Stories of life on our farm in Northwest Georgia where every day is an adventure in this beautiful spot that God has entrusted to our stewardship.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Smoking Hot Bacon on a Freezing Cold Morning

Dec. 1 was a snappy cold morning with a heavy frost on the ground, and we got up before the sun came up.

Jenny went out to feed the animals in the barnyard while I got dog food ready in the house.

As soon as we'd fed the dogs and ourselves, we got to work on the bacon.  The first step was to rinse it, removing all of the curing salt.

Each plastic container that had held two slabs of bacon yielded about a half cup of liquid this time.  I had drained the bacon once before, but got only a little liquid.  This is liquid that was pulled out of the meat by the curing process.

There was less liquid to drain out of the bacon that had been cured in Ziploc bags, but that was because some leaked out onto the bottom of the fridge.  I personally found the Ziploc method not worth repeating.  The salt that rubbed against the "zippers" when putting the bacon into the bags made it impossible to close the bags tightly.  For the small investment, I much preferred the large rectangular plastic containers with lids.  I can easily stack and store them till they're needed next time.

Next we patted the slabs of bacon dry with paper towels and stacked them up to await their turn in the smoker.

We made foil packets of wood chips and poked holes in the top with a fork, laying them directly on the heating coil of the smoker.  We smoked two batches with applewood chips and two with hickory.

Once the smoke was evident, we put the bacon on the racks and closed the lid.

Then we set the timer for 45 minutes and waited . . .  Tai was very interested (and hopeful) about the whole project.

What a marvelous smell wafted forth!  We were feeling very interested and hopeful, too!

After we took the bacon out, I discovered that the electric coil was burning right through the foil which was then sticking to the coil.  I learned several things:
1)  Even when you think the packet of coals has cooled off, do NOT drop it into a plastic can lined with a plastic garbage bag!
2)  If the hot coals melt through the plastic bag and garbage can, do NOT dump them out inside the house!  Especially if your aim is bad and some misses the sink and ends up on the throw rug.

3)  Do NOT dump burning coals off a throw rug onto the vinyl floor!  It is much easier to replace a throw rug than to live with coal holes in the floor!

I also learned that chips placed directly on the coil make very good smoke because they catch on fire.  The bacon will still get smoked, but the fire isn't good for the paint on the smoker.

We have since purchased a stainless steel smoker box to hold chips when smoking for a short time, and we have switched to chunks of wood when smoking for a longer time (like for a ham).

I also learned that despite making a few silly mistakes, smoking turns out some beautiful-looking bacon!  Did you know that store-bought "Hickory Smoked Bacon" has probably never been near a wood chip, much less a smoking one?  An article from the University of Wisconsin-Madison magazine describes their bacon-curing class:  "The class observes how to add flavor using an injector machine, a method that replicates the results of older and much slower practices of dry curing. The pork belly moves along a conveyor belt beneath a row of pumping needles connected to hoses that deliver water and a foamy mixture containing the liquid smoke. While the smoky smell is almost overpowering, there’s no smoke anywhere."

Yum!  Just think about it--when did you last see bacon that looks like this in a grocery store?  I assure you, smoking involves heat which partially cooks the bacon, so if your bacon is pink and raw-looking, it has more likely been poked than smoked!

Once the bacon was cooled, I packaged it with our Vacmaster Pro.  I love using the bags with a ziploc on one end because that way you can remove the bacon, slice some off and return it to the fridge.

After marking the packages with weight, wood flavor and date, we put them into the freezer.

Except, of course, for one slab that we couldn't wait to try for breakfast the next morning!

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