It’s hard to believe that a whole month has passed since my first foray into the world of Charcutepalooza, but here I am again with another post dedicated to the fine art of charcuterie. If you’ll recall, my last Charcutepalooza post was for Corned Beef Hash, and was crafted to meet that month’s challenge which was all about brining. This time around came the call for a brined and hot smoked pork loin in order to make a homemade “Canadian Bacon”.
Now I don’t know about any of you, but the words Canadian Bacon conjure only one image in my mind, and that would be a delectable Eggs Benedict (Hmmm…I actually just had another one pop into my head, but if it’s all the same to you, we won’t be discussing Egg McMuffins today, OK?). I’m sure there will be a delightful variety of non “eggs benny” recipes posted by other Charcutepaloozers (thats loozers, not losers), but for me, the darling of brunch menus everywhere, the Eggs Benedict, is the highest and best use of the lovely bacon we’ve made.
As was the case last month, the process of transforming a lovely piece of meat into a well seasoned slab of charcuterie couldn’t have been easier. Again, taking advantage of the generous discount our friends at D’Artagnan have offered Charcutepalooza participants, I ordered a most beautiful “Berkshire” pork loin from their on-line site. I lopped off about a 2 pound piece from the thick end of the loin and cooked it as a small, herb rubbed roast pork on the day it arrived. The rest, I trimmed of all fat and connective tissue, and cut in half so that it would fit in the pan I had reserved for the brining.
I followed the brining and hot smoking procedure as detailed in Michael Rhulman & Brian Polcyn’s Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing which calls for brining the loin for 48 hours, then rinsing and drying the loin, and setting it uncovered on a rack in the fridge for another 12-24 hours. Finally, the meat is “hot smoked” which I accomplished outdoors on my Weber gas grill using hickory chips in a little smoker box set directly on the burners, while gently cooking the meat to an internal temperature of 150 ℉, while maintaining the grill at a temperature of about 200-210 ℉.
I found the only tricky part of the operation to be maintaining the grill heat in that tight of a range over the the 2-3 hour estimated cooking time. It was a windy day, and it seemed to take me a good long while to figure out which combination of burners, working at varied intensities, would produce the constant, low cooking temperature required. If you’ve any interest at all in trying your hand at charcuterie, I highly recommend you buy Rhulman’s book, it is very well written, and quite comprehensive in its approach.
Thankfully, at about the 2 1/2 hour mark, the meat reached the finish temperature of 150 ℉, and I was able to stop running in and out of doors to check the reading on the oven thermometer that I had placed next to the meat on the grill. The loin when finished, hardly looked cooked at all, the surface a light amber brown, did not exhibit the grill marks and char expected on a piece of grilled meat. Lifting it from its perch above an aluminum pan of water, I found it stiff and feeling quite dense, indications that it had in fact, been cooked perfectly to its core. Just look at it in the picture above, lightly pink to the very center, and perfectly moist throughout.
This bacon is so tasty and tender, not like the over-salted rubbery pucks that you buy at your local market. As was the case with last month’s challenge, making homemade corned beef, this hand crafted bacon is so far superior to what I might buy in a store, that I can’t imagine having it any other way.
Enjoy – Steve
- 4 english muffins, split and toasted
- 8 large organic eggs
- 8 slices Canadian Bacon
- 1 bunch kale, washed and dried
- 4 oven roasted tomatoes
- Hollandaise sauce - recipe below (requires 3 egg yolks,1/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard,1 tablespoon lemon juice, 1/2 cup of melted, unsalted butter, and salt and pepper to taste).
- First, prep your kale by cutting the leaves away from the tough stalk and center rib. Stack your de-stemmed leaves and roll them into a cigar shape, cut across the roll to "chiffonade" the leaves into thin strips. Blanch the strips in a large pot of boiling, salted water for about 2 minutes, then drain and place into an ice water bath to stop them cooking. Once cooled, drain again and squeeze in your hands to remove any excess water. Saute briefly (just to warm though) over medium heat in a little oil and butter, season with salt and pepper and set aside.
- Chop your oven roasted tomatoes into bite sized pieces and reserve.
- Make your poached eggs as demonstrated in the video below, and when cooked to your preferred degree of doneness (about 3 1/2 - 4 minutes for me), move them to an ice water bath to sit until you are ready to serve. Keep the cooking pot over low heat because you will be returning the eggs there for a quick warm-through before plating.
With your eggs chilling, it's time to make the hollandaise sauce
- Place the butter in a small heavy bottom pan, and set it over low-medium heat to melt. Once melted, let it gently bubble for about ten minutes to evaporate any residual water, and to consolidate the milk solids. Pour through a cheesecloth lined seive into a measuring cup, once all the butter has passed through, carefully press on the cloth with the back of a spoon to extract all the butter fat.
- In the container of a blender, combine the egg yolks, mustard, and lemon juice. Cover, and blend on low speed for about 15 seconds.
- Set the blender on medium speed, and pour the hot butter into the egg yolk mixture in a thin stream. It should thicken almost immediately, switch to high speed for about 5 seconds and then turn off the machine. Remove the sauce to a gently warmed bowl, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Keep the sauce in a warm place as you get ready to plate your dish.
- Split and toast your english muffins and place them on your dinner plates. Top each muffin half with a pile of kale and some roasted tomato. Reintroduce the eggs to their cooking pot and re-heat for about 30 seconds before placing them atop the muffins. Drizzle with a few spoonfuls of hollandaise, season with salt and pepper and sprinkle with some chopped chives.