most enjoyable shopping experience I've had in a very long time.

They both wholesale and retail their product and the price was quite reasonable.  They cater to hunters, back to the land types, foodies, restaurants, and other sorts of people.  The retail section of the shop is a bit difficult to find on their webpage, you have to go to 'ingredients' then choose 'retail'.  The curing salt I'm using for my bacon is on the second page of the retail section, direct link here.

(no I didn't get any special gifts from them to sing their praises.  Although, if someone felt like donating their kitchen product to me, I would be more than happy to review it on my blog, but I would state how I came by the item)

So there you have it, all the background work that needs doing before I can make bacon.  I have the pork belly on order, the curing salt, a recipe, and all the other ingredients all ready.   Fingers crossed the pork belly gets here soon!

Allergy notes: Some people have a very bad reaction to nitrite.  Also, and I know it's a rare allergy, but the Prague Powder 1 I bought says that it contains Propylene Glycol as a manufacturing aid.


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