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Sunday, March 30, 2014

Makin' Bacon, Part 2

     Well the week of curing is finished.  I removed the pork belly from the refrigerator,rinsed it thoroughly with cold water and dried it with paper towels.  I also spent some time putting a fine edge on my chef's knife.


     I cut the pork belly in half for three reasons; 1: each chunk was now a generous pound, 2: They fit better in standard Zip Lock bags, and 3: Uniform 12 inch slices would tax my knife skills.  Next I spritzed them lightly with the Jack Daniels and put them in the smoker at 100 degrees for four hours.  The smoker, by the way, was burning applewood pellets.  They were basted occasionally with that same spritzer.

     After four hours, I cranked it up to 180 degrees until the internal temperature reached 150.  This is what one of them looked like after six hours.  The paring knife is to provide a sense of scale.

     At this point they were wiped down again, bagged and refrigerated overnight.  The next morning, which happened to be Sunday, they were ready to slice.  This is an eight inch chef's knife.

     What you see on my homemade cutting board, in addition to my shadow, is one of the two halves, sliced.  The end slices and off-cuts I'll show you later.  In deference to the fingertips of my left hand, the last slice was less than uniform.  Next came the culmination of the entire endeavor.  I carefully fried the end pieces.  When they were almost done, I added a couple of jumbo eggs to the frying pan and called it breakfast.

     They tasted like real, old fashioned bacon.  Of course the end pieces received the benefit of a higher level of the spices, so the taste was more intense than will be the case with the later slices.  Durelle pronounced them, "Very salty".  I loved them, and I hope that the remaining slices will be closer to Durelle's preferences.  As another note, I keep a topless "tin" can in the fridge to collect grease and drippings to keep them out of the sewer.  When the can is full, it goes into the trash.  In this frying pan there was not enough bacon fat to pour off!
     One of the packages went back in the refrigerator while the other is in the freezer.  Will I do it again?  I certainly think so.  It is not that much work.  The bacon spends the time by itself...curing for a week and smoking for a half a day.  The dry rub is easy to make, and cleaning up the Jack Daniels spritzer is even easier.  Slicing is the only task that takes some care and attention.  I'll have to find a butcher that will supply the trimmed pork bellies, but I think I already know where to go.  What else can I do with all that pink curing salt at the rate of two teaspoons per pork belly?  Before I'd begin to put a dent in that supply, I'd have a years supply of bacon.  Furthermore, because of the intensity of the flavor, it will go further.  I'd probably find myself giving it away.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Makin' Bacon

     This blog should probably wait until I can show you pictures of the finished product.  There will be enough pictures that one blog won't realistically hold them all.  Last summer my mentor in the world of barbecue, Tim Boucher, gave me a nicely trimmed pork belly.  I really wanted to make my own bacon just to see if I could do it.  It took me a while to get to it because I lacked the "cold smoker" attachment to my Traeger grill, and I couldn't find any "Pink Number 1 Curing Salt".  I ordered the smoker attachment from Traeger and found the curing salt on line at a supplier for folks who make their own sausage.  Now I'm ready.

     These are the ingredients for the dry rub.  When thoroughly mixed, they are massaged into the pork belly.  I was pleasantly surprised, when I dug it out of the bottom of the freezer, to find only the slightest trace of freezer burn on one edge.

     Here's the raw pork belly prior to the dry rub.  Actually, before applying  the dry rub, I used a spritzer bottle to spray it all over with a dose of Jack Daniels.

     That's parchment paper under the meat, not a paper bag.  In this case the dry rub makes a pretty substantial layer.  The remaining bourbon you see in the sprayer will be used to baste the meat while it is spending a day being smoked.  Here's the pork belly with the dry rub.

     The next step is to put it in a large, sealable plastic bag and refrigerate it for a week, turning it daily.  That's where it is now.
     While I was traveling around to various meat markets in my search for curing salt, I explained my quest by saying, "What else are you going to do with a pork belly?"  On three occasions the quick answer was, "Deep fry it."  I guess that's a southern thing.
     I'll show the next steps when I do them.  The schedule may be influenced by the fact that my hip surgery is a week from tomorrow.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Fifty years ago today

     At 1736 on the 27th of March, 1964 the largest earthquake ever to hit North America had its epicenter in Prince William Sound, Alaska.  It registered 9.2 for five and a half minutes!  Deadly tsunamis extended as far as northern California.  I don't have any pictures, but you can go to Anchorage Daily News  and look at their gallery today.  Recollections do get distorted by time, but here is a comma for comma transcription of a letter I wrote to my folks a couple of days after the quake.  I am including it below:

                                                                                                                                              29 Mar 1964
Hello Folks,
     Well, not much to write about, but we did have a little earthquake over the weekend.  Seriously, we have had quite a time of it.  I was on my way home from work Friday, and in the process of running a couple of errands.  I was going to pick up an Easter egg coloring kit and an Easter lily.  Apparently the idea of my buying flowers for Durelle was an earth-shattering event, for suddenly I felt a weird, wobbling sensation as if a wheel were about to fall off.  I pulled over and stopped so I wouldn’t lose that wheel only to discover that my car wasn’t wobbling…the road was.  For an instant I was relieved because I was already anticipating car repairs.  Then I got things back into perspective.  After all, an earthquake can be at least as serious as a broken wheel.  That instant of relief to find that “it was only an earthquake” was a very transitory thing, but it still stands out in my memory because of its incongruity.
     I hopped back into the car and headed home; now only two blocks away.  The earth was still shaking, for the quake lasted over 5 ½ minutes.  For a few hundred yards it was quite a drive.  The road was even more slippery than usual and I saw one driver park his car and sit there minding his own business when the ditch on the side of the road moved over under him.  That is what literally happened.
     When I got home Cindy was still crying, but Durelle had everything under control.  A few lamps scattered some broken glass when they fell and bookcases fell over.  One kitchen cabinet disgorged some of its contents of baby food.  There would be a mess to clean up, but no real damage was done.
     I did decide that it would be a good idea to get out of the house, so we all got in the car and wandered over in the direction of a friend’s house a couple of miles away.  We did see a collapsed carport and some cracks in the road, but we still had no idea of the seriousness of the tremor.  After we had travelled down MacKenzie Drive a few blocks, I suddenly realized that the horizon had changed!  I turned the car around and parked aiming south away from the collapsed area and told Durelle to leave if she heard anything that scared her.  I ran down to the point where the road disappeared.
     My first impression was that it looked as if someone had dropped a giant box of peanut brittle.  The ground was frozen about three feet down and covered with 6 to 12 inches of snow.  Thousands of chunks of those three foot thick slabs were jumbled in unreal disorder.  These pieces varied in width from  5 to 100 feet.  About a block from where I stood I could see my boss’s house.  Major Jack Hornsby, his wife, four kids, house, car, and dog had dropped en masse about 40 feet and slid north toward Cook Inlet almost a block.
     I yelled to him to find out what his immediate needs were.  He said his family was OK and that there were many people who would need ropes, helicopters, wrecking bars and first aid gear.  I couldn’t get through to the Air Force Base by phone to call on my radar shop, but I briefed a mobile ham operator on what I knew and he started the wheels rolling.
     With Durelle and the kids at a neighbor’s house away from the most dangerous areas I changed clothes and headed back into the Turnagain area.  This are of about 400 homes ranging in value from $50,000 to $300,000 was the finest residential area I had ever seen.  It was located along a bluff a hundred or more feet above the ocean.  About 100 homes were flattened and tossed around.  Another 100 had settled, shifted and broken.
     It took about fifteen minutes to navigate the crevasses between the broken end of the road and Hornsby’s house.  Normally it is only a block.  He had gotten his family out and was commencing a house to house check for possible occupants.  I joined him, and in the next two or three hours we led several people out.  There must have been some panic at the time of the ‘quake, but while I was there, there was an amazing calmness and sense of purpose.  How those helicopters found places to land in those shambles is beyond me, but they must have made a dozen trips while I was there.  I crawled through one house that was actually upside down.
     We finally quit and crawled back to his badly worried family.  We all piled into my car, went home, settled the kids down with some hot chocolate (heated over a propane torch), and began to lay out some bedding.  Then that tee totaling Southern Baptist got himself outside about four ounces of bourbon just as if he knew what it was for.  I can’t say that I was surprised. Considering the state of shock, I’m sure it did a lot of good.
     When daylight came, we went back and retrieved his valuables, food and clothes.  Then I drove them out to the guest house on base.  We cleaned up some here, but without power and heat, we decided to spend the night with a friend with a fireplace.  We came back this morning, picked up some more of the mess and heated the house by leaving the oven door ajar.
     Alaska has been set back many years, but without exception everyone is digging in with optimistic enthusiasm.  There were almost no fires and well under a hundred fatalities, yet the ‘quake was actually stronger than the ‘Frisco ‘quake of 1906.  Coastal cities that have lost their “raison d ‘etre” will rebuild bigger than ever.  What I mean by that is that Seward, just named one of America’s “All American” cities by Look magazine, has lost its canneries, docks, and rail yards.  There is not much else in that town, but they are already floating bonds with initiative as their only collateral.
     Perhaps it is overly romantic to say that strong remnants of the Alaskan pioneer blood has made its presence known, but the way this place is bouncing back is amazing to me and yet taken for granted by the natives.
     I feel that my family will have profited by this experience.
P.S.  Did that Seattle operator get in touch with you?

     I was incorrect about the fires, at least as far as Valdez was concerned, but there were fewer than ten deaths in Anchorage.  Most of the death toll of 100+ came from the tsunami's impact on some native coastal villages.
     By the way, exactly 25 years ago today the Exxon Valdez ran aground in Prince William Sound at Bligh's Reef almost exactly at the site of the 1964 epicenter.  How's that for coincidence?

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Ahh, is news.

     Fourteen days until I get a new right hip!  We have been busily engaged in count-down activities.  Today I did a post-op at the optometrist.  I am now 20/20 in both eyes.  PT on the rotator cuff is going fine.  The big news today is that I got the 28 year old Corvette back after two weeks in the shop.  They pulled the leaky transmission and torque converter and replaced five hundred dollars worth of seals and gaskets.  I'm told the belly is as dry as a bone.  We'll see.  It's good to have it back.
     This morning Durelle said, "Photo OP!"  There were five deer out there on the bank of the retention pond.

      We are most fortunate to live where deer are so prevalent, nesting eagles serenade us and the bird feeder has multiple cardinals.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Estelle Anderson

     One fine spring morning in 1938 Durelle's folks brought her home from the hospital.  Waiting to carry the new baby into the house (while Durelle's father helped her mother) was a teenager named Estelle.  Twenty-two years later, when Durelle needed a wedding cake, Estelle baked it.  In 2010 when Durelle needed a cake for her fiftieth wedding anniversary, Estelle baked a replica. This is a special relationship.

     Today we drove up to Pawley's Island, SC where Estelle and her two daughters, Peggy and Karen, had rented an oceanfront beach house for three weeks.  It was a wonderful spot immediately south of Huntington Beach State Park...the subject of some previous posts.
     Since it takes nearly two hours to drive up to (and back from) their North Litchfield getaway, we only had time for a brief visit and a great lunch at the Crab House.  

     The oysters on the half shell were outstanding...sweet...briny...and in no need of external seasoning.  Unfortunately they are over a dollar a bite!  Others had shrimp and grits and other local fare.
     After lunch we went back to their place for a few more moments of visiting.  As they are right on the water with all sorts of comfortable seating, it would have been lovely to lean back with an adult beverage and listen to the surf.  Alas, we had to head back to Hanahan to feed the dog.
     It was a special meeting for Durelle and Estelle.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Kate and Mario

     For several years I have been following the travel blog of Kate McCulley  Kate's blog.  At 26 she quit her job to travel the world as a solo, woman traveler and create a travel blog that would provide sufficient revenue to support such a lifestyle.  It was an audacious objective, but she has succeeded.  Last evening we had a chance to have supper with her and her fiance, Mario, as they paid a short visit to Charleston.  Kate is a relative...sorta.  I refer to her as my niece-in-law in that she is my wife's brother's wife's brother's daughter!  Have you ever seen four consecutive words with an apostrophe?
     We had agreed to meet at the Hominy Grille because Kate, always the adventuresome traveler, wanted to sample the uniquely local cuisine.  We arrived to find an hour and a quarter wait for a table so we took route 17 over the Ravenel bridge to Mount Pleasant and A Taste of Gullah Cuisine.

          Since we were so busy getting acquainted, neither one of us took our usual pictures of our food.  From a blogger's perspective that was unfortunate.  By the way, when I say something like "we bloggers", I don't presume to be grouped in the same category as Kate.  She probably gets more page views in a day than I have accumulated in five plus years of my blog.  It was a most pleasant evening with a lovely, young woman who has visited more countries than most Americans have states...perhaps more than there are states.