Le Tour du Porc: Suffolk Style Black Bacon

Don’t call it a comeback…

Sorry, I know it’s been a while (to put it mildly) since my last post but life gets in the way of blogging sometimes and the truth is that I’ve been off doing other things. One of these is cycling and it’s a recent trip away on the bike that has prompted this blog post. I’ve just had some time off between jobs and so Mrs Pig and I decided to go cycle touring in Suffolk. Our route took us through Peasenhall, home of Emmetts, makers of Suffolk black ham and bacon.
The bikes parked up outside Emmetts of Peasenhall

Liz loading up on bacon outside Emmetts of Peasenhall

Last time I was in Peasenhall was during last years Dunwich Dynamo. It was 6am in the morning and having cycled nearly 100 miles without any sleep, I was feeling decidedly ropey and not in the mood for bacon. This time, things were different and I was determined to get my fill of this Suffolk treat so we loaded up our panniers with thick slabs of Suffolk black bacon and headed off to the coast to set up camp for the night.

Suffolk black bacon is cured with molasses, dark beer, fennel and coriander and has a unique rich, sweet, and slightly acidic taste from the beer which offsets the sugary molasses. A few rashers of this, fried up on a camp stove and served with some hunks of bread and a mug of strong coffee are the perfect antidote to a cold night spent under canvas.
The idea of using beer to cure bacon really inspired me and I knew that when I got back to London I would have to give it a go. Below is my recipe. Before I go any further though, I make no claims to its authenticity. This is not meant to be an exact facsimile of Emmetts black bacon, rather, it’s more of a homage based on the ingredients list, some guesswork and my own bacon curing skills. Either way, it’s bloody tasty.

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Jon’s Suffolk Style Black Bacon

1 kg Pork belly
30g Celery Salt
3g (1 1/2 tsp) black peppercorns
5g (2 tsp) fennel seed
3g (1 tsp) coriander seed
3.5g (1/2tsp) Prague powder #1
2tbsp black treacle
150ml dark beer. Porter, Stout, Mild or something similar

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First things first. Take your belly pork and trim it for bacon. I got some good looking old spot pork from Flock and Herd in Peckham which came with the ribs and leaf fat still on there. I carefully trimmed these off and put them aside for dinner later in the week. Leaf fat is the highest grade of pig fat and I’ll render these down for lard. I found this link really helpful for advice on deboning.
Next measure out your salts and spices. I always tend to weigh mine out to the nearest gramme but I’ve also written down spoon measurements in case you don’t have micro scales. Next roughly pound your fennel seeds, coriander seeds and peppercorns. You don’t want to grind them to a fine powder, just crush them up enough so you can really smell the spices.
Take your piece of belly pork and place it in a large plastic bag. I use Lakeland freezer bags but you might prefer to use a ziplock. Up to you. Either is fine. Next take your salt and spices and spread them equally over the meat, being sure to work them into the meat thoroughly.
Working the treacle  and ale into the meat

Working the treacle and ale into the meat

Next take 2 tbsp of black treacle and smear it over the meat. Again, rub this into the meat. You can do it through the bag so you don’t stick to the meat. Take your beer and pour it into the bag. Confession time. I’d originally bought a bottle of London Fields Chocolate Porter but..err…well. I drank it. One quick trip to the corner shop for a bottle of Thwaites Nutty Black and we were back on track (although, if I’m honest I drank most of that too) Loosely seal the bag and set aside in the fridge, turning the bag every couple of days to ensure that the beery brine is absorbed by the meat evenly.

The meat after two weeks

The meat after two weeks curing

At the end of the week, remove the bacon from the bag and discard the brine. You might want to brush some of the crushed seeds of it at this stage but i didnt bother. Place the meat on a rack to dry and return to the fridge for another 7 days. This was ensure that the bacon has a lovely, firm texture and, if you want to smoke it, will ensure that the smoke adheres to the meat. I don’t have access to any outdoor space at the moment so I’ve had to quit smoking. I’m working on a plan to get round that but at the moment my bacon remains unsmoked.

Bacon. Finished. Delicious

Bacon. Finished. Delicious

The final step is to slice the meat up into rashers ready for gently frying for breakfast.

It may not have had that early morning cooking outdoors feeling of the Peasenhall Bacon but this stuff is seriously tasty. More delicately flavoured than the stuff from Emmets, the beer, treacle and fennel give a beautifully balanced almost creamy taste with just the right amount of sugar and spice. This is absolutely one of my favourite bacons and perfect for breakfast with some eggs on the side.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Rillons

So, it’s been a while since I posted anything up here. So long in fact that it feels kind of strange to be writing a blog post. Anyway, rather than make a load of excuses about why I haven’t posted recently or resolutions about how I’m going to blog more in 2013 (I’ll try, alright?) I thought I should just get on and tell you about why I’m writing this blog post.

About six months ago I was walking past the Sillfield Farm shop at Borough and noticed that they were selling off huge hunks of rare breed pork belly for super cheap. Consequently, I ended up with a couple of kilos of tasty belly pork which I promptly froze and they’ve been sitting in my freezer waiting for me to use them ever since. Every time I’ve opened the freezer, it’s been sitting there reminding me that I still haven’t cooked it. Eventually, I couldn’t stand it any more, knowing that it was in there like the tell tale pig, so I defrosted it, reasoning that would force me to cook it.

But what to make? Given that it’s Christmas, my house is already awash with a surfeit of roasted meat and much as I love roast pork, I couldn’t quite face any more rich roast meat so I decided on using some of the meat to make rillons, juicy tender cubes of belly pork, slow cooked in fat and aromatics and then preserved under a layer of lard. REALLY TASTY!

This recipe is very similar to the one for rillettes that I made a year or so ago, the main difference being that I’ve cooked them with some extra aromatics and haven’t shredded them like you would do with rillettes.

You can use rillons much like you would rillettes, spooned straight from the jar and spread on toast.

They’re also amazing when refried until crispy and served with potatoes, spring greens etc. They make a perfect store cupboard food for when you don’t have the time or inclination to make something fancy as they keep for ages!

Rillon ingredients. More green than pink...

Rillon ingredients. More green than pink…

Jon’s Rillons
800g belly pork
2 tsp celery salt
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp black peppercorns
2 tsp fresh picked thyme leaves
4/5 garlic cloves
150 ml white wine
3 bay leaves

Preheat your oven to a super low setting,(Gas Mark 1/4 or about 80c)

Whilst it is coming up to temperature, take your belly pork, derind it, and chop it into cubes of about an inch in size.

Cubing the pork with my favourite jamon knife.

Cubing the pork with my favourite jamon knife.

Next, place the pork in a large casserole dish with a close fitting lid. Add all of the other ingredients and mix thoroughly.until the meat is well covered in seasonings. Make a lid for the casserole dish using foil before adding the actual lid. This will ensure that the meat gently steams in its own juices and makes it super tender.

Ready for the ole low'n'slow.

Ready for the ole low’n’slow.

Put the pork in the oven and cook for at least 8 hours. It’s good to cook overnight or whilst you’re out at work. It doesn’t matter if you cook it for longer than eight hours, it’s only going to get more tender. When you’re happy that the pork is thoroughly cooked, remove it from the oven and discard the foil. By this time the meat should be meltingly tender and relaxing in a jacuzzi of its own fat.

Carefully strain the meat through a sieve to separate out the fat. Reserve the fat. You may want to discard the garlic or leave it in there. I got rid of mine as it’d oxidised slightly and gone an unattractive green/blue colour.

Packing Pork

Packing Pork

Take your pork chunks and pack them loosely into sterilised pots or jars before pouring over the liquid fat to create an airtight seal around the meat. Set them aside to cool and there you have it; a finished jar of rillons. Dig in!

Finished jar of rillons.

Finished jar of rillons.

Souvlaki

Finally, it seems summer has arrived. After hiding from us for most of the year, it seems the sun has finally decided to put in an appearance. Of course, being Brits, we’ve all thrown off our clothes, grabbed as much booze as we can carry and hightailed it to the nearest park or garden. In amongst the warm grog, overenthusiastic frisbee and ill-advised toplessness, the food component is frequently overlooked, either relying on a supermarket picnic or some cheap sausages on a disposable barbecue.

Meat in a bath of herbs.

This souvlaki recipe is a really easy and quick summer treat that is equally at home on your kitchen grill as it is on a disposable BBQ down the park (but don’t burn the grass!) Serve it with flat bread, salad, chilli, and garlic sauce. As with most other recipes I make no claims to authenticity. This is my take on the classic Greek kebab but I’ve made some changes. The first time I made this, I only had white wine to hand (quelle horreur!) so I used that and I’ve since found that I prefer it that way. It somehow tastes more vibrant.

Jon’s Souvlaki
500g pork shoulder
2 tsp dried oregano
1 1/2 tsp dried mint
2tsp garlic salt
(or 1tsp salt and 1 tsp garlic powder/1tsp salt and 2 cloves crushed garlic)
2 bay leaves, crumbled
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup white wine

Combine all of the ingredients except the pork in a large bowl and stir to mix.

De-rind the pork shoulder and trim off any excess fat before cutting into thin strips. Next place the pork in the marinade and leave for anything from 1-24 hours. It’s a pretty robust marinade so the meat will start to pick up flavour quite quickly but the longer you leave it the better. Interestingly, the lemon juice in the marinade will start to ceviche the pork and it will take on a white tint.

Marinating meat

When you’re ready to eat, simply take the meat and cook it however you would like. You can thread it onto skewers and skewers and grill it over hot coals, basting it with marinade. If, like me, however, you don’t have a garden (bloody London living!) then these are almost as good cooked under the grill or on a griddle pan.

Souvlaki pieces sizzling on the grill.

Serve them in a pitta or flatbread with some salad, chilli sauce and tzatziki or hummous (or both). Souvlaki is also really good served cold. Last time I made this I made double quantities and we took some on a picnic wrapped in flatbread with some home smoked cheese. Simply divine…

Szechuan Aubergine

It’s been a while since I’ve written anything about pork. Looking back over the last couple of posts, there has been bread and even cheese but not much pork. On the face of it, this is another one of those recipes. I mean, it even looks sounds vegetarian right? Don’t worry. It’s not. In fact, this recipe is a damn sneaky way to smuggle extra pork into your diet under cover of a vegetable dish. The smoky aubergine, umami sauce and numbing qualities of the Szechuan peppercorns combined with the slightly fatty pork mince make a dish that is simple enough for a quick midweek dinner but special enough to serve to your mates either as a main dish or as part of a larger Chinese meal.

Ingredients

I have to be completely honest here. I can’t speak for the authenticity of this recipe. I’ve eaten dishes like this in restaurants like Leong’s Legends and the Empress of Sichuan in Chinatown, London and this is my attempt to replicate them.

Jon’s Szechuan Aubergine
2 medium aubergines
2 onions, sliced
4 cloves garlic, sliced
2 tbsp grated ginger
2 small red chillis or more to taste
1/2 – 1 tsp Szechuan pepper, roughly crushed in a mortar and pestle
1/2 tsp five spice powder
2 tbsp rice wine
2 tbsp oyster sauce
1 1/2 tbsp soy sauce
4 tbsp water
500g minced pork
Sesame oil
Pinch MSG (optional)
Spring onion and coriander to serve.

Cut your aubergine into spears about 2 inches long. Take a decent heavy bottomed frying pan, add a good glug of sesame oil and heat to a medium high temperature. Add the aubergine and fry on all sides until golden brown. Don’t worry if you char them a little bit, it’ll all add to the character of the dish. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Turn down the heat to medium and add the onion, garlic, chilli, ginger and minced pork to the pan. Stir-fry for a couple of minutes or until the pork has started to colour and give up some of its juices then add the Szechuan pepper, five spice, and MSG if using. Continue to cook until the pork has lost its pink colour and the onions have softened.

Cooking up treats

Add the rice wine, oyster sauce, soy sauce and water to the pan and continue to cook over a medium heat. Next, return the aubergines to the pan and keep cooking until they’re softened and there you have it, Szechuan aubergine. Top with coriander and spring onion and serve with boiled rice.

Szechuan Aubergine

Black Pudding

Finished black pudding. Ready for frying.

It all started so well.

I was idly browsing the internet, looking for new ingredients to try out. How then did it end at 2am on a Wednesday morning standing covered in blood, in a kitchen that looked like something out of CSI?

I’ve always really liked black pudding. I can appreciate that it’s not to everyone’s taste but for me, the combination of blood, fat and cereals is a heavenly one. I’d never really thought about making my own though. Never that is, until a combination of finding dried blood for sale and a friend lending me the River Cottage Cook Book led me down a dangerous path.

One fateful Tuesday evening, I thought, “Oh I don’t have much on tonight. I’ll make some black pudding. How hard can it be…” Skip forward 6 hours to me standing in my kitchen, tired, grumpy and looking like an extra from an early Peter Jackson film. Should you wish to join me on this particular (mis)adventure with the pig, the recipe follows.

Ingredients.

Jon’s British style Black Pudding
150g dried pigs blood
1 ltr water
25g salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
250g oatmeal soaked overnight
250g pearl barley, boiled until tender
500g pork back fat, derinded and cubed
500g onions, finely chopped
250 ml double cream
1g mace
1g ground coriander
1g cayenne pepper.
Hog casings – more than you think…. (maybe about 15 feet)

First soak your casings in the usual way.

Pork fat and onions. Cooking gently.

Next, take a handful of your back fat (perhaps 100g) and gently heat until it starts to render liquid. When a tablespoon or so of fat has run, add the onions and the rest of the back fat and cook over a low heat until the onions are soft and the fat has started to become translucent. You might want to cover the pan to encourage cooking.

In the meantime, slowly combine your dried pigs blood with the water to hydrate it.  You might need to beat it together for a while to ensure that you remove any lumps.

Keep stirring, adding your salt, pepper and spices until your blood mix is thoroughly combined.

Blood and spice. The kitchen is still clean at this point.

Take your soaked casings and cut into lengths depending on how long you want your puddings. I cut mine into pieces about 45 cm long which made roughly 30cm puddings. Tie your skins at one end, making sure the knot is secure. You don’t want them coming undone when you’re trying to fill them.

Take your oatmeal and cream and add it to the fat and onions before continuing to cook over a low heat for a minute or two.

Up until now it’s been a fairly clean task. This is where it starts to get messy…

Adding blood to the cream, fat, and oatmeal. Still fairly clean....

Take your pan off the heat and slowly pour in your seasoned blood, continuing to stir until it’s all combined. Add your oatmeal, stirring continuously to stop the fat and cereals sinking to the bottom. Put an apron on. You will spill some.

Set a large pan of water over a gentle heat and keep it at a gentle simmer.

Take your sausage casings and slide them over your medium sausage stuffing tube or a funnel. Now using a ladle, slowly start to fill your casings until you have a thick sausage. You will want something like a chopstick or skewer to push through any bits of fat or cereal that get stuck.

Poking fat through a funnel

Slide your skin off the funnel when you’re about 5-7cm off the open end of the skin and tie securely. This is quite tricky as your hands, your casings, and most of your kitchen are liable to be covered with blood at this stage. I can see why commercial producers use metal ties to seal them.

Filling puddings. Not having fun any more...

Repeat this until you have filled all your casings. The puddings will still be quite liquid at this stage. Lower the puddings into your pan of barely simmering water and cook for 20 minutes or so making sure the water doesn’t boil too fiercely. If your puddings swell up, prick them with a pin to ensure they don’t explode. No one wants to be showered with exploding pudding.

The horror. The horror.

After 20 minutes, remove your puddings from the simmering and drop them in a bowl of iced water for a couple of minutes. your puddings are now ready to eat or slice and fry.

Fried black pudding, rye bread, cornichons. Good times.

You can serve these as a quick supper with bread, salad, and fried apple slices or as part of a classic hangover cure fry up.  They are also good used to stuff a pork loin or mashed with potatoes as an accompaniment to sausages.

Next time I do them, (if the girlfriend will allow me back in the kitchen!) I think I will add more oatmeal to make them firmer. I’ll also try using larger artificial casings to make wider, more traditional puddings.

Only make as many as you will eat in a few days or slice and freeze them. The smell of gone off black pudding is the smell of undiluted evil as I discovered to my cost on my return from a weekend away.

Gochujang Pork

Gochujang Pork Ingredients. Bean Paste and Rice Wine in the background.

I’m worried.

I’m worried that I may have given some of you the wrong idea. People who’ve read the first few posts on the blog could be forgiven for thinking  that I’m some kind of jolly butcher type who spends all his time eating sausages and making pork pies. This is a half truth. Believe it or not, I also cook and eat food that doesn’t come stuffed into hog casings. Occasionally, I even eat vegetables .Don’t believe me? The proof is below.

I’ve always been a big fan of South East Asian food and have spent the last couple of years taking advantage of London (and New Malden’s) ever increasing spread of Korean restaurants. I’ve fallen hopelessly in love with Korean Bulgogi or barbeque food; slices of meat marinated or dredged in fermented bean paste, griddled on a tabletop barbeque until charred then served wrapped in lettuce leaves with rice, kimchi and namul.

I’ve also had a massive craving for gochujang recently that I just had to satisfy. Gochgujang and doenjang are mainstays of Korean food and are basically fermented bean and rice powder pastes.  Gochujang includes chilli, doenjang doesn’t. You can usually find it in plastic colour coded tubs in Asian shops, red for gochujang, brown for doenjang (and green for seasoned doenjang but we’re not using that here!)

Below is my version of gochujang bulgogi. In the absence of a tabletop barbeque (Liz vetoed my purchase of one…for now) a hot, heavy based frying pan is almost as good.

Gochujang Pork
600g pork cubed or thinly sliced. (thinly sliced is traditional but I cubed mine)
1 onion thinly sliced ( I used a mandoline)
2 carrots thinly sliced or cut into matchsticks. (Again I used a mandoline)

Marinade
3 tbsp gochujang chilli paste
1 tbsp doenjang soy bean paste
1 tbsp shaoxing rice wine
1tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp sesame oil
5/6 cloves of garlic
1 tsp honey
2 tbsp water

To serve
1 tbsp sesame seeds
1 spring onion  chopped.
1 lettuce. Little gem is good.

First combine your marinade ingredients in a large bowl. You may want to adjust the level of gochujang depending on how spicy you like things. Three tablespoons should give you a decent level of heat without bringing about tastebud armageddon but feel free to adjust to your taste.

Add your pork, onions, and carrots to the marinade and stir well to combine. Cover and leave in the fridge for a few hours to let the flavours combine.

Pork, Onions, Carrots, Gochujang, Doenjang, Rice Wine,

Pork and onions in marinade

When you’re ready to cook, heat a large heavy bottomed pan or wok until its good and hot. You shouldn’t need to put any oil in the pan as its already in the marindate.

Add everything to the pan and cook until your meat is thoroughly cooked through. Don’t worry if it catches on the pan a little bit. Any bits that char will just give it a lovely caramelised barbeque flavour.

Cooked Gochujang Pork, Ready for serving

A couple of minutes before you’re due to serve the pork stir in a tablespoon or so of sesame seeds and some chopped spring onion.

Bring it to the table with a good supply of lettuce leaves to wrap your pork pieces in and serve with boiled rice and kimchi. Incredible. The combination of crisp, crunchy lettuces leaves with the spicy sweet barbecued meat is sublime. A can or two of Hite would be a very appropriate accompaniment.

Finished gochujang pork

I know I said at the beginning of this post that I didn’t only eat sausages. I am however mulling on the idea of mincing the pork after marinading and stuffing into casings. Watch this space…

White Pudding

White pudding, homemade bread, salad. Wonderful.

White pudding is a breakfast sausage made of pork, oatmeal and spices and is popular across Scotland, Ireland and the north of England. My personal favourite comes from the Barrowin Furness  fishmongers in Borough Market who make little individual puddings for frying. What I didn’t realise until reading the excellent sausagemaking.org forum was how easy they are to make. When I read johnfb’s recipe (who also advised on forming the sausages in cling film) I knew I had to have a go at it myself. I made a couple of tweaks to John’s original recipe both for personal taste and to try and match it more with the Borough Market puddings. After all, what can’t be improved by adding bacon?

The results are fantastic. Sliced and fried, the pudding makes a good friend to bacon and eggs on the breakfast plate or just mashed on toast like pate. The recipe is below.

Preparing the pudding mixture

Jon’s White Pudding
600g pork cubed and chilled
375g oatmeal soaked in a roughly similar amount of water
50g leek chopped
50g bacon (I used this) chopped
10g salt
5g celery salt
20g  cornflour
2 1/2g white pepper
2 1/2g ground coriander
2 1/2g ginger
2 1/2g sage
2 1/2g MSG
1 1/2g mace
1 1/2g nutmeg
1g allspice

First take your oatmeal and soak it in water for a few minutes. I left mine for twenty simply because that was how long it took me to weigh out the spices and cube and chill the meat.

The next step is to combine everything except the bacon in a large mixing bowl and stir until it’s all thoroughly mixed. Oatmeal may well be the stickiest substance known to man so be careful to ensure that it doesn’t drag you down into the bowl like some kind of porridgy kraken.

Pork, Oatmeal, Leek, Spices

The ingredients ready for mincing.

Slowly feed the mixture through your mincer, making sure that its fitted with the smallest mincing plate you have. Keep feeding the mixture through until all of your ingredients are minced before returning to your mixing bowl, adding the chopped bacon and giving it a final stir. Don’t worry if it looks a bit weird. Pork and porridge are not the most visually appealing bedfellows. Fortunately it tastes amazing!

White Pudding Mixture

Mixed oatmeal and pork. Looking slightly evil

Now you have your white pudding mix made up, the next step is turn it into sausages. You can stuff it into hog casings (in which case prepare and stuff them in the usual way) or do as I did and form them into skinless sausages by wrapping them in cling film.

The process for this is quite simple. People who have rolled their own should have no problem with it. Take a large square of clingfilm and put a few spoonfuls of your pudding mixture in the centre. Fold the clingfilm over and press it down to make a patty. Roll your patty back and forth until you have a decent sausage shape then twist off the ends. Keep twisting until both ends are really tight to force the meat down into a more compact pudding. Make sure the sausage is tightly sealed to prevent any mixture leaking out when you’re poaching the sausages.

Repeat this with the remaining mixture until you have several fully formed white puddings ready to poach. The recipe above left me with four big puddings but that’ll vary depending on how large your sausages are.

White Pudding wrapped in cling film to make a sausage

A white pudding skinless sausage

It’s probably a good idea to rest your pudding for a while before you poach them. I left mine for twenty four hours in the fridge to let the flavours develop.

When you’re ready to poach your puddings set a large covered pan of water on the stove and bring it to a gentle simmer. Poach your puddings for twenty to thirty minutes depending on their size then lift them out of the water and leave to cool.

Poaching white pudding for 2- mins in simmering water

Poaching the puddings

Your puddings are now ready to fry as part of an excellent breakfast or spread on toast with a caper and onion salad.

I wanted a bit of variety in the flavour of the puddings and as I’ve just built myself a cold smoker in my friend’s garden, these seemed like an ideal candidate for the inaugural run. I don’t want to write too much about the smoking process as I’m going to cover it in more detail in its own post but I left two puddings unsmoked, smoked one for four hours, and one for eight. You can see the last one in the smoke box (with other treats) below.

Cold smoking. White pudding on the left.

The puddings were then sliced and frozen but not before frying up a plate of them to try them. They’re all fabulous! Rich, creamy and intensely savoury. The pork adds a deeper level of flavour to them but to be honest, smoked or unsmoked, they’re both bloody tasty!


Finished puddings. Heavily smoked at the front, lightly smoked in the middle, unsmoked at the back