Where growing, making & good living come together

Getting my bac-on – dry curing bacon, stage one

Posted by on Tuesday 31 January 2012 in preserving | 5 comments

(Title inspired by the fact I sang a meaty “Get your freak on” parody while doing my cure mixing and meat massaging. It was so bad that even the cats, who usually “enjoy” my silly songs and certainly love it whenever I’m doing anything with meat in the kitchen, left the room.)

I finally started my first load of homemade bacon last night. I got my bacon on.

I’ve been meaning to start a load for a couple of months but things kept happening and I didn’t do it. Then on Sunday, we had the best bacon we’ve eaten in a long, long, long time on Sunday (from the excellent Swillington Farm) – I doubt ours will compared but my desire for perfectly preserved pink pork products is strong enough to force me to give it a go. Conveniently our monthly meatbox from Swillington also contained a small slab of belly pork – about 750g/1.5lbs – so streaky here we come :)

(Mmm, soon-to-be streaky!)

I spent a lot of time looking at different cure recipes and was surprised by how many recipes missed out vital bits of information — carefully detailing how much of each thing to use in the cure but then missing out the weight of the meat (300g? 3000g?) — but I think I figured out the required ratios in the end. I’ll hold off posting anything about my cure now until we’ve tasted the finished product – I will say though that I’m reluctant to use saltpetre and haven’t used it this time around. I’m quite glad we’re only using a small piece of pork as I suspect the cure will need some tweaking, for example, there seems to be a lot of coriander seeds on the meat, even though they make up a tiny percentage of the cure mix and I forgot to include pepper, which had been in my original plan. This post is more for me so I can remember what I did for next time :)

(I did grind the salt up further after I took these pictures.)

What I did: I mixed my cure (NB FutureLouisa: the recipe is in your blue scrap paper notebook), scored the rind the opposite way to the existing scores, then massaged most of the dry cure into the meat. I plopped it into a conveniently correct-sized container, skin down, and within a few hours, liquid had already started leaking out. This evening – and every day for the next five-ish days, I’m going to pour off the liquid and apply more rub (if needed). Then after that, I’ll rinse off any excess cure, pat it dry, then you’re supposed to leave it to hang but I think we’ll probably end up going down the route which sees it wrapped and rested in the fridge. (In the future, I want to try wet-curing & cold-smoking too – but I’ll wait until I’ve finally got around to building another smoker cabinet.)

We’ll just have to see how it turns out!

(Apologies for the bad lighting/mega-shadows in the pictures – we’ve had our normal kitchen lights taken down so the plasterer can reboard and skim the ceiling in there, and have two nasty, very yellow bulbs on wires in their place. Given the disarray, it’s probably not the best time to try an culinary experiment but nevermind!)

Have you made/do you make your own bacon? If so, have you got any tips/advice for my next few days or for my cure next time?

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More damsons!

Posted by on Friday 26 August 2011 in preserving | 0 comments

The wonderful Vic and John B have donated even more damsons to the Team Peach cause this week. Another 3kg/6.6lb! Thanks again Team B! :)

John’s happy with his three gallons of wine so these are definitely destined for jam. Or maybe damson cheese… To my recipe folder!

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Wild plum/cherry plum ketchup

Posted by on Thursday 11 August 2011 in cooking, preserving, wild food | 2 comments

As I mentioned yesterday when discussing my SUPER AWESOME YUMMY jam (it’s gooooooood), I used the rest of our last plum-type fruit harvest to make some ketchup.

Last year, I made jam and spicy chutney but this year I was inspired by a tweet from Jono from Real Men Sow‘s tweet linking to a cherry plum ketchup recipe a few weeks ago.

Since it was a bit of a test, I quartered the quantities of Norfolk Kitchen’s original recipe (although accidentally only halved the amount of onion) and added about 10ml of Worchestershire Sauce as well the vinegar because I thought it would add some nice undertones. I also added a little water, maybe 100ml in total, while it was simmering as I thought it would be getting a little sticky for ketchup.

My quartered amount – based on 500g of plums – made more than I thought it would – 3 bottles full of sauce (this old Heinz bottle and two Encona ones). I imagine a week or two of “aging” will help the flavours develop but it’s already pretty tasty – fruity but savoury. It’s a lovely colour too – a proper full-bodied deep red – first taste with the eyes and all that ;)

Like Tracey, I’ll probably use it with things I wouldn’t normally Heinz up, like cheese on toast. I’m also interested to know how it will work with the Swillington Farm pork and plum sausages we have in the freezer – double plum action! :)

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This year’s wild plum/cherry plum jam

Posted by on Wednesday 10 August 2011 in cooking, preserving, wild food | 4 comments

I wasn’t planning to make any jam from the mysterious plum-like fruit that grows outside our kitchen window but when John said he wasn’t sure if he could be bothered making wine, I had to do something with our first harvest. And boy, am I glad I did.

It was about 1kg of mysterious plums (pre-stoning), about 300ml of water, about 750g of sugar and 2tsp of vanilla extract/flavouring.

I’m not sure whether it’s the vanilla or the fact that the plums were super mega ripe when I used them but YUM. I think it’s far nicer than last year (although to be fair, it is a while since I ate last year’s jam so I might be misremembering it/confusing it with something else).

I only made about 3lb because I wanted to make some ketchup with the rest of the plums I had to hand (that’s cooking as I type) but it’s so nice that I want to make more straight-away. Thankfully it looks like we’ll get a few more kilos of fruit yet!

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Freezing courgette/marrow flowers

Posted by on Friday 15 July 2011 in cooking, Featured, growing, preserving | 13 comments

We love having marrow flower fritters for lunch at this time of year. Made with eggs, courgettes & marrow flowers from the garden, and served with homegrown salad, they’re very low in terms of food miles – and they’re easy & super tasty to boot.

But at the moment, our 13 (gulp!) courgette plants are cranking out more flowers than we can sensibly use – so I freeze them.

The petals are torn up for the fritters but I think it’s better to freeze them whole so they don’t clump together too much. I treat them like soft fruit – I wash the flowers then spread them out individually on trays before putting them in the freezer. A few hours later (well, probably sooner but I leave them that long), they are frozen solid and can be bagged up for longer term storage.

Because they’re so delicate, they don’t take long to defrost at all – we lift out the half dozen or so we need at a time, and leave them on the side while were gathering/mixing the rest of the ingredients. By the time the flour & eggs are mixed and the courgette chopped and added, they’re ready to go.

I don’t keep them in the freezer for months and months but they’ll certainly be fine for a few weeks, by which point our fresh supply may be waning slightly.

Do you eat marrow (summer squash) flowers? What do you do with them? We’ve got so many that I wouldn’t mind a few more recipes! :)

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No omelettes allowed: my five favourite recipes to use up lots of eggs

Posted by on Friday 1 April 2011 in chickens, cooking, preserving | 16 comments

According to our all knowing spreadsheet, we had 200 eggs from our hens last month. 200 eggs!

Those two hundred eggs equal an average 6.45 eggs a day from the seven girls – not enough to bother selling them at the garden gate but more than enough to keep us going! Our friends and family rarely leave without a box in their hand but we still have a good amount to get through ourselves.

John has scrambled eggs for breakfast roughly every other day, we have egg mayo lunches quite frequently and omelettes (usually either Spanish tortilla or frittatas) feature on our meal plans at least once a week – but we like to use them up in more creative, less obviously eggy ways too.

Here are my five favourite ways to use up a lot of eggs for when you’re bored of omelettes :)

1) Fresh egg pasta – one to two eggs per serving
Despite having a pasta machine for a few years now (a re-gift from John’s mum), we only made pasta for the first time last autumn – it was a lot of fun though and we didn’t know why we’d waited so long! The egg gives the pasta a lovely richness so it only needs the lightest dressing – no heavy ragus need apply. It’s perfect for having with mushrooms sautéed with garlic & chilli, with a little grated parmasan/pecorino & pepper on top. At this time of year, tangles of tagiatelle and ribbons of very lightly cooked wild garlic would toss together beautifully — mmm, am feeling hungry at the thought of it!

2) Chocolate-mocha mousse – an egg per serving
I wrote up this recipe a few weeks ago because I *had* to share. It’s possibly the richest dessert I’ve ever eaten and, trust me, I’ve eaten plenty of rich desserts in my time. Starting with chocolate is a bit of a cheat but makes it really easy to make – about ten minutes melting, whisking and folding in, then a couple of hours to chill in the fridge. As I say in the recipe, if I was served this at a restaurant with a biscotti and a sprinkling of icing sugar, I’d expect to pay a fiver for it.

3) Flourless chocolate tart – an egg per serving
Ok, so this is pretty much the same as the last one, just baked but when things are this yummy, pedantry shouldn’t enter into it. It was apparently one of the hottest desserts around a few years ago, when everyone was obsessed about cutting back on their wheat, so there are lots of recipes around for it – from the very simple to more flavoured ones with almonds, coffee or alcohol – or all three. I like this recipe for the same reason as I like the mousse – it’s a fantastic, luxurious dessert made some simple, basic ingredients – stuff we’re likely to have in.

(And while I was looking for different recipes for it, I found this equally egg heavy recipe for a chocolate cake that uses BEANS instead of flour. Apparently that too is delicious so it’ll go on my to try list…)

4) Lemon curd – 5 eggs to 2.5lbs-3lbs of finished curd
Another one that is surprisingly easy to make. It took me longer to squeeze & zest the lemons than it did to make the rest of the curd – it’s ten minutes on the stove, max and it’s LOVELY.

5) Pickled eggs – 8-12 eggs — as many as you can fit in your jar
I’m not interested in freezing eggs at the moment because we’ve got such a steady supply of fresh that we’d never use the frozen ones – but pickled ones are a different thing entirely. It’s not that we’re pickling them to preserve them as regular eggs – we’re transforming them into a whole new thing. A lovely, sharp tasty thing. By the end of the jar, they’re almost eye-wateringly sharp but we had some with cheese and our sourdough bread for lunch yesterday and the chunks were a lovely, tangy highlight.

If you’ve got chickens, what do you do with all the eggs? Anyone got any favourite egg recipes I should try?

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