Archive for the ‘pork’ Category

The asparagus bed is winding down for the season in the home garden right now. Like tomatoes, asparagus is at its very best at the peak of the season, and I don’t really want to eat it in the off-season, when it comes from South America, all dried up and tasting like twigs. So now is my last opportunity to gorge!
But that doesn’t mean that I don’t want variety! It’s great straight out of the garden, or served raw in a salad. It’s delicious pickled, or simply tossed in olive and baked in the oven. But here’s a recipe that’s one of my family’s favorites…
4 mild Italian sausages, sliced into pieces 1/2″ thick
1 lb. penne pasta
1/2 onion, finely chopped
1 cup chopped fresh trumpet mushrooms (white button mushrooms work, too)
2 cups fresh asparagus, sliced into 1-inch pieces
1 clove garlic, passed through a garlic press
1 cup homemade chicken broth
6 fresh sage leaves, finely chopped
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
Have the pasta water boiling, and add the pasta, cooking until just a bit more undercooked than al dente.
Heat a large pan, and drizzle in some olive oil. Saute the sausage pieces until browned and cooked through, but not over cooked. Remove the sausages from the pan and place them in a separate bowl. Remove all but 2 tablespoons of the fat left behind in the pan.
Place the pan back on stove and saute the onion until translucent. Add the garlic, and saute for 10 seconds. Add the sage, and saute for 10 seconds, stirring. Add the chopped mushrooms and saute for a few minutes, then add the chicken broth, and simmer until almost all the liquid has evaporated. Pour the contents of the pan into the bowl with the sausages.
Return the pan to the stove, add a little more olive oil, and on medium heat, saute the asparagus pieces. Cook them until they are al dente, not too soft. Once the asparagus has reached this stage, return all the contents of the sausage/mushroom bowl to the pan to heat through. Drain the pasta, and add it to the pan as well, combining all the ingredients. If it looks too dry, add a little pasta water to the pan. Season with salt and pepper.
Make sure you serve this hot, with grated Parmigiano Reggiano on top, and drizzle lightly over the top with extra virgin olive oil.

 

Pork tenderloin is a lean cut of meat that can dry out easily when roasted. It’s usually just a couple of inches around, and over a foot long…a shape that can easily go from juicy to overdone in just a few minutes if you’re not watching it carefully.

I usually cook my pork tenderloin much like I would a pork chop: In one bowl, I’ve got a couple of eggs, scrambled. In another, a mixture of flour with whatever seasonings I like. Cutting the tenderloin into 3 or so pieces to fit the bowls, I coat them in the egg wash, then dredge them in the seasoned flour before browning on all sides in a heated pan with pork lard on the stove top. Then into a 325-degree oven until the temperature just reads 145, letting the meat rest a few minutes before slicing.

But it was time for a change. This recipe really is based on what I had in the fridge and pantry at the time, and it just rocked!

I chose chickpeas (we never called them garbanzos!) as my starch. I don’t worry too much about carbs, as long as they’re good ones and in moderation. I try to avoid the white stuff: potatoes, pasta and white rice.

soup1

1 1/2 lb. pork tenderloin, cut into 1/4″ thick medallions, then cut in half
1 cup all-purpose flour (I use Cup4Cup gluten-free flour)
1/2 onion, finely chopped
3 carrots, peeled and sliced
3 stalks celery, sliced
1 teaspoon garlic salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 pint veal stock or chicken stock
1/2 cup white wine (I like an un-oaked chardonnay like Alice White)
1 pint water
large pinch of bouquet garni
1 15-oz. can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 head organic kale, cleaned, stems removed, and chopped

 

 

Slice the pork tenderloin into 1/4″ medallions, then cut each medallion in half. Set aside.

In a bowl, add the flour (unseasoned). Set next to the pork.

Heat a heavy skillet big enough to hold all the pork. Add a few tablespoons of olive oil or pork lard. Drop the pork pieces in the flour, coating them well, then shaking off the excess. (No egg wash needed.) Place them carefully in the pan and brown them on both sides. They don’t need to cook all the way through.

Leaving the pork in the pan, add the onions and stir, cooking for a couple of minutes. Then add the carrot and celery slices, stirring again. Sprinkle in the garlic salt and pepper, stirring again.

Add the stock, the wine, and the pint of water. Bring it to a boil and let it simmer for a few minutes, stirring gently.

Add the chick peas. Then add the kale, a handful at a time, waiting for the greens to wilt into the soup before adding another handful. Do this until all the kale is in the pan. Add the pinch of bouquet garni. Bring the soup to a boil again, then reduce it to a medium-low simmer, uncovered.

The soup is ready when the veggies are tender, about 15 minutes. Keep an eye on it, and if the liquid has evaporated and it looks too thick, add more water, bringing to a boil with each addition, then reducing the heat.

Taste for seasoning before serving.

 

soup2

 

There’s a wonderful Italian roasted meat dish called Porchetta (por-ketta). Though there are many ways to prepare it, the classic version consists of a pork belly that is seasoned and then wrapped around a pork loin. The meat is tied, then roasted slowly for hours, basted with wine and the meat juices until the pork is cooked and the outside skin is crackly and crispy. Then it’s sliced like a log and served as a sandwich or a main dish. It’s absolutely fantastic! (If you’re in New York City, go to the small restaurant called  Porchetta on the lower east side and taste this porky awesomeness the way it was meant to be.)

I recently purchased a beautiful hunk of grass-fed beef brisket from Pat’s Pastured, a wonderful farm here in Rhode Island. I said to myself: “What if I cook it like Porchetta?”

I searched through a dozen Porchetta recipes and used whatever herbs and spices I liked to make my own special seasoning for this slab of meat I now re-named “Brisketta.” For the most part, I used common ingredients in Italian cooking, but I added toasted fennel seeds, an ingredient in Porchetta, as a tip of the hat to that classic dish.

If you don’t have brisket handy, using a cut like beef flap will work just as well.

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I flipped the brisket fat-side-down on my cutting board and carefully sliced it down the middle horizontally to make two large–even thinner–slabs of meat. The bottom half, with the fatty side of the brisket, would eventually be my outside layer. The top half would be my inside layer.

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I took the top half and slathered some of my seasonings on it. Then I rolled it up into a log as tightly as I could. I slathered more of my seasonings onto the bottom half of the brisket, the rolled it around the first log as tightly as I could, so that the fattiest side of the brisket would now be on the outside of this large meat log. I seasoned the fatty side with any leftover seasonings I had.

Now, rather than having a piece of meat that was only 1 1/2″ thick, I had a meat log that was 6″ thick. Much easier to cook and control. I tied the meat log up tightly with butchers’ twine and let it rest in my fridge overnight.

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The next day, I removed the meat log from the fridge and let it sit on the counter for an hour, so that it would come back up to room temperature. Meanwhile, I started my digital smoker (an electric one), setting the temperature at 250 degrees. I placed the meat log on a rack in my smoker, and a bowl of water on another rack to help keep it moist during the cooking process. I closed the smoker door, and then cooked it low and slow for about 5 hours. My smoker has a side chute that lets me drop wood chips inside, and I used slivers of oak to add some smoke.

I removed the meat log from the pan and put it directly onto the grate before cooking.

I removed the meat log from the pan and put it directly onto the grate before cooking for 4 hours, but returned it to the pan once I wrapped it in foil.

 

After 5 hours, I removed the Brisketta from the smoker, wrapped it in foil, and returned it for another 2 hours.

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7 lbs. beef brisket
1 tablespoon fennel seed, toasted and cooled
5–3″ strips of bacon, cooked and cooled
2 tablespoons oregano
2 tablespoons parsley
2 teaspoons basil
2 tablespoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper
2 teaspoons granulated onion
1 teaspoon granulated garlic
Grated zest of 2 lemons
1/2 cup olive oil

Pour the fennel seed in a hot, dry pan on the stove. Toast the seeds until they release their aroma, but don’t let them burn. Set aside to cool.

Crumble the bacon strips and place in the bowl of a food processor. Add the cooled fennel seeds, oregano, parsley, basil, salt, pepper, onion, garlic, and lemon zest.

Run the food processor and slowly pour in the olive oil, until you have a paste much like pesto.

Slice the brisket in half horizontally. Save the piece with the fatty side for last, because this is the piece that will wrap around the others, with the fatty side out. Smear the rub on the first piece of brisket and roll it tightly into a log. Smear the rub on the second piece of brisket and wrap it around the first piece, making sure the fatty side is on the outside.

Once you’ve rolled both pieces into a single meat log, scored the fatty exterior with a knife and rub any leftover seasoning paste onto it. If you have none left, simply season with salt and pepper.

Tie the meat log tightly with butchers’ twine, tucking in all loose ends.

At this point, you can place the meat log in the fridge until ready to cook, remembering to remove it at least an hour before cooking so that it comes back to room temperature.

Pre-heat an oven or smoker at 250 degrees. Place the meat log directly on the grate, with a pan underneath to catch the dripping fat. Place a bowl of water in there as well, to keep the meat moist while it cooks. Cook for 5 hours, then wrap in foil and cook another 2! Let it rest an hour before slicing…if you can wait that long!

Few dishes scream out “comfort food” like meatloaf. My Mom’s meatloaf was awesome, and she’d cut a huge slab of it onto my plate, with fantastic butter-loaded Pennsylvania Dutch egg noodles on the side. I couldn’t stop eating it.

I never thought of making meatloaf when I moved away, because it gave my Mom something special to make for me when I came home to visit. She was thrilled that there was a dish she could make that I would devour every time, without hesitation. (The others were her roasted lamb and Lithuanian pierogis called koldūnai (kol-doon-ay).

But now that my Mom has moved into an assisted living facility where she can’t cook, I’ve had to take meatloaf matters into my own hands. I never got my Mom’s exact recipe. But I had an idea of what went into it, so I gave it a shot.

The standard mix for my Mom’s meatloaf was one-third each ground beef, pork and veal. I go 50-50 with the beef and pork instead, unless I can get my hands on humanely-raised veal from a farm down the road. My Mom used Lipton onion soup mix in her meatloaf. I chose to stay away from packaged ingredients which are nasty and could contain gluten. And instead of layering slices of bacon on top as many people do, I like to use my own home-cured and smoked pre-cooked bacon that I chop up and put inside the loaf.

To keep this dish gluten-free, I use GF breadcrumbs. I buy loaves of gluten-free bread, toast them, then put them in a food processor to make great-tasting bread crumbs that have all the flavor of regular bread crumbs, without the gluten.

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4 strips bacon
1 yellow onion, minced
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
pork fat or olive oil
1 lb. ground beef
1 lb. ground pork
1/2 cup breadcrumbs (I use gluten-free)
1/4 cup ketchup
2 eggs

 

Fry the strips of bacon until crisp. Remove the bacon from the pan and chop it fine. Set it aside.

Keeping the rendered bacon fat in the pan, and sauté the onion with it until translucent. Add the salt, pepper and garlic. Set the pan aside, letting it cool to room temperature.

 

In a bowl, combine the meat, bread crumbs, ketchup, bacon, eggs, and the sautéed onion mixture. Form it into a loaf and place it in a loaf pan. Bake at 350 for about an hour.

Delicious, caramelized meatloaf.

 

 

 

 

 

Few slabs of meat are as amazing as a pork butt or shoulder, rubbed with a special dry rub, then slow-smoked for 8 hours (or more), pulled and slathered with amazing barbecue sauce. It takes time, but it’s not really that hard to do.

 

My electric smoker allows me to set the time and temp and walk away.

 

 

 

First, get a hunka pork. The kind of pig I get matters to me, and so I buy a heritage breed, like Berkshire (also known as Kurobuta), from a farm that raises them humanely. I’m willing to pay the extra bucks to get better quality meat.

But going to a supermarket or butcher shop for pork is what most people do. The names of the cuts of meat can be a bit confusing. Despite its name, pork butt is not from the back-end of the pig.  (The term “butt” referred to the barrel the meat was stored in when the only method of preservation was salting the meat and storing it in barrels.)

The pork butt is actually the shoulder of the pig. The pork shoulder picnic is a lower cut of the same area. These cuts can also go by the names Boston shoulder roast, Boston butt, Boston roast, shoulder butt, and shoulder-blade roast. Whatever the name, these are all nicely marbled hunks of meat that usually weigh in anywhere from 6 to 8 lbs, and are easy to find. Barbecue fanatics claim the bone-in pork butt is more flavorful, but boneless will work, too.

Once I’ve got my slab of pork, I need to season it. I’ve found that a simple rub is the best way to go for the sauce I’m going to use later.

After 8 hours in the smoker, the rub makes a crust on the meat that is just fantastic!

BASIC DRY RUB

1/4 cup kosher salt
1/4 cup black pepper
1/4 cup paprika
¼ cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon granulated garlic
1 tablespoon onion powder

Place all the ingredients in a jar with a lid and shake it up to blend.

Once I’ve made the rub, I generously sprinkle it all over the pork, and rub it in really well. I have a digital smoker at home, which allows me to set the temperature to cook and smoke my pork butt. I place the pork butt on a rack, put a drip pan with water underneath it to catch the grease, and set the smoker for 250 degrees. I cook the pork at 250 for about 6 to 8 hours, and then add hickory chips to the smoker and smoke the butt at 250 for at least another 2 hours. The marbled fat in the pork butt slowly melts over time and the pork becomes incredibly tender and flavorful.

I remove the pork butt from the smoker and let it rest, covered with aluminum foil, for at least 20 minutes before pulling it apart with a couple of forks, shredding it into beautiful meaty bits.

While the pork is cooking and smoking, there’s plenty of time to make two other very important parts of this recipe: a vinegar-based barbecue sauce, and the cole slaw.

Slaw on the side or on the sandwich…up to you!

 

BARBECUE SAUCE

2 cups ketchup
3/4 cup water
6 tablespoons cider vinegar
6 tablespoons white vinegar
6 tablespoons brown sugar
3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon chili powder
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin

 

Mix all the ingredients in a saucepan and simmer until the flavors have blended, about 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and cool to room temp. If you store it in an airtight container in the fridge, it’ll stay good for a few months.

COLE SLAW

My unusual cole slaw recipe uses an interesting ingredient: pickle juice! Just a splash of juice from your favorite jar of pickles is all you need.

 

1 package of cole slaw veggies
splash of pickle juice
1/4 cup mayonnaise (more to taste)
teaspoon celery seed (not salt)
salt and pepper

There are no real specific measurements for cole slaw, because I’ve found that some people like it dry, others wet…some peppery, some not. Play around with it and make it your own. I prefer a more mayonnaise-y cole slaw, and usually err on the wet side.

In a bowl, combine all the ingredients. Cover it with plastic wrap and chill. When ready to use, re-mix it, and taste for seasoning before using.

OK…time to make that sandwich!

You can either go Carolina style and place the cole slaw right on top of the pulled pork in the bun, or simply serve the slaw on the side. No rules!

Whether you go through all these steps yourself or not, it’s nice to appreciate a labor of love that is worth every bit of time and trouble invested in it.

Pork chops were a favorite of mine growing up, but my Mom cooked them only one way: breaded and fried in a pan full of oil. They were good, but they were greasy, and my Mom was not big on seasonings. And she cooked the hell out of it. It was time to improve on the original.

Using the best quality pork I can get, like Berkshire pork, makes a real difference in flavor. It also matters to me that the animals are humanely treated while they’re on the farm. No factory-farmed meats.

chop 1

 

 

2 Berkshire pork chops
1 egg
1/2 cup plain bread crumbs (I use gluten-free)
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried parsley
1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
1/2 teaspoon granulated onion
olive oil

 

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Set up 2 bowls. In one, crack and scramble the egg. In the other, combine the bread crumbs, salt, pepper, oregano, parsley, granulated garlic and granulated onion.

Place an oven-proof pan on medium-high heat and add a little olive oil. Once the oil is hot, cover the pork chops in the egg wash and then coat with the bread crumb mixture. Place in the hot pan to brown and sear. Do this with both chops.

After a few minutes, flip the chops over in the pan and place the pan in the oven to finish cooking.

chop 2

Remember, good pork does not need to be cooked to death!

 

 

 

If there’s a dish that my Mom made all the time, but I didn’t appreciate until I got older, this is it. Stuffed cabbage, cabbage rolls, or balandėliai, as we say in Lithuanian, was a staple in our home and one of my Dad’s favorite foods. 

I had seen my Mom make these beauties so often in my childhood, I didn’t even need to check online recipes out for guidance. That doesn’t mean I make them exactly like Mom, but my version came out pretty damn good. I think Mom would be proud.

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4 strips of bacon, chopped
1 yellow onion, finely chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
1 lb. ground grass-fed beef
1 lb. ground pastured pork
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
2 eggs
1 large head cabbage
1 pint homemade chicken stock
750 mg diced tomatoes (1 Pomi container)
1 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon granulated garlic
1/4 teaspoon granulated onion

Chop the bacon into small pieces and fry them until crisp. Finely chop the onion, and add it to the bacon in the pan, cooking until the onions are translucent. Add the salt, pepper and garlic. Mix well, and remove from the heat. Let it cool to room temperature.

In a large bowl, combine the beef, pork, breadcrumbs, eggs, and cooled bacon and onion mixture. Place in the fridge to firm up.

Let a large pot of salted water come to a boil. Core the cabbage, leaving the leaves whole, and carefully immerse the head of cabbage into the hot water. Little by little, the outermost leaves of the cabbage will come off the head, and you can remove them with tongs, so you don’t burn yourself with the hot water. Set the leaves aside to cool, and continue doing this until you can no longer remove leaves from the remaining head of cabbage.

Remove the remaining head of cabbage from the hot water, and using your hands or a knife, break it into flat pieces. Line the bottom of a roasting pan with the pieces. These will keep the stuffed cabbage from burning and sticking to the bottom.

Time to roll the stuffed cabbage. Take the meat out of the fridge. Lay a cabbage leaf flat on the counter, and add some of the meat mixture inside. Roll the cabbage around the meat, folding the sides in as you go, much like a burrito. You might need to slice away the thickest part of the leaf stem to make rolling easier. Lay the stuffed cabbage in the roasting pan on top of the leftover cabbage pieces. (Unlike Mom, I don’t use toothpicks to hold the stuffed cabbage rolls together.)

Continue stuffing and rolling the cabbage leaves until you’ve got a pan full of them, shoulder-to-shoulder.

In a blender, combine the chicken stock, diced tomatoes, thyme, salt, pepper, garlic and onion. Pour this mixture over the top of the cabbage rolls in the roasting pan, covering them.

 

 

If you have leftover cabbage, you can place another layer of them on top. Otherwise, cover the roasting pan with foil and place in a pre-heated 350 degree oven. Cook for an hour.

 

 

After an hour, remove the foil and cook further for another 45–60 minutes.

 

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Fettucini alla Bolognese is my daughter’s go-to dish when we visit one of our favorite Italian restaurants,  Il Corso, on W 55th St. in New York. But we only go there once a year, so it was about time that I tried my hand at Bolognese at home. The dish isn’t difficult, but like many great dishes, the better the quality of the ingredients, the better the result.

I use grass-fed ground veal that I get down the road from a local dairy farm: Sweet & Salty Farm in Little Compton, RI. I use ground Berkshire pork, full of “good fat.” And I use guanciale, a cured pork product that comes from the cheek (jowl) of the pig. I buy the Berkshire pork jowls raw and cure them myself. The rest of the ingredients are organic, when available.

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5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons butter
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped (1/3 cup)
1 stalk celery, finely chopped (1/3 cup)
1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
1 lb. ground veal
1 lb. ground pork
1/2 cup finely chopped guanciale
1 small can (6 oz.) tomato paste
1 cup ground tomatoes
1 cup milk
1 cup white wine (I use an un-oaked chardonnay like Alice White)
1 lb. pasta, cooked (I use Garofalo gluten-free pasta)

 

Place the olive oil and butter in a large sauce pan with a heavy bottom over medium heat. Once the butter has melted, add the onion, carrot, celery and garlic. Keeping the heat on medium, sweat the veggies and allow them to get soft but not brown, about 10–15 minutes.

Turn the heat on high and add the guanciale. Stir it around to keep it from sticking. Let the guanciale cook for a minute, then add the veal and the pork, constantly stirring until the meat browns.

Once the meat has browned, add the tomato paste, ground tomatoes, milk and wine. Once it comes to a boil, reduce the heat to a medium-low, and let it simmer for 60–90 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Traditionally, ragu Bolognese is served by placing a portion of cooked pasta in a pan, and adding just enough sauce to have it cling to, not drip from, the pasta. It’s not soup!

 

The Saturday before Labor Day is traditionally considered to be International Bacon Day. So that makes it today!

Let’s face it: there are few foods as magical as bacon. Add bacon to just about any dish you’re preparing, and it elevates it to incredible new heights of flavor. The BLT is possibly the greatest food combination ever invented: just a few simple, fresh ingredients, when placed together, transforming into one of the most amazing sandwiches on planet Earth.

BLT wraps: home-cured and smoked bacon, local farmstead romaine, home garden tomatoes.

 

If I’m buying bacon, I go on-line to Burger’s Smokehouse, a family run business in Missouri that has made great bacon for decades. The prices are good, and they include shipping. (www.smokehouse.com) I buy in quantity and freeze what I don’t need right away. My favorite is the thick-sliced country bacon “steaks.”

But I also make my own.

Bacon comes from the pork belly, and they’re easy to find in any good butcher shop. But to get something a notch above, I’ll buy a heritage breed, like Berkshire pork, from Heritage Pork International. (www.heritagepork.com)  I follow the simple curing techniques outlined in “Charcuterie,” a great book written by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn.

To cure bacon, all you really need is salt and sugar, and what they in the curing biz call “pink salt,” which is not to be confused with salt that happens to be pink, like Himalayan salt you would find in a gourmet store. Pink salt is bright pink to let you know that this is a special salt that should only be used in small quantities for curing. The reason is it contains nitrites. Nitrites delay the spoilage of the meat, and help keep the flavors of spices and smoke. They also keep the meat nice and pink instead of an unappetizing gray. That’s good. But nitrites can break down into nitrosamines, which have been known to cause cancer in lab animals. But let’s face it: you would need to eat a ton of cured meat to really worry about this.

To make the basic dry cure:

1/2 lb. kosher salt
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1 oz. pink salt
optional ingredients: granulated garlic, granulated onion

Mix the ingredients well. An important note: all salts do not all weigh the same, so go by the weight and not a cup measurement.

Once you rub the pork belly with the basic dry cure, place it in a large Ziploc bag, squeeze the air out of it, and seal it tightly. If it’s too big for the bag, you can either cut the belly into two pieces, or wrap it tightly with several layers of plastic wrap. Place it in a container in the fridge for a couple of weeks, flipping it over every few days to let gravity do its work. You’ll see that the salt will draw moisture out of the meat and form a brine. This brine will continue to cure your pork belly, so leave it in there. (The container will capture any liquid that might seep out.)

In two or three weeks, once the pork belly has been cured, wash the brine off the meat, and pat it dry with paper towels. Now it’s time to cook. You can simply cook the pork belly at 200 degrees for about 2 hours, until the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees. I place the pork belly in a digital smoker, which allows me to set an exact temperature. I smoke it at 250 degrees for 2 hours, using hickory chips.

 

 

 

Bellies in the smoker

Bellies in the smoker.

 

 

Smoked bacon

Smoked bacon!

That’s it. You have achieved bacon!

The reward is so worth the effort. Just remember that you still need to slice the bacon and fry it. Don’t eat it straight out of the smoker. That first slice you cut off your bacon and toss in a pan to lightly fry for a few moments will be the best bite you’ve ever had in your life!
And if you’re making one slab of bacon, why not make it three or four? It freezes well. And…you will eat it. You know you will!

Frying in the pan!

Frying in the pan!

Sometimes the best ideas come from out of nowhere.

I had 5 lbs. of beautiful St. Louis-style heritage Berkshire (also known as Kurobuta) pork ribs thawing in the fridge, and I knew I wanted to create a new sauce or glaze with them, but I was feeling less than inspired. Our food-loving friends, Don and Johanna, showed up at our door with a gift they bought in Maine, at a shop called LeRoux Kitchen. It was a bottle of maple balsamic vinegar. It smelled wonderful…and tasted even better! I knew I had what I was looking for.

 

By the way, if Don (a talented local artist: http://www.doncadoret.net) and Johanna (a talented teacher) aren’t your friends, you can easily make your own maple balsamic vinegar by combining a 1/2 cup of balsamic (not the super-expensive kind, but the $9-a-bottle kind) with 2 teaspoons of maple syrup. Add more or less maple to taste. (That’s what I’ll be doing when this bottle runs out!)

 

Yup…my smoker…she’s been used a few times!

 

I use an electric digital smoker made by Masterbuilt. I like the fact that I can set the temperature and time, and not have to constantly watch it. It has a side chute where I can add smoking chips when I want, and the results are consistent. I suppose some grilling fanatics might say I’m cheating, but a digital smoker allows me to live a life, hang out with my family, do some yard work. I don’t have time to babysit.

I chose to smoke my ribs for about 4 hours in the smoker, lightly seasoning them first with Lawry’s Seasoned Salt, adding hickory chips to the smoker only once to give them a “light smoke.”

 

Brushing with glaze, then wrapping in foil.

 

Although I always use a water bath in my smoker, the ribs still come out visibly dry, so I like to brush them with a glaze, wrap them in foil and finish the cooking process in the oven. The glaze flavors the meat and also adds a little steam that tenderizes it.

5 lbs. pork ribs (I get St. Louis-style Berkshire pork)
Lawry’s Seasoned Salt

1 cup water
1/2 cup maple balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon granulated onion
1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper sauce (I like Franks’ Red Hot)

 

Prepare the ribs by removing the inedible skin on the back of the rack. The easiest way to do this is to cut a little “tab” of skin, then pull it with your fingers. Holding the skin with a dry paper towel will help your grip. I cut the racks in half to fit my smoker.

Season the ribs lightly with Lawry’s Seasoned Salt on both sides and place them into a 240-degree smoker for 4 hours, smoking lightly with hickory wood.

In a saucepan over high heat, combine the water, maple balsamic vinegar, brown sugar, onion, garlic, and cayenne pepper sauce. Stir well, and let it come to a boil. Let it reduce by half, leaving it still watery. Set aside.

After 4 hours, remove the ribs from the smoker, placing them on a sheet of aluminum foil. (I use Reynold’s Non-Stick Foil, since the glaze will be sticky.) Brush both sides of the ribs with half of the glaze, and place the ribs meat-side-down on the foil before sealing the it around the ribs. Place the aluminum foil packets on a baking sheet, then into a pre-heated 250-degree oven.

While the ribs are cooking in the oven, turn the heat up on the remaining half of the balsamic glaze in the sauce pan and reduce it until it starts to thicken. Once you reach that stage, turn the heat off and set it aside.

 

Remove the ribs from the oven after 2 hours. Open the foil packets so that the ribs are now exposed. Brush the bottom of the ribs (which should be facing up), then flip the ribs over and brush the meaty side. The ribs should be falling off the bone at this point, which means they’re ready to serve.