What Would (a) Bacon-nut Do?
Recipes: Kombu + Freekeh cured Bacon (Beta), Bacon Bratwurst.
A few weeks back bacon enthusiasts gathered in the hip Logan Square neighborhood to sample bacon creations from some of Chicago's top chefs, to peruse porcine products from vendors and to worship at the larded altar of cured belly. Yes it was the second running of Baconfest Chicago. I can't really say I'm a bacon enthusiast, it's like saying I'm a breathing enthusiast, but breathing enthusiasts probably participate in marathons...I'm not doing that either... Even though I have pontificated about bacon in previous posts, I didn't think I needed to attend a fetish convention. That is until they announced an amateur bacon bake-off.
Oh boy, I have never entered a contest before, but I excitedly submitted my bacon bratwurst recipe. It proved very popular at Oktoberfest last year.
While I waited for an answer, I plotted my entry. The bacon I make is a pantry staple, nothing extreme or fancy, just bacon, a team player willing to lend it's smoky goodness to any situation. But now.....If I'm gonna be competing with baconphiles, I need to bring my A-game, I need a bacon with unattainable ingredients cured in a an unimaginable brine. I need to go gourmet.
Call in the Rod
So my friend Rod, has a brother, or is it a cousin, who has a farm out by Iowa City, he keeps a few hogs. Rod got one. When he ran out of room in his freezer he sent me a few packages.
Unattainable beautiful side pork ready to cure. Now for the never before imagined brine:
I knew I wanted to use some Kombu for its umami properties (I talk about kelp powder in a previous post), and I wanted to try some Lapsang Souchong tea to add smokiness to the brine. But I forgot to buy tea, so I went with my favorite smoked grain, Freekeh.
Kombu + Freekeh Brine (Beta)
2.5 L water
22g (One sheet) Kombu (kelp)
10 g black peppercorns
5g whole coriander
2 fresh bay leaves (now that's gourmet!)
Combine all ingredients in a non-reactive pot and boil for two minutes. Chill before using.
I covered the bacon with the brine and let it soak overnight. The next day I let the bacon air dry in the fridge before smoking. That night I fired up the smoker. I hot smoked the slices for a half an hour, just enough time to snap a publicity photo (In case I had to sign autographs at the contest).
I'm ready for my close-up.
The bacon is made time to make a contest.
[BEEP BEEP -THE TELETYPE STARTS TAPPING A MESSAGE]
Oh, Someone is ringing across the Telex. It's Andre Vonbaconvitch from BaconFest Chicago:
We love these Brats. It was SO close to making the cut. Just wanted you to know it really does look delicious - and we're sorry we couldn't include it this year. Thank you so much for submitting.
[TELETYPE STOPS TAPPING]
I made the sausage anyway. Running the stuffer cheers me up. Besides I didn't want have to wear a funny bacon hat.
Drei im weggla.
I was not about to stuff bacon willy-nilly into a sausage just to impress some trenchermen, I wanted a sausage with pedigree, so I cracked open my $5 copy of Larousse Grastronomique. I found many worthy sausages that are made with bacon, but brat from Nuremburg caught my eye. Nuremberg sausages are famous for thin and short. I read on one cultural website that the tourist should say "Drei im weggla! (three in a roll!)" to order this regional specialty. Here's my recipe:
4 lbs/1.8Kg ground pork
14 oz/400g bacon (coarsely ground)
27 g salt
7g black pepper
3g ground mustard
Beat together all ingredients using a really big spoon or with the paddle attachement on a stand mixer, Add upto a cup of cold water to make a smooth mixture. Stuff into sheep casings. For the authentico look, fry in an Albert Turk Forged Iron Pan, serve three on bun.
I would try again next year, but in the past month I have lost my amateur status. Happy cooking.