Posts Tagged ‘bacon’

On Saturday Anna decided to take the plunge she had been researching for a month or two and buy a new camera, specifically a Nikon D90 to replace her D100. We were going to go get one at camera alley in Namdaemun, but instead found a great one on Craigslist. We met the seller and now friend Patrick at a coffee shop and got to talking about our blog. Patrick was excited about our homemade bacon recipes so he wouldn’t have to “go to Costco every two weeks and pay a bunch of money” for some imported bacon.

His excitement got me thinking about the sweet smell of cinnamon bacon so I decided to make up another batch for my upcoming birthday. And off to the market we went for a kilo of pork belly. Since the cinnamon cured one was so good last time I decided to make another pound of that with some added cloves. The other pound I split up between two experiments.

Prep time in the bacon lair Photo by Anna Waigand

Many curing recipes suggest aromatic ingredients so I decided to make a savory bacon with bay leaves, black pepper and ginger. I also wanted a nutty bacon, but Anna and I decided that chopped peanuts just wouldn’t transfer enough flavor to the meat. That left curing it with peanut butter. I searched around to see if anyone had tried anything this crazy before and while I found plenty of people touting the tastiness of peanut butter and bacon sandwiches, it seems no one has written about combining them long before they hit the bread. I figure since the other ingredients in peanut butter are sugar and salt, which are already in the curing mix, then it will be fine. Right?

Cinnamon-clove cured bacon
500g pork belly with skin
1/4 cup coarse, uniodized salt
1 1/2 tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves

Ginger and bay leaf bacon
250g pork belly with skin
3 medium bay leaves, chopped
1 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp white pepper
1 tsp fresh ginger, chopped

Peanut butter bacon
250g pork belly with skin
1 tbsp peanut butter
1 tsp cinnamon

For all three recipes follow these directions.
1. Wash off the pork belly and pat dry. Cut off any bits of hard cartilage in the meat.
2. Cover the pork belly thoroughly with salt. Make sure to get it everywhere.
3. Combine the other spices in a bowl. Cover the pork in the mix. (For the peanut butter bacon, do not combine the peanut butter with the other spices. Instead, cover the pork with the salt, sugar and cinnamon. Then run a spoon under hot water for a minute, dip it into your peanut butter and carefully apply the peanut butter along all sides of the pork. It’s a tricky and sticky task, but just try and get some of it on each side.)
4. Place the pork in a heavy-duty sealing bag or in a Tupperware container. Don’t settle for cheap plastic bags. Get some Ziploc brand freezer bags. Double zipper.
5. Refrigerate for 24 hours. Drain the juices out of the bag and return to the fridge.
6. Refrigerate for another 4-5 days, occasionally jostling the bag to make sure the spices are well distributed.
7. After it’s done curing, wash off all of the dry rub. If you don’t have a meat slicer, put the slab of bacon into the freezer for an hour and then slice into strips. The freezer should make the difficult cutting process easier. Wrap tightly in plastic and refrigerate or freeze.

Check back soon for the experiment results.

For some more bacon goodness read the taste test of my first attempt, see Anna’s photos on Flickr and use your bacon in our romanesco bacon soup.


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Stuffed Squash
Photo by Anna Waigand

I was at our local outdoor market when I saw a couple boxes of produce out of place next to the rice cakes, red bean pastries and bread of a baker’s stand. There were three boxes of small green squashes. I’ve never cooked with squash before, and it isn’t something I would order at at restaurant, but the smallest squashes were adorable and I thought Anna would like them. Plus it was two mini squashes for 1000 won, pocket change.

The next day Anna and I brainstormed ideas for stuffed squash on the subway trip to an expat Thanksgiving, but it took a week before we had a chance to try them out. There were a couple moments where I was sure my experiment was doomed, but I was reassured just by the rush of deep smells as I lifted off the top of the steamer. The two tightly packed balls came out beautifully.

The steaming squash
Photo by Anna Waigand

The squashes are stuffed with poor-man’s pureed carrot seasoned with pine nuts, cinnamon-sugar bacon and garlic. It comes out warm and sweet with enough depth of flavor to have you scraping the last bits of squash off the dark green rind. The juicy stuffing is absorbed into the squash and keeps it moist while steaming, and the seeds are saved and cooked up as a colorful and crunchy topping. If you can find individual-sized squashes this makes for a great first course or side dish. If you don’t have your own cinnamon-sugar bacon, look for sweet cured bacon and add a dash of cinnamon to the mix. And outside of the bacon this is a really healthy recipe. Virtually no oil, very little salt and lots of fresh veggies.

The Squash Stuffing
Photo by Anna Waigand

Serves 2 as appetizer/side dish
2 mini squashes – about the size of a cup measure
1 strip thick cut home-cured cinnamon-sugar bacon
1 1/3 cup chopped carrots
4 cloves garlic, grated
1 tbsp pine nuts
1/3 medium onion, grated
pinch coarse salt

Seeds from squashes
1 tsp cumin
Salt and pepper to taste
Olive oil

The Squash
1. Put the chopped carrots in a pot, cover with water and bring to a boil. Boil for 20 minutes until soft.
2. Cut off the very top of each squash. You shouldn’t cut it in half or even far enough down to be able to see the pulp. Hit the center of the hard yellow meat with the wrong end of a spoon to break a hole into the seedy center. Scoop out all the seeds and pulp. Set aside the seeds and discard the pulp.
3. Fry up the bacon (preferably with extra to snack on). Pat dry and finely chop once cool.
4. Grate the garlic and onion into a small bowl.
5. Toast the pine nuts in a dry pan. Finely chop.
6. When the carrots are cooked, drain them of water and return them to the pot. Mash them finely with a fork unless you have a blender. In which case, blend them. Add the carrots to the garlic and onion. Add the bacon, pine nuts and a pinch of salt. Mix.
7. Stuff the squash with the mixture. There will be a lot of juice from the mixture. Like a lot. Do not squeeze it out or drain it off, it will keep the squash moist. Place in the steamer and steam for 20 minutes or until the squash flesh is soft. Keep a close watch of the squash, you don’t want it to over cook and become dry. The flesh should turn from yellow to a solid green. If it begins to crack or become flaky it’s done, and you should take it out immediately.
8. Finish with the squash seed garnish (below) and serve immediately.

Frying squash seeds
Photo by Anna Waigand

Sauteed squash seed garnish
1. Thoroughly wash the seeds. Use a strainer to repeatedly wash and pick out pieces of squash and pulp.
2. Lightly coat a small frying pan with olive oil and sauté the seeds over low heat. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and cumin. As we often say, use an oven if you have it. Roast them on a cookie sheet with the spices sprinkled on top. Otherwise improvise along with us.
3. Cook until dark brown and preferable crispy. It’s tricky to get them crispy on the stove without burning them, but they will be good no matter what.
4. Garnish finished squash with the seeds.

As I’ve done with my other food experiments, here are a couple lessons I learned while making this dish.
1. Grating onions is a sure-fire way to clear out your tear ducts. So if they’re blocked, pull out the fine-toothed grater.
2. I throw a lot of garlic in things, but I was sure I had finally gone too far on this one. I tasted the carrot mix, which has the raw grated onion and garlic in it, and was almost knocked off my feet. I reassured myself that after cooking and soaking into the squash it would mellow out, but I didn’t really believe it. I was preparing exit strategies and back up plans both to be able to eat the squash and to make something else for dinner. Thankfully it worked. Phew.
3. The carrot mix was far juicer that I was expecting. As an experiment I squeezed out a lot of the juice from one squash and packed in extra mix while the other got a juice-laden mix. As you might expect, the one with more juice had moist squash flesh while the other was too dry. Embrace the juice.
4. Raw squash is seriously hard. Like rock hard. I guess that is what you get for being a squash newbie. There’s always more lessons to learn.

Us playing with our food and more squash photos on Flickr.

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Round Two of Bacon
Photo by Anna Waigand

In preparation for my upcoming personal bacon day (Nov. 30, more on why in a later post), I decided to make another round of home-cured bacon. I picked up half a kilo at the butcher and decided to make a sweet version. Last time I made bacon I made a traditional dry rub and a Korean spiced batch. The traditional bacon wasn’t quite sweet enough so I decided to add a bunch more brown sugar and some cinnamon.

The cinnamon smelled amazing in the mix, but I had a problem getting the salt to stick. The much finer sugar and cinnamon mix took up most of the available surface area before the coarse salt could stick. So if you make this I recommend covering the pork with the salt and then adding the cinnamon and sugar. Instead I just added two extra pinches of salt to the bag before putting it in the fridge to make sure it cured properly.

.5 kg pork belly with skin
1 tablespoon natural salt
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1. Wash off the pork belly and pat dry.
2. Cover the pork belly thoroughly with salt. Make sure to get it everywhere.
3. Combine the sugar and cinnamon in a bowl. Cover the pork in the mix.
4. Place the pork in a heavy-duty sealing bag or in a Tupperware container. (For people in Korea, don’t settle for plastic bags from Daiso. Find a Home Plus for Ziploc brand bags. Double zipper.)
5. Refrigerate for 7 days, turning the bag over every day to distribute the juices and mixture. The salt will suck a lot of liquid out of the pork, don’t worry about it.
6. After it’s done curing, wash off all of the dry rub and slice into strips. Refrigerate or freeze and then cook like normal. Now is also where you would smoke it, but we don’t have an oven or a grill, so we can only cure it.

It has been curing away in my fridge now for a couple of days and will be ready for tasting on Monday night. I’ll let you know how it goes.

If you can’t get enough bacon, check out my taste test of my first attempt, see Anna’s photos on Flickr and, if you want to use some bacon, try our romanesco bacon soup.

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Photo by Anna Waigand

I was worried for a couple moments. After firing up the burner, the four test strips of cured pork quickly sizzled to life, but I was worried they would come out like pork that had sat in my fridge for a week and not actually bacon. They looked grey and extra fatty like the pork belly at the cheap restaurant across the street from our apartment.

They browned up quickly with black bits on the edges, but didn’t release much grease or liquid. I’d read that store bought bacon releases so much liquid because it’s wet cured, but I was surprised at how little fat came out of my bacon. Our one good knife combined with my average carving skills produced pretty thick and uneven strips, so we didn’t get that wonderful curling and wavy shape of store-bought bacon.

Photo by Anna Waigand

After a couple of minutes in the pan we went for the all important taste test. I’d cooked up an inside strip of traditional bacon, a nugget of traditional bacon I couldn’t cut into a strip, an outside strip of Korean bacon and an inside strip of Korean bacon. I was worried the Korean flavoring wouldn’t come through strong enough on the inside of the pork slabs, but I hoped it would have given the outside pieces a nice kick.

I bit in and was delighted – it was actually bacon! It had that wonderfully sweet, salty goodness and a great red color with browned edges.

Photo by Anna Waigand

The Taste Test

Traditional Bacon – All I thought at first was that I’d actually succeeded in making bacon – a great feeling on its own. Then I started to pay attention to the taste. The strip was thick without too much fat and was one of the better cut ones – long, even and not falling apart. The taste was nicely salty though I couldn’t taste much of the pepper that I put on during the curing. Also it could have been sweeter.

Korean Bacon – The outside strip, which had a much darker brown color from the curing, was way too salty. The salt was overpowering and made me get up for a glass of water. The inner piece was much better. It still had a good salty flavor but there was also a hint of spice and some depth to the flavor at the end of each bite. I could tell that some of the spices had sunk it, but I wouldn’t quite call it Korean flavored yet.

Photo by Anna Waigand


1. When trimming the skin off, take some of the fat with it. Don’t worry, there will be plenty.
2. When slicing, beware of small bits of cartilage and bone. Don’t want them to ruin a delicious bite.
3. The slices on the outside of the slab will be seriously salty. Try to use them in a recipe instead of eating straight.
4. The traditional bacon was good, but I think I’d add either a bunch more brown sugar to give it a deep sweet flavor that you wouldn’t get in most bacon or a blend of savory spices for a more complicated bacon. Since I just got a care package from home with bay leaves, thyme, rosemary and sage I might have to try that.
5. The Korean spices made it into the pork, but only gave a hint of flavor. It was an interesting flavor, but I think to make it really stand out I need even more spices. Maybe more ginger, some diced chili peppers and more chili powder. I might also try to use chili paste or soy bean paste.

For a bunch more bacon slicing and sizzling photos go over to our Makin’ Bacon Flickr set.

Check out our first bacon curing post for the recipe for both flavors.

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Photo by Anna Waigand

So there I was, passing through the produce section of my Home Plus when this bizarre vegetable caught me eye. It was a mass of little cones of green spirals that rose up to form a pyramid, and it was named after a famous journalism blogger so I took a closer look. Turns out it was romanesco, a relative of broccoli and cauliflower. For math geeks, romanesco is an especially cool vegetable because it’s made up of fractal buds in a logarithmic spiral. The pyramid of ever larger spirals plus my love for broccoli made it impossible to pass up. I’ve been craving broccoli soup so I decided to make a version of it with romanesco.

Romanesco Soup
Photo by Anna Waigand

It’s a warm, hearty soup for a cold rainy day and a great way to use a really interesting vegetable. The fresh tomatoes on top provide a great contrast to the soup so add more if you like it. I didn’t keep meticulous notes while cooking, so I suggest adapting this to what you think seems right. My version came out too salty, so make sure to taste as you go and adjust accordingly. Some added milk and pepper masked the salt taste a little.

Photo by Anna Waigand

Makes 4 servings
1 medium sized romanesco (they were all the same size where I bought mine)
1/2 small white onion, finely chopped
1/2 carrot, finely chopped
3 thick cut slices of home cured bacon
1 cup low fat milk
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
6 cherry tomatoes, cut in half
3 cups water

1. Wash the romanesco. Break off one of the better looking spirals for each bowl you will be serving. Set aside. Cut off any leaves and the base. Cut and break off the spirals into large chunks and discard the center.
2. Boil three cups water in a pot and add the romanesco chunks. Sprinkle with salt. Boil for 4 minutes or until easily penetrated by a fork.
3. Place a stainer in a large bowl. Pour the romanesco and water into the strainer, saving the water.
4. Here is where I would have blended the romanesco if I had a blender. So if you’re kitchen isn’t also your bedroom and you have room for appliances I recommend blending them. Otherwise you should finely chop the romanesco like I did.
5. In a seperate pan cook the bacon. Then pat dry with a towel and chop into small pieces. Depending on whether you used dry cured or wet cured bacon (like most brands you buy in stores) you will get vastly different amounts of liquid and fat out of the bacon. If you use dry cured bacon, you can probably use all of the fat rendered from the bacon. If not, put about 1 tablespoon of the drippings into your soup pot.
6. Add the onions and carrots to the soup pot with the bacon drippings. Saute until the onions are translucent.
7. Add the chopped romanesco, milk, salt, pepper and 3 cups of the water used to boil the romanesco. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 15 minutes.
8. Ladle into bowls. Top with a piece of raw romanesco and three cherry tomato halves.

I also tried plain steamed romanesco, which tasted closer to cauliflower than broccoli, but I found it a little more complex and interesting than cauliflower. The look of it also makes it a really interesting ingredient to work with. I think I’ll buy more while it’s in season.

As a side note, this should be a pretty healthy soup despite the bacon. Romanesco is full of vitamin C, fiber, and carotenoids. I used low fat milk and there is no oil, butter or cream like many soups. And it is sure way healthier than this califlower bacon soup recipe I found while looking for inspiration. Not only does the recipe call for a cup of heavy cream, but it says to cook the bacon in a 1/2 stick of melted butter. As if bacon needs any more oil when you cook it. Then another half stick of butter is used later. Wow.

For more wonderful photos from Anna check out romanesco on Flickr.

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Makin’ Bacon

Soon to be Korean baconThat’s going to be amazing in a week.

Everybody is a fan of bacon these days, but I’d like to consider myself a notch closer to fanatic than your average fan. When people aren’t sure what to get me for a small gift, they resort to bacon-related items like bacon chocolate from Vosges in Chicago (seriously delicious) or bacon-salt, one of the few spices I brought with me to Korea. For special occasions, mega-packs of bacon from Costco are cooked and consumed in a single night.

Bacon is a mysteriously delicious and versatile meat, as has been demonstrated by the craze of putting bacon in anything and everything. Volume also counts too. If your dish has enough bacon to give a moose a heart attack, it’s sure to be popular.

But it turns out that this magical meat is relatively simple to make. I took some inspiration from Saveur and Menu In Progress for my dry cure. As Menu in Progress says, the basic ingredients for a dry cure are “kosher salt, sugar, and pink salt (in a ratio of 2:1:1/8th by weight).” As you may imagine, everything is in Korean in Korean grocery stores so I wasn’t exactly sure what salt I was buying, and I wasn’t able to find pink salt (which is salt with saltpeter mixed in). Instead I went with “natural salt”, which is a coarse ground salt similar to kosher and more importantly not iodized salt.

A dash here

I liked the spices added to the Saveur rub, but I wanted to try and make some bacon true to the flavors of Korea. For the Korean rub I decided to use some of the basic dry ingredients in Korean cooking: garlic, ginger, chili powder and sesame seeds. Many other Korean flavors come in paste form, and I plan to experiment with those later. Crushing the sesame seeds lets out a lot more of their nutrients and smell and helps them get into the meat better. I think the Korean bacon flavor should be pretty strong, but I hope it retains some of character of classic bacon. We’ll see.

Putting the spices on

Korean Bacon

1/4 kg pork belly, skin on
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp natural salt
1 tsp fresh ginger, minced
1 tsp garlic, minced
1 tsp mild Korean chili powder
1 tsp crushed black sesame seeds

1. Wash off the pork belly and pat dry.
2. Combine the salt, sugar, ginger, garlic, sesame seeds and chili powder in a bowl.
3. Cover the pork belly thoroughly with the spice mixture. Make sure to get it everywhere.
4. Place the pork in a heavy duty sealing bag or in a Tupperware container. (For people in Korea, don’t settle for plastic bags from corner stores. Find a Home Plus for Ziploc brand bags. Double zipper.)
5. Refrigerate for 7 days, turning the bag over everyday to distribute the juices and mixture. The salt will suck a lot of liquid out of the pork, don’t worry about it.
6. After it’s done curing, wash off all of the spice mixture and slice into strips. Refrigerate or freeze and then cook like normal. Now is also where you would smoke it, but we don’t have an oven or a grill, so we can only cure it.

The huge slab of pork for bacon for the second batchAbout a kilo of pork belly for the traditional bacon batch.

Traditional Bacon

1 kg pork belly, skin on
2 tbsp natural salt
1 tbsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp ground white pepper
1/2 tsp ground black pepper

Instructions are the same as for the Korean bacon. Wash, mix, cover, refrigerate, turn, wash, slice, cook, eat.

The bacon is curing in the fridge right now. One day in and plenty of juices are starting to develop in both bags. Check back for curing updates, flavor comparisons and brand new recipes.

For even more photos of this magical process, check out our Makin’ Bacon set on Flickr.

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