The Domestic Gourmet – Ben
Through The Domestic Gourmet series, you’ve been introduced to most of my siblings. Adeline is the eldest of all of us. The next is my sister Allison. Then there’s me. The youngest is my baby sister Adrienne. But that’s not all! As I briefly mentioned in Adrienne’s post, she’s a twin. Meet my only brother: Ben.
Yes, my poor brother grew up perpetually outnumbered by females in our household. I suspect that we probably subjected him to more than his fair share of teasing. We used to give him all sorts of nicknames, much to his annoyance, such as Tofu-Boy (he went through a period of eating lots of tofu), Mun-Jun-Tello (he loved Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles when he was young and we just combined his Chinese name with Donatello), and Benny-Bunny (not sure where that one came from – think it just sounded catchy).
Not that his childhood was filled with incessant bullying. Ben, like Adrienne, fondly remembers gathering feijoas from the trees behind our garage when he was young. Another favourite childhood memory he has is eating my mother’s potato egg dish, something we all used to love (and I know that at least two of us still cook this for our families).
I was pretty amazed when Ben started to make his own bacon. Cooking wasn’t always one of his strong points. It wasn’t that he was a bad cook, he just liked to experiment right from the first time he put food to frypan. Sometimes it worked out really well, and sometimes… not so much. However, this spirit of experimentation explains why he likes to try things which others might not think of. He started off curing and smoking fish and once he realised that bacon could be made in a similar way, he decided to give it a try. Once he started researching, he realised “how many additives and crap are in store-bought bacon… I wanted to make a ‘healthier’ option, or as healthy as you can get with bacon.”
One of his favourite food experiences has been dining at Sepia Restaurant in Sydney, where he now resides. He tells me that his cooking is influenced by watching TV shows like Masterchef. Ultimately, when Ben cooks, he aims to “make an end product which looks good and tastes good and is appreciated by others.” This recipe certainly does this, and I for one appreciate good bacon!
Even though he’s my little brother and he lives in a different country now, I can see how far he’s come (and not just in terms of the kitchen). From our childhood days when I used to beat him up and swindle him out of his best basketball cards (I knew I could take advantage of his undying love for the Indiana Pacers), to seeing him go out into the world and take on new adventures fearlessly, an older sister couldn’t be prouder of her baby brother.
So here is Ben’s bacon recipe – and just maybe it will inspire some of you to try something new in the kitchen.
boneless pork belly (either with or without the rind)
1/3 C of sugar per kilogram of meat (dark sugars work best, such as sugar cane or brown sugar)
1/3 C of salt per kilogram of meat (flaked sea salt works best)
2 Tbsp cracked pepper
2 Tbsp onion powder or garlic powder
Optional – try other spices such as cayenne pepper, sweet paprika, chopped fresh garlic or chilli to make different variations
To cure the pork belly, combine all ingredients in a bowl. Cover the pork belly with the mixture evenly before placing in an airtight ziplock bag. The rind on the pork belly helps to keep the meat and fat of the pork belly together; if you choose to use rindless pork belly, I suggest using skewers in the meat to hold it in a nice plump slab. The rind can be cut off after the pork belly has been cured.
Place the pork belly into the fridge and every 24 hours, flip the meat over to ensure the cure is mostly even over both sides of the meat. This will need to be completed for a total of 7 days.
After the 7 days, open the ziplock bag and drain all the excess liquid before washing and drying the meat. At this stage you have already made bacon! (A helpful hint is to take a cut from the slab and fry it in a pan on a low heat to determine the level of saltiness. If you find that it is too salty for your liking, the meat can be soaked in water for an hour or two to expel excessive salt.)
You can now cut the bacon into 5mm slices or alternatively you can proceed to smoke the bacon. Prior to smoking the bacon you can either keep the slab of bacon whole or slice it up (slicing it up allows for a larger surface area for the smoke to bond to). Either way, the bacon will need to be kept in the fridge overnight to form a pellicle to which the smoke can bond to.
The bacon will need to be cold smoked if it is to be kept. Otherwise, a hot smoke can be completed, but the bacon will need to be cooked immediately after. Smoke the bacon for an hour with your preference of wood chip.
Once smoked, place in the fridge for a few hours to firm up the bacon which allows for easier slicing. Cook the bacon on a low heat to your desired preference.
The bacon is able to be stored in the fridge for up to two weeks.
Ben’s extra notes: my preference of wood chip is to use a manuka wood or for a subtle flavour, beech wood. Fruity woods such as cherry and apple also do well, but if you want a bold flavour, hickory is the obvious choice. My two favourite ways to have this bacon is either on Eggs Benedict, or I make thick 1cm cuts of the bacon, place them on skewers and glaze them with honey before cooking!
Rice & Kai notes: I made the bacon using about 400g of pork belly. I hot smoked it in my wok at home (check out this link if you want to find out more about smoking in a wok), which is much easier to do if you don’t have a cold smoke box. I then cut it into lardons to cook a panzanella caprese pasta bake. Again, dicing the bacon is much easier than trying to slice it thinly if you don’t have a fancy slicer like my brother. Make sure you take note of Ben’s hint for how to check the saltiness of the bacon once it is cured. I never realised that making bacon was so easy and will definitely try it again.
This post is part of the monthly link up party Our Growing Edge. This event aims to connect food bloggers and inspire us to try new things. This month is hosted by Ash from Organic Ash. You can check out her lovely blog here.
You can find out more about Our Growing Edge by clicking here.