culinary hobbies…

Are the best hobbies, I’ve come to believe. I love being able to bypass entire aisles in the grocery store because the items in question we have made ourselves. Want some limp, pumped full of chemicals and salt water bacon? Nope! Made our own and it’s deliciously salt water and chemical free. Ham slice for your breakfast needs? Nah. Made some buckboard bacon that tastes exactly like ham. Need a package of corned beef for your St. Patrick’s Day festivities? No thanks! Threw a brisket in some spiced up brine and cured our own. How’s that for self sufficiency? I can’t tell you just how pleased I am that Erik has perfected the art of meat curing and smoking. It has led to many tasty breakfasts and dinners. And it’s led to much, much lower grocery bills. If that isn’t a great impetus for learning how to cure your own meats, I just don’t know what is. So here are two devastatingly simple recipes if you’re interested in learning to cure.

Buckboard Bacon

You Need:

a Boston butt pork roast (we used a 3 lb-er)
basic dry cure (recipe below) for this you will use about 1 Tablespoon and 1 1/4 teaspoon of cure per pound
honey (Erik guesstimates he used about 2 Tablespoons)

Basic Dry Cure
recipe from Charcuterie: The Art of Salting, Smoking and Curing by Michael Ruhlman & Brian Polcyn

You need:

1 pound kosher salt
8 ounces sugar
2 ounces pink salt (10 teaspoons – we get ours online from Butcher and Packers)

Combine all the ingredients and store in a jar or a plastic storage container. We make up this entire batch and it keeps forever.

You will need to de-bone the roast first. This can be a bit tricky and time consuming as the shoulder bone within the roast is composed of odd angles and ins and outs.  Start by cutting into the end of the roast with a sharp boning or fillet knife and open your cut up like you would a book. Work the knife against the bone in a  sawing motion staying as close to the bone as possible but only letting the knife sink in half the depth of the roast. Flip the roast over and follow the bone on that side until the bone comes free. If you don’t feel like doing all that, I’m sure you can ask the meat counter employee and they’ll do it for you.

Weigh the de-boned roast and determine the amount of dry cure needed. Measure the dry cure out into a small bowl.  Put the roast into a large mixing bowl or (clean!) dishpan and sprinkle the cure onto it, massaging it into all surfaces of the meat. Don’t forget to apply cure to the cavity created by the removed bone. When all the cure is rubbed onto the meat, insert it into a large zip-loc bag and add your honey all over the surface of the roast, rubbing it in, just like you did with the cure. When you have an even coating of honey on the meat, seal the bag and place the bag into the large container you used to apply cure. Place in the fridge and flip once a day until curing is complete. Cure time for a small 3-ish pound roast is 8 to 9 days, for a 5-7 pound allow 10-14 days.  Don’t be concerned about over curing; a day or two over will have no negative results. When the meat is cured, remove it from the zip-loc bag and place it under a cold running faucet. Rinse all the excess cure off thoroughly.  Place it into a basin of cold water to soak for 2-3 hours. After soaking, remove and pat dry with paper towels or a clean lint free cloth. Tie the roast tightly  along its length with butcher twine to close up the bone cavity.  When the roast is tied place it into a smoker or BBQ grill with a smoker box and wood chips (I prefer a heavier smoke flavor and almost exclusively use mesquite, but any hardwood is fine). Before placing the meat in the smoking device allow the device to heat to between 140-250 degrees.  Smoke the meat, turning it every hour or so until the internal temperature reaches 145-150 degrees. I smoked mine at a constant temperature of  145 degrees and it took about six hours to reach the desired internal temperature. If you can’t attain this low of a temperature with your smoking device you will reach the desired internal temperature in a much shorter time, which is fine, you will just not have as deep a smoke flavor in the end product.

Remove the meat from the smoking device and place it on a large plate or cookie sheet and allow it to rest and cool. I stick mine directly into the freezer after it has cooled for about 1/2 hour.  This aids in the ease of slicing. When the meat just begins to freeze, remove it from the freezer and cut the butcher twine off. I like to slice with a large sharp breaking knife, into slices about a quarter of an inch thick, before you begin slicing make sure you a slicing with the end grain of the meat, or you’ll end up with some tough stringy slices.

Now all that is left is to fry up some slices and enjoy. We like this recipe a lot because if pork belly is hard for you to get your hands on for regular bacon, this is just as good with breakfasts.


Corned Beef 
recipe from Charcuterie: The Art of Salting, Smoking and Curing by Michael Ruhlman & Brian Polcyn

You Need:

for the brine:
1/2 gallon water
1 cup salt
1/4 cup sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons pink salt
1 large, 1 small garlic clove, minced
1 Tablespoon pickling spice (recipe below)

a brisket (ours ended up being part of a brisket – about 2 1/2 pounds)
another Tablespoon of pickling spice

Pickling Spice
We make a full batch of this and just keep it in a lidded plastic storage container

You Need:
2 Tablespoons whole black peppercorns
2 Tablespoons mustard seed
2 Tablespoons coriander seed
2 Tablespoons red pepper flakes
2 Tablespoons allspice berries
1 Tablespoon mace (we left this out because I can’t get it here)
2 small cinnamon sticks, crushed or broken into pieces (we left this part out too)
24 bay leaves, crumbled
2 Tablespoons whole cloves
1 Tablespoon ground ginger

Just a note: not all of our spices were whole – I did end up using powdered mustard, coriander and allspice because it’s all I had on hand (and can get around here) and it didn’t make a bit of difference in the final product.

Lightly crack the whole spices with a heavy pot. Combine them with the remaining ingredients and store in a plastic container. (This makes about 1 cup of pickling spice.)

To make the corned beef:  combine all the brine ingredients in a large pot. Bring to a simmer, stirring until the salt and sugar are dissolved. Remove the pot from the heat and cool to room temp, then refrigerate the brine until it’s completely cooled.  Pour the brine into a large container that will fit the brisket and will fit in your fridge (alternatively, if your pot is big enough for the brisket and small enough for the fridge, you can just use that). Place the brisket in the brine. Refrigerate for 5 days.

To cook the cured brisket, remove the brisket from the brine and rinse if off well under cool water. Place the meat in a pot big enough to hold it and add water to cover the meat. Stir in 1 Tablespoon of pickling spice and bring the entire thing to a boil. Turn it back down to a simmer, then cover and cook on simmer for 3-4 hours, until the brisket is fork tender. Slice the beef and serve with whatever you want to serve it with. (We made colcannon and browned butter Irish soda bread).


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