Monday, November 12, 2012

Frankenbacon - The Dilly Diaries

I've always felt like my life has been all about walking a fine line. My wife would tell you that I hate change, that the status quo is my BFF, I've learned it's just safer not to argue with my wife for two reasons: a) it's generally unsafe and b) she's normally pretty spot on.  Admittedly, I like things that might be considered "classics" as well as things that are paradigms of order and codification such as Escoffier and german engineering.  I'm not really sure how I came to love ABBA though, gonna have to take a mulligan on that one.  So while one side of my brain strives for order the ADD side of things is just chaos and wonders how far it can push things.  How this normally manifests itself is that I follow a recipe once with as little deviation as possible, then once I have a basic understanding of the steps and flavor profile I can riff wherever I want.  

Charcuterie follows a similar path, there is a lot if order and pigeonholing of techniques but my mind got to thinking, "How far can I push something and still consider it and extension of the original?  At what point do I stretch so far from home-base that I hit a home run, or more likely, foul one into the stands, all the while swinging as if my life depended in that one last at bat?"  And I figured what better canvas than bacon!! 

I feel that I've gotten pretty solid with makin' bacon.  I've cured, smoked and sliced somewhere in the range of 24 full hog bellies.  I know that this is the equivalent of 2 minutes of operation at the Swift plant but for little ol' me, that's a lot of pig.  I've even stretched my wings a smidge and made some honey cured bacon coated with chile and black pepper that has been very well received.  But now I was ready to step up to home-base again, swing for the fences and see if I hit a home run or whiff.  

As it turns out, I did a little of both.  More importantly though, I learned some things which I hope to apply moving forward.  If you've been following my musings you might have already seen the start if this experiment.  If not or if you need a refresher you can read the short post here: Frankenbacon

As a quick recap I was trying out five new bacon cures to see how things might shake out.  All used Berkshire pork bellies from Eden Farms, 3% kosher salt based on the weight of the chunk of pork belly and 0.3% pink salt also based on the weight of the pork belly.  I also did another experiment on all five bacons which was during the smoking process and I'll get into that in a bit.  Today's post will be about the Dilly bacon and the rest will come through the week.  When I solicited suggestions on potential flavors to try a friend of mine, Graham, recommended dill pickle and this was my first attempt. 

Dilly's in the middle:

Dilly Bacon

762 grams pork belly
22.9 grams kosher salt (3%)
2.4 g pink salt (0.3 %)
2.5 grams coriander seeds, toasted and ground
6.5 grams dill seed
5 grams dried dill 
22 grams fresh garlic, sliced

All the dry stuff was mixed together and rubbed all over the belly, from sea to shining sea.  I let the belly cure in the fridge for seven days and flipped it daily.  After curing I rinsed the belly and let it sit overnight before applying smoke.  The belly was smoked for about 7 hrs then left to rest for a day before slicing, cooking and consuming.

First thoughts when putting the cure together was that the coriander was smelling awfully strong and I was concerned that it was going to overpower the cure.  I also wanted to get something acidic into the cure to get more pickle-like but was concerned about the effects of the acid on the raw meat during the long cure and thought I might end up with a dill flavored pork belly ceviche which sounds wrong on so many levels.  I little sleuthing around the inter-webs showed me an intriguing dehydrated vinegar but had neither the time nor inclination to try it on this evolution.   

Tasting Notes - In a word, "meh" with a solid shoulder shrug.  Boring with no heavy dill flavor infestation. I got a very mild hint of dill here and there but overall I was unimpressed.  That said, it was the favorite of my friends.   There was one other dimension to the flavor that I attribute to the smoking process as I tasted it across all five flavors and it can best be described as a pig funk, but in a kinda good way.  It's that funk you taste on cured pork products that have been aged for a really long time with just salt.  While not altogether unpleasant it definitely felt out of place and I didn't like it.  Regarding the Dilly overall, I'm not feeling drawn to go forward with a second evolution.  I just don't feel I had any solid flavor integration successes to step forward from.  As someone wise recently told me, "You gotta kiss a lotta frogs before you find the prince!"  This was definitely a frog. 

As I noted in my original Frankenbacon post I wanted to incorporate hops during smoking and even went so far as so do a test burn with full hops and pellets.  The full hops burned well during the test but I had concerns regarding how fast they might burn and the space they would take up in my a-maze-n smoker so switched to hop pellets.  I scored 1 oz of liberty and 1/2 oz of Saaz hops pellets from my buddy Mike and dispersed them throughout my mix of oak pellets, lit the smoker and walked away.  After smoking was completed I noticed residual oils in the a-maze-n smoker and a slight undercurrent of burning vegetal smell but not much else.  Also, I learned that hops is very closely related to marijuana and wondered what my neighbors must have been thinking after smelling my smoker going for 11 hours straight.  Thankfully I didn't have my door busted down by the DEA so all is good.  Oddly enough I went through a bag of Cheetos waiting for the bellies to finish smoking.   I don't know if the bacon funk was because the pellets were on the older side of things but they had been properly stored.  It was a fun experiment but not one I plan on repeating anytime soon.   


Nicole T said...

I really enjoyed the dilly bacon. Seriously, it was my favorite. But now that you say "pig funk" well... hmmm. Maybe that gave the bacon a pickle-like quality? I say try again. I'll bet there's a hungry horde willing to take it off your hands :-)

Jered said...

I'm willing to give it another shot. Interestingly, while it wasn't my favorite it was the preferred bacon of just about everyone else (except the vegetarians). I have a couple ideas on how to tweak it so might give it another shot when I do round II of the bulgogi bacon.

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