Sel Aromatise

Aromatics

This classic French seasoning salt is an essential ingredient in curing traditional French Petit Sale as it imparts the meat with a beautiful slightly spiced flavour without overwhelming its basic porkiness, My girlfriend described the smell of it as ‘like old men’ but even she had to agree that it makes a fabulous pork seasoning. I think it might also work quite well sprinkled over grapefruit or another acidic fruit as a snack but I’m yet to try that.

Either way, it’s literally five minutes work to put together and costs nothing so you might as well give it a go and see what uses you can find for it.

The recipe below is adapted from a recipe in the excellent book by Lindsay Wildsmith: Cured: Slow techniques for flavouring meat, fish and vegetables.

Jon’s Sel Aromatise

200g salt
3 star anise
1 tsp ground allspice
1/2 ground cloves
3 large bay leaves, crumbled.

Take your star anise and grind them to a coarse powder in a mortar and pestle. Combine with salt and all the other ingredients in a clean dry jar. Shake until thoroughly mixed and use as needed.

Finished Sel Aromatise

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Double Smoked Sweetcure Back Bacon With Juniper and Black Pepper

Home smoked sweetcure bacon....as part of a 'balanced' breakfast.

I was really pleased with my first attempt at bacon earlier in the year. It yielded a delicious mild tasting bacon with just a hint of smoke that came from the hickory smoke powder I used.

However, I did feel slightly like I was cheating by using smoke powder. Particularly when I realised how simple cold smoking was. I’m not going to go too deeply into the smoking process here because it really deserves its own post which I will write soon but I will say that immersing bacon in oak smoke is a a truly wonderful thing.

Because oak smoke is an intense flavour, any seasonings that go into the cure have to be equally robust if you want them to stand up to the smoke. I chose black pepper, juniper, and brown sugar which, when combined with salt, make a delicious, aromatic, salty sweet bacon which is perfect for breakfast.

I also wanted to use a different cut of pork. Streaky bacon is great (and supermarket streaky is usually British which for me is preferable from an ethical point of view) but back is my favourite when it comes to the breakfast plate.

The recipe follows.

Ingredients.

Jon’s Sweetcure Bacon with Juniper and Black Pepper.
1kg Pork loin
35g Salt
25g Dark brown sugar
2g Prague powder #1
4g Juniper
3g Black pepper

Juniper, Microscales,

Weighing juniper berries

Combine the sugar, salt and Prague powder in a bowl.  Roughly crush your juniper berries and peppercorns and add to the bowl. Mix well, ensuring that all of the ingredients are evenly distributed through the cure. This is vital as it prevents the nitrites from the prague powder becoming too concentrated in one spot in your bacon.

Take your loin of pork and rub it all over with your cure, ensuring you work the cure into all the nooks and crannies of the meat.

Pork loin, Salt, Brown Sugar, Juniper, Prague Powder

The loin, rubbed with cure.

When your meat is well coated transfer it to a freezer bag and seal. Place it in the fridge for a minimum of a week, turning and massaging every other day to ensure that the cure is evenly distributed. Don’t worry if any water leeches out of the meat. This will help to brine it and ensure that the cure penetrates right to the heart of the loin.

After 10 days or longer remove the meat from the bag and rinse under cold water. Pat dry and transfer to a rack before refrigerating for another 48 hours or so. This helps the smoke adhere to the outside of the bacon in the smoker.

Bacon, Cheese, Brie, Chicken Wings, Oak Smoke

Pork loin in the smoker alongside cheddar, brie and chicken wings.

Fire up your smoker and smoke the bacon over oak chips for a minimum of eight hours. My smoker runs for 11 hours which was long enough for me to go to the London Charcuterie Festival in the day time and go out for my mate Sam’s 30th birthday in the evening. On my return from the pub at some shameful hour of the morning I took the meat out of the smoker and transferred it to the refrigerator overnight.

The following day I fired up the smoker again and smoked the bacon for another 8 hours. The idea being to allow one layer of smoke to settle on the meat before giving it another smoke to really intensify the smokey flavour.

Bacon, Pork Loin, Cold Smoked. Oak Chips, Macs BBQ, ProQ

Finish smoked bacon. Lovely colour from two layers of oak smoke.

The bacon is now basically finished. All that remains is to slice it into rashers.  I left mine for another 24 hours after smoking to really make sure the smoke had settled on the meat.

You can slice it by hand but an electric slicer will ensure evenly sliced rashers and will allow you to slice a large amount of pork very quickly.

Slicing Bacon. A serious business.

Finished sliced bacon.

Your bacon is now finished. It’ll keep in the fridge for a couple of weeks or you can freeze the rashers individually and use them when you need a porky fix. They are sublime as part of a cooked breakfast and perfect for a late night emergency bacon sandwich.

A perfect Sunday breakfast. Home made bacon and smoked white pudding with fried egg, toast, and chilli sauce.

Celery Salt

Celery and salt. The principal ingredients for...er...celery salt.

I know this blog is called adventures with the pig. I know that and yet here I am about to type a few words about something decidedly non-porcine. The reason? The reason is that man cannot live by pork alone. Well, not unseasoned pork anyway. This is the first of a series of occasional posts on seasonings, condiments and food accessories that go well with, or can be used to make piggy treats.

Celery salt is a seasoning usually made by grinding celery seeds together with salt resulting in a dirty brown powder that you can use to season just about anything. However, my local market seems to sell the world’s largest heads of celery complete with leaves and I figured that these would make a much more appealing looking and tasting salt. Celery salt adds a pleasing herbal, slightly bitter note that complements sweet and fatty tasting foods like belly pork and scrambled eggs. It’s a bit like having a powdered mirepoix to sprinkle on at will.

Fortunately, it worked! So far I’ve just used this on finished dishes, but I hope to use it to cure some meat in the very near future.

The ‘recipe’ follows.

Jon’s Celery Salt

1 head of celery – leaves trimmed and set aside
Salt

Preheat your oven to the lowest setting you can. In the meantime take your celery leaves and any small bits of stem and roughly chop them before placing on a baking tray or two. You can put the stalks aside for use another time.

Celery leaves waiting to be dried.

Place your baking sheet(s) into a warm oven and leave the celery tops to dry completely. You may need to swap them around a bit to ensure that they dry evenly. When the leaves are completely dry (this lot took me about 3 hours) tip them into a food processor and blitz until powdered.

Grinding dried celery leaves and salt

Keep mixing, adding salt until the quantites are roughly 50/50 and there we have it, celery salt! You can store it pretty much indefinetly in a sealed container and use it in place of regular salt with anything that needs that savory hit. It’s particularly good with bacon and eggs and its vital in a decent Bloody Mary. I’m also planning to use it as curing salt  at some point soon.

Finished celery salt.

Poached egg, onion bagel, celery salt.