My amazing homesteading friends from Golden Goose Farm built their own cold smoker and have “smoking parties” whenever it is time to fire it up for smoking meats. Everyone brings their own brined or cured bacon or other meats and some wonderful Weston A. Price types of potluck food to share with all the families as the meat smokes. What a joy.
The fresh sides from our dear American Guinea Hog sow, Charlotte, has been in the brine (see previous post) for about a week and I had been turning the meat, stirring the brine and keeping it submerged twice a day. This is what it looked like after brining.
and the other side
The day to smoke had arrived and the brined bacon needs to dry to form a pellicle, which is a dry “skin” on the outside which is said to help the meat take the smoke better. This thread about making your own bacon is very interesting. I was not sure how long it takes the pellicle to form so I took the sides out of the brine early in the morning and laid them on a wire rack over a roasting pan.
This is what I was actually looking forward to almost more than the bacon, which led to my greatest disappointment. The leftover delicious brine.
I had looked so forward to making a meat rub with the brine. Why waste all that salt, sugar, spices, apple cider and whey? I had saved some rich poblano peppers and was going to dry them and some onion and garlic in my food dehydrator. I had the brine on the stove, at a low simmer, to reduce all the water out of the brine until the consistency was very thick. Then to spread out the reduced brine on the solid dehydrator sheets to dry into a powder along with the ground dried peppers, onion and garlic. Alas! All night I kept getting up to check and stir the reducing brine until early morning I was having a good dream and awoke with a start to burning brine paste. Ugh.
Anyway I did not estimate how long the pellicle drying process would take, much longer that the six or so hours I had planned, so my daughter and I rode over the mountains to our friends farm with the windows open and the bacon sitting on the backseat. I must confess that a darling deer jumped in front of my car and I actually considered the bacon in the back seat before considering the life of the deer. Bacon can cast that certain spell over you, but I managed to miss the deer and save the bacon.
This is the cold smoker that our friends built.
They made little hooks out of strong wire to pierce into the meat to hang it from a wire rack in the ceiling of the smoker. This is one of their sides from their American Guinea Hog boar.
These last two are the sides I brought and the brine and pepper has colored them a bit darker.
The smoker was fired with fragrant mesquite wood from New Mexico.
Mike used an ingenious method of heating up the coals by blowing into a long pipe.
There are two methods of smoking, hot and cold. Hot smoking will require a pan at the bottom of the smoker because some of the fat will melt off and the meat will actually cook a little. The cold smoking method does not cook the meat at all, and you can retain all of the delicious fat. He built this cold smoker with a long pipe so that when the hot smoke actually makes its way to the smoker it has cooled off considerably on this lovely fall day.
The smoke escapes from the corrugated metal roof as well.
These last two sides were from friends who had larger hogs than American Guinea Hogs.
Our meat was smoked for four to five hours, and they leave theirs in the smoker overnight.
Now the incredibly fragrant smoked sides go into the freezer to harden up enough to be able to slice it.
I try to slice as thin as possible and am amazed at the beautiful marbling of Miss Charlotte.
I sliced six slices, cut them in half, and then put them in ziplock bags and sucked out the air.
Now for the easiest way to cook bacon. Take a baking sheet that has sides to it and line with parchment paper so the sides of the paper are coming up a bit on all sides. Place your bacon on the paper and in the oven at about 350 until it is done. No mess, no turning and when the bacon is done all you do is gather up the paper over a mason jar and pour off the fragrant fat into it to save for cooking omelets in later.
So how is the bacon you ask? Well, it goes without saying that is is incredible. However with there being the sugar and apple cider in the brine I have found that it burns a lot faster than bacon I am used to, and since the slices are thick it does need to cook a while. I have made two batches so far, and the one in the oven I will lower the temperature and turn the bacon to see if that helps. I cooked a batch on the stove in a cast iron pan, and same thing, it burned rather quickly, so next time I will cook on a lower heat.
Thank you dear Golden Goose family for a magical experience and for introducing us the the American Guinea Hog, smoking bacon and so much more.