Thursday, January 21, 2010

Makin' Bacon

It’s a bacon kind of day: I get up early enough so that Heather and I can meet Michael (Winnike, of Happy Goat Caramels) over at Dynamo Donuts. By some the gift of some magical fairy looking out for us, we manage to get the very last of the lauded Maple Bacon donuts.

I have to say that they live up to their reputation and are pretty damn good. I will also say that I thought the caramel was delicious but that the vanilla bean was a real standout. To be a ‘plain Jane’ among so many exotic flavors, it was a perfect mélange of flavor, and quite well loved!

So once we had donuts and coffee, we were ready to head on over to the class. Two major bonuses of the day: there was wine to drink with our sausage. And my backpack smelled delicious!

First off, I'd like to just say, the actual learning to make bacon portion of the class was pretty short and most of the class was really about sausage. I would have liked to spend some more time on the bacon theme, as I felt the flavor ideas were just getting good.

That being said, it was a fun and informative class. We learned what to buy, the acceptable price ranges and some of the teacher, Rick Abruzzo's, preferred places to purchase ingredients, which were helpful tools for anyone who really wants to make their own cured meats.

We also learned the difference between American style and European style bacon, the importance of keeping everything cold and how to clean sinew from your gears, and once you are done washing up, using a diluted bleach solution just to be safe. Oh and makes sure your fat to meat ratio is at least 25 to 30%.

I was unaware that pork ‘butt’ and pork ‘shoulder’ are the same cut and that is just the type of information people need to make informed choices when first starting out.

I used to make sausage patties at work, but it was a great refresher on how fun and simple it is to make sausage at home. While I love the idea of grinding our own meat, I am not sure that is something we will be doing in our current apartment. Also, since neither of us likes the casing, that will save us a lot of work!

One of the things that came up in the class was the difference, between nitrite and nitrate, with Rick saying they are essentially the same. Nitrates can actually increase your high blood pressure, where as nitrites don't necessarily have the same effect. I wanted to touch on that, as I personally suffer from pre hypertension and have had to learn the difference.

I enjoyed learning about the different types of equipment that are available, and that there are so many different types of chips available if you plan on smoking meats. I also got a lot of great ideas for keeping the bacon theme pretty fresh.

Sausage in and of itself offers a lot of outlets to get creative with flavor, so the only thing that will really limit you is your own imagination, or lack thereof.

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