Thursday, January 15, 2009

Bring Home the Bacon, Pleaz........

Or should I just say, bring home the belly pork and make your own bacon. After reading Carl Skadian's interesting article on making your own bacon(Sunday Times,3 August 2008), I started on my hunt for Insta Cure #1, the crucial curing ingredient for making the bacon.

According to the article, Insta Cure #1 or pink salt, "preserves color,keeps rancid flavors away and most importantly, prevents many bacteria, particularly those which cause botulism poisoning, from growing."

I was able to get a colleague returning home from the US to bring me a pack of this curing salt in late November. Next was the hunt for the Kosher salt. I visited four supermarkets across the island and most of them were out of stock for this item. I finally managed to track it down at the new Cold Storage at East Coast Mall a couple of days before Christmas. As the meat needs a week to cure, I made double the proportion in the hope that I could share the bounty with my siblings.

The Pink Salt, what a sweet color!

Insta Cure #1 and Kosher Salt

The instructions were simple enough, rub the curing mix into the meat, put into a ziplog and chill for seven days, rinse off all salt, pat dry and roast in the oven (for lack of a smoker).

The Dry Cure, a mixture of Insta Cure #1, Sugar and Kosher Salt

After mixing up the dry curing mix, I split the meat into two portions and salted them differently. One would be a plain basic bacon. The other half, I added smashed garlics, black peppercorns and thyme.

Bagged separately into ziplogs and into an airtight box, I started on my seven days wait for the magic to take place.

The Bacon that never was. (Top) Garlic-Thyme-Black Pepper, (Bottom)Plain Bacon

After the long wait, I approach the salted belly pork with much excitment thinking that I will have my own homemade bacon in about two hours. All was fine with the garlic bacon but when I opened the ziplog on the plain bacon, I detected a faint offtish smell. I wasn't sure if my nose was confused with the garlic-thyme bacon earlier and proceeded to rinse both portions of bacon and placed them on the same plate ready for the roasting (big mistake).

In goes the meat at a slow 95 deg C oven. As the heat started to hit the meat, I had this whiff of that offtish smell again. This time I asked my son and hubby down to the kitchen. Without telling them anything I just asked them to take in a deep breath and asked if they smelt anything "nice". They confirmed my worst fear that they too detected a strange smell. Without hesitation, I pulled out all the four pieces of the bacon-wannabes and threw them away before anyone of us would die from food poisoning. Gosh! My heart cried out for the S$44.50 worth of meat going down the rubbish chute. The only funny part I felt was I that I was like a murderer disposing bits of body parts in a plastic bag. LOL!

I gave the oven a good wipe down both inside and out with kitchen bleach and then set the oven at the maximum temperature for about half hour to make sure I bake any bacteria to death. Don't want to take any risk there.

Post Mortem: I recapped each step of the preparation process to figure out what when wrong. My conclusion is that two days before New Year, my fridge was stocked to the the brim with food for a party. Perhaps the fridge was just not cold enough with all the food, wine and drinks jostling to keep cool. The meat could have turned bad at that point. I have written to Carl to see if he can shed any light.

I have not given up on this home made bacon but it will have to wait till after the Chinese New Year, when I have more space in the fridge. Just like my repeated attempts in making Chinese Sausages or Lup Cheong, I will not give up. Next time however, I will not be greedy. I will start with a single portion of belly port to see how it goes before attempting a bigger quantity.

Until then, someone has to continue to bring home the bacon (excuse the pun).

PostScript (4 Feb 09): Carl is baffled too! However he did mentioned that I should turn the meat over every other day to ensure the meat is evenly coated and that the curing mix must be well rubbed in. He has kindly provided me with a Savoury Bacon recipe which I will be trying out very soon. Thanks Carl.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Back In Business - Part 2

On the 11th day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, eleven Pipers Piping.....

It took me this long, eleven days to be exact, to upload photos of the Christmas Cakes which I made this year. Some were orders, some are for colleagues and the rests, for friends and relatives.

I marinated a total of five kilos of dried fruits in a mixture of brandy, rum and Kirsh. I did not use the usual mixed fruits which are nothing more than glaced cherries, citrus peels and raisins. I have never liked fruitcakes made with such mixed fruit as it makes the cakes overly sweet. I opted instead for apricots, cranberries, dried sour cherries, dates, prunes, candied ginger, sultanas and currants instead.

Moist and dark, not the usual 'doorstopper' kind of fruitcake. I called them the 'Not Your Usual Fruitcake'.

Decorated, packed and tagged with a personalised gift tag.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Back in Business - Part 1

Yup! After my dementia episode last night, I am back in the business of blogging. I guess I really needed someone to push me a little to get me going.

During the last few months, I did make some stuff on and off. So just give me some time now to rattle off what I have made and upload the pictures now before I slip into dementia again and forget the password to my Photobucket account.

I was on a day's leave to finish up my Strategic Management project and boy was I stressed up. In the midst of 'thinking strategically' and squeezing out every ml of brain juice available, I just needed to let off some steam and what better way than to bake a bread. Bread baking is therapeutic with all the kneading and punching. Was I imagining myself to be punching my lecturers for the never ending projects that have to be submitted days within each other? I rumaged through my larder to see what I have on hand and hey presto, I had everything needed to make this Rustic Country Bread Loaf that is brimming with flaxseeds and oats

Rustic Country Loaf

Rustic Country Loaves

Another bread episode is this Mochi Bread which nearly caused the early demise of my Kenwood Major. The bread dough had to be mixed and kneaded with a cooked mochi paste and my dough hook was resisting so much that I was afraid the spindle would snap any moment. As the hook drags and works hard incorporating the resilient mochi paste into the bread dough, I had to hold the the neck of the mixer tightly to reduce the exaggerated movement and pull it had on the mixer. So this is recipe is definitely not for those who owns one of those puny cake mixer.

The cooked mochi paste in the mixing bowl.
Mochi Bread

Mixing the mochi paste into flour.
Mochi Bread

The bread dough and mochi paste before kneading with the dough hook.
Mochi Bread

The dough after some huffing and puffing by my mixer.
Mochi Bread

Ready for 1st Proof.
Mochi Bread

After the 1st Proofing.
Mochi Bread

Proofed dough, ready for the air to be knocked out.
Mochi Bread

Shaped and ready for 2nd proofing.
Mochi Bread

Baked and in all its golden glory.

Another view of the buns.
Mochi Bread

Then there was this great tasting spicy Mentaiko Spaghetti with a hint of citrus from the addition of lemon rind. This is really a easy-peasy recipe that you can whip up in a jiffy.

And then the Plum Ribs, which is similar to Hugbear's 123 Ribs. I updated the recipe by added mashed chinese sour plums and cola to the marinade. When the ribs were tender after the slow braising, I popped the ribs under the grill to give it a more caramelised taste.

The melt-in-mouth meat with a hint of tangy sour plums.
Plum Ribs

I have a couple more pictures but I guess I will just stop here for the moment and continue later with the rest of the pictures.

Dementia Setting In

Last evening I was short-messaging with LY and she reminded me that my blog is getting rusty from the absence of blog entries.

I have to admit that I am really getting rusty and lazy to boot. I thought that the moment my studies are completed, I would quickly start blogging about my cooking escapades again. Alas, none of that happened. As you can see, my last entry was in June 08. I completed my degree in the first week of November 08. And then.......nothing happened. At least not until now when I was prodded by LY. Thanks chum, you have woken me up and had given me the mojo to start blogging again.

So last night, close to midnight actually, I started first by editing some photos of stuff which I have cooked and baked over the last few months and I was about to upload the photos to my Photobucket account and HORRORS! I have forgotten my login password. Worst still I could not remember which email address I had the Photobucket account registered to (some email accounts are no longer in use!). What a serious case of Dementia!

So there I was, staring blankly at the "!Incorrect Username or Password" screen contemplating what's next? Ah....go to bed!

This morning, I sent a long email to Photobucket, answering eleven questions supplied by Photobucket to verify and ascertain that I am the rightfulowner to my photo account. For now, I shall just sit and twiddle my thumbs as I wait patiently for Photobucket to reactivate my account.

Well, no harm slacking a little bit longer right?