Thursday, April 3, 2008

Homemade is Better Made! (Canadian bacon)

As I’ve said before, I’m intrigued by the idea of making my own cured meats. I feel like it’s really becoming a lost art. Maybe it’s because people think it’s hard or requires expensive equipment. That’s what I thought. Or maybe it’s because people think that they could just as well buy ham and salami at the market, so why bother? What I’m finding is that it’s neither hard nor expensive, and when everything turns out right, it’s better than what I can get at the market. I also like the idea of seeing the process through. Pick out the ingredients, watch the transformation and enjoy the taste. It really is quite rewarding.

For my first attempt at curing, I chose to do Canadian bacon, the recipe for which I adapted from Charcuterie (see the left side bar). It really is so easy. The only special things you’ll need is pink salt (aka Prague powder #1 or Instacure #1 or sodium nitrite curing salt) and a smoker, although the smoker is not really necessary. Roasting in a oven should work just fine. I don’t have a smoker, but my neighbor allowed me to use his (thanks Dennis!).

The results were far better than I expected. I was afraid the pork would be too salty or dry, but the brine salted the meat perfectly and the pink salt gave the finished product a wonderful pink color. Without it, I think the color would have been grey. The texture was right on and it wasn’t dry at all. Smoking the pork gave it the extra touch, as you can imagine.

Canadian bacon
Adapted from Charcuterie
  • 2 quarts water
  • 6 oz kosher salt
  • 4 oz sugar
  • 0.75 oz pink salt* (see note)
  • 1 tbs coriander seeds
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 2 cloves garlic, lightly crushed
  • 1 ½ lbs trimmed pork loin
*Note: There seems to be a lot of controversy over pink salt. In some recipes, it’s required as it neutralizes the toxins given off by the botulism bacteria. For this recipe, I think it’s mostly used to give the meat a nice pink color after it’s been cooked. I recommend using it, but use only as directed. Consumed in large amounts, it can be harmful. You’ll probably need to order it online unless you’re lucky enough to know someone who has access to it.

In a large (non-reactive) pot heat the water with the other brine ingredients until all the salt and sugar is dissolved. Allow to cool to room temp before sticking it in the fridge to chill. When it’s completely chilled, add the pork loin. Make sure it’s completely submerged. Let the pork loin brine for 48 hours. I actually left it in for like 60 hours because I forgot about it and it still turned out fine. After that time, remove it from the brine and pat it dry. Let it sit in the fridge, uncovered, for 12 to 24 hours. It’s best if you can suspend it on a rack over a tray to let it drip and allow air to circulate around it. Hot smoke the pork loin at 200ºF until it reaches an internal temperature of 150º. This took me about 3.5 hours. If you don’t have a smoker, you can roast the pork in the oven and I’m sure the result will still be tasty. According to the recipe, the Canadian bacon can be kept for up to 10 days after it's cooked, but I'm sure it will be gone well before that time!

Before I "sign-off" I want to direct your attention to the Foodie Blogroll icon in the left side bar. I just joined because I like the idea of having so many food blogs at my fingertips! It's also a great way to network. I encourage you to take a gander.


Manggy said...

That looks good, and I love Canadian Bacon! Local cured meats here also use Prague Powder (called salitre). One day I'll give you a recipe for a local cured meat if I can find it (let's see how you like it!).

Nitrates increase the risk of gastric CA but in moderation we should all be fine, plus there's a trade-off regarding the botulism anyway.

Wandering Chopsticks said...

I can't believe you made your own Canadian bacon. That looks awesome. But your discussion of botulism scares me. On the other hand, cancer scares me too.

dp said...

manggy, please get me the recipe! I'd love to try.

wandering chopsticks, the botulism thing scared me too and prevented me from trying for a long time. But really, the chance of botulism poisoning is low here. I'm still working up the nerve to do those long-preserved, fermented meats like salami.

Anonymous said...

Looks delicious! I love Canadian bacon, you've got me hankering for some! : )

tigerfish said...

I salute you! I even make your own Canadian bacon!

Dee said...

tigerfish, it's really easy. Most of it is waiting time. It's just a test of patience, really!

Anonymous said...

That looks delicious! Have you tried the charcuterie plate at Higgins Restaurant & Bar? They make it all in-house. They have an excellent wine list and several beers on tap.

dp said...

James, Thanks! I haven't been to Higgins, but it's on our list!

VCK said...

There was an article in this week's Food Day about curing your own meat. Your post is very apropos!
Thanks for visiting my blog. I also live in Portland, am married to a mad scientist and maintain a food blog! Looks like we have a lot in common!