Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Frankenbacon - Hippity Hop Bacon

It should be patently clear by now that I'm a happily irreverent fellow as I'm regularly looking for new ways to do things, new flavor combinations and the like.  Interestingly this final bacon was actually the start of the whole idea of the frankenbacon experiments.  A good friend of mine, Mike S. (@guambrewer on Twitter), is a prolific and phenomenal home brewer and one day while helping him brew we got to talking about where our two hobbies intersect beyond the pie-hole love gravy that occurs when drinking a well-made brewski and eating some nice charcuterie. 

We agreed that the majority of beer-ish recipes are primarily an adaptation of an existing recipe but with beer added.  For instance, beer braised short ribs is just a basic short rib braise with the beer swapped out for the standard stock or wine.  Stout mashed potatoes?  Just a basic mashed tuber with beer added instead of stock or dairy.  Now don't misunderstand me, the majority of these things are tasty well thought out preparations, their only fail-point being a lack of creativity or ingenuity, knockoffs of the original if you will.  That said, there was only one really good outside the box recipe that I can point to and say, "that's something I’d like to make" and that's Hamilton’s hop sausage.     

I went to Hamilton's sister resto/bar, Small Bar, with another friend to try the hop sausage.  First off, I gotta give them props, the sausage was tasty but I was left a little underwhelmed.  The tube-steak reminded me of a Sweet Italian sausage with hops.  While tasty it didn’t seem very innovative.  During my meal I happened to get to talking with the cook who made the sausage and I inquired about the how it was made.  He just shrugged his shoulders and mumbled something about, "they just give me a bag of hops and I just toss it in the sausage mix."  He had no idea of ratio, quantity, etc. 

In respect to the tastiness of Hamilton’s hop sausage I wanted to go one step further and of course, use my preferred medium, pork belly.  As I previously mentioned beer is already added to various recipes with lots of bark but too little bite.  I wanted Bond, James Bond... intrigue, beguile, not Jean Claude Van Dam, all show and no go. So instead of just adding beer to the cure I decided to go with the primary ingredient that makes beer beer which is to say, hops.  I didn't want beer bacon, I wanted bacon that was reminiscent of beer.  As hops is the ingredient that gives beer its bitterness and contributes the majority of flavor components I was shooting to transfer a smidge of the bitterness as well as a the flavor profile of the hops into the bellies.  I also wanted a sweet component often found in bacon but staying within the vein of beer-dom I thought of Belgian Rock Candy which I’d often snack on whilst hanging out at Mike S’s. When I brought this idea up to Mike he recommended I instead use Belgian Candi Syrup, which would give me a similar flavor to the rock candy but coming in liquid form it might be easier to work with so that’s the route I took. 

I had the opportunity to speak to one of the brewers from AleSmith brewery about how best to get the hops flavor into the bellies and dismissed the idea of a dry rub as there would likely not be enough flavor transfer.  He instead recommended a hop tea which I decided to go with and I’ll outline the process below.  I did two Hop Bacons, one with the Belgian Candi sugar and one without. 

Hop Tea Bacon
920 grams pork belly
27.6 grams kosher salt
2.94 grams pink salt
22 grams Willamette hops   

Hop Tea/Belgian Candi Bacon
1254 grams pork belly
37.6 grams kosher salt
4 grans pink salt
22 grams Willamette hops
100 grams Belgian Candi Sugar

As with before the first three ingredients are the basic bacon cure.  For the hop tea I brought 2 cups of water to 200ºF, added the hops and allowed the hops to steep for 15 min.  I then strained the liquid, pressed on the solids to get as much liquid out as I could then returned the tea to the pot and reduced the tea from 1.25 cup to ½ cup. 

When I made the second bacon I only ended up with ¾ cup of hop tea and reduced it down to ½ cup.  I whisked the tea into the Candi sugar.

They’re the two on the right with the Belgian being the furthest to the right.   

Both bacons were allowed to cure then were rinsed and smoked just like the other Frankenbacons. 

Tasting Notes:  Again, not so much impressed.  As the bacon was edible I won’t call it a complete failure but I didn’t get the hops flavor I was hoping for.  Considering the cost of hops and the Belgian Candi Sugar ($10 for the jar in the picture) the cost-benefit analysis just didn’t work out in the bacon’s favor.  I’ll probably do more experiments in the future and I like the dark color achieved by using the Belgian Candi Sugar but I think I’ll call this one a dead end and think a little more about what direction to move. 


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