Friday, September 21, 2012

Crabbing and Camping

Well this last weekend we got a chance to get out of town and do a little camping and some crabbing on the coast. Not too many pictures, but I hope you enjoy what I was able to get between pulling crab pots.

Heading out early. Still a little cloudy but nice calm seas in Tillamook Bay.

Getting ready to throw pots

Cape Mears in the distance over Oceanview peninsula

Even the pelicans and seals wanted in on the action

The sun came out for a while...
... but then the weather turned and the wind started picking up. On top of that we started having engine trouble and decided to call it a day. We even got a Coast Guard escort back into the harbor, to make sure we were ok. 

In all, it was a pretty good day of crabbing. We came back with about 22 keepers, in 3 or so hours, that's not too bad.  

Here we all are cleaning the crabs and getting ready to cook them. Yes, we use the hatchet to split them in half, then clean out the guts before cooking them.

The rest of the weekend was spent relaxing by the camp fire and just generally having a good time with friends.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Canadian Bacon

Way back in July, for Independence Day, I had purchased a whole pork loin that I used part of for a stuffed pork roast. The rest of it has been sitting in my freezer since then. I decided that I needed to do something with it, and what could be better than bacon!?! Here in the U.S. bacon made from the loin is called Canadian Bacon, but in the rest of the world it's called Back Bacon, or just simply Bacon.

It's relatively easy to make, but requires some caution. Bacon is a cured product and as such requires the use of "cure" that is added to the meat. The cure does several things. First and foremost it reduces the chance of botulism by inhibiting the growth of the C. Botulinum spores. Second it gives meat that characteristic pink color of bacon and ham. Finally it changes the texture of the meat and flavor of the meat. Curing salts have traditionally been: Salt Peter (Potassium Nitrate), Sodium Nitrate or Sodium Nitrite. Salt Peter has generally fallen out of use as a cure ingredient, but both Sodium Nitrate and Sodium Nitrite are used today. Sodium Nitrite is by far the most common use in cures because it is fast acting. Sodium Nitrate can also be used as a cure, but it is slower acting, and as such tends to be used more for long-term curing projects like salami. Because both Nitrites and Nitrates are toxic when used in large amounts, you must be very careful to follow directions exactly when using them.

Today I'm going to use a product from Morton's, called Tender Quick, which despite it's name is not a product for tenderizing meat, but for curing meat. It contains both Sodium Nitrite and Sodium Nitrate in a salt carrier. It is used at a rate of 1 tablespoon per pound of meat.

I started off by cleaning most of the fat and silverskin off the loin. I couldnt' get it all, but that should be ok.

Then I weighed it. Almost exactly 2.5 pounds. This equates to 2.5 Tablespoons of Tender Quick. I measured this out, and added several other spices: granulated garlic, black pepper, turbinado sugar and a generous helping of Mad Hunky Meat's General Purpose Rub.

Then I gave it all a good mix

This rub was then applied to the loin. I did this over a clean cookie sheet, because you need to make sure all of the Tender Quick is evenly applied to the meat so you get the proper rate of cure. Once it was all rubbed in, I put the loin in a vacuum bag and added the rub that had fallen off to the bag too. Then I vacuum sealed it.

Now we need to give it time for the cure to work. The general consensus is 2 days per inch of meat. I like to add an extra day to this just to make sure the cure has made it all the way into the center. This hunk of meat was about 2 inches from the edge to the center, so that would be 5 days total (2x2)+1 = 5. During this curing time the meat must be kept between 36 and 40 degrees. Anything below 36 and the cure reaction is slowed down, and anything about 40 allows bacteria to grow at an increased rate. My fridge is set for 37 degrees and the loin will sit in there until the 5 days is up. I will massage it and flip it every day to make sure the rub/cure stays evenly distributed across the meat.

Well, it's been almost 3 weeks in the cure now. A little longer than I had planned, but life happens ya know? Anyway, This morning I rinsed the cure off the bacon, and here's how it looked.
A nice mahogany red color, and very firm. As is usually suggested, I did a little fry test on a couple pieces to check how salty it was. It had great flavor, but it was a little on the salty side. I attribute this to the extended time in the cure, plus the fact that both the tenderquick and the mad hunky rub have salt in them. To combat the extra saltiness, I put the bacon into a bowl and filled it with cold water and let it soak for half an hour to draw out the salt. After that, another fry test proved to be right on the money as far as saltiness goes.

So, without further ado, I pulled out the smoker and fired up the A-Maze-N smoker with a mix of hickory and pecan dust, and let it cold smoke for about two hours. Then I gradually increased the temperature of the smoker over the course of 8 hours until the internal temperature of the bacon hit 150. Well actually it made it up to 156 before I could pull it out, but that shouldn't make too much of a difference. Just after coming off the smoker:

I couldn't wait for it to cool and I sliced off a couple pieces to try.

So delicious. Once it's completely cooled I'll slice it up and package it for storage. This was a great experiment that ended with a great tasting product. Definitely something I will be making again.