Tag Archives: bacon

Charcuterie: Making Bacon – Part 1

Early in July, I had the pleasure of tucking into a charcuterie plate at Juniper restaurant. I remember only a few things – house ham, duck something – but everything on the plate was wonderfully tasty! Charcuterie dominated my brain in the following days and it wasn’t long till some research on the subject had me searching for the book Charcuterie, by Michael Ruhlman. A trip to Chapters on Rideau Street put the book in my hands last week and then the hunt began …

I decided to make the first thing addressed in the book – bacon! The required sugar and kosher salt posed no problem but coming up with curing salt and pork belly took some work.

I knew from past experience that pork belly can be had from the local butcher store but has to be ordered and comes at high cost. A Toronto website listed T & T Asian Supermarket as a pork belly source and when I checked our Ottawa T & T store there it was – in approximately one-kilo chunks, at a very reasonable price!

Another site suggested Nicastro’s Italian deli as a source for curing salt and I was able to find it at their Merivale Road location, in a one-kilo bag labeled ReadyCure.

Curing Salt

Now, American recipes (like the ones in the book) call for a product called pink salt or InstaCure, which are 6.25% nitrite. The ReadyCure package didn’t list the percentage of nitrite, nor did the store staff know it, however, the package listed the Toronto manufacturer’s phone number and a quick call revealed it to be 1% nitrite.

After some wish-I-could-say-they-were-quick calculations, I was able to determine that, if I added 600 grams of kosher salt and 675 grams of sugar to my kilo of ReadyCure, I’d have three times the amount of Ruhlman’s basic dry cure (plus a bit more), at the correct percentage of nitrite. So this I did.

I’d picked up two pieces of pork belly and opted for slightly different treatments for each. The first one was dredged in approximately 75 grams of the basic dry cure and sealed in a large Ziplock bag. I did the same to the second one, but added about a quarter-cup of maple syrup. (I’ve a hunch I’ll prefer that one!)

So now it’s a 7-day waiting game, give-or-take a day perhaps, apart from a quick flip of each bag every other day. The meat will leach liquid and firm up over time. Once cured enough, it’ll be time to drain the liquid, rinse the meat, then roast or smoke it, low ‘n slow, to an internal temp of 150 degrees F. I’ve a week to sort out which it will be – while I’d far prefer to smoke it, I’m not sure I have the capability to do it as low ‘n slow as it needs to be done.

Watch for the follow-up to see which method wins and find out how each version tastes once sliced and fried. I sense it’s to be, for me, a rather long week of impatient anticipation. Hope it’s worth it!


Westboro & Hunt Club Food Finds!

I love it when I stumble upon new food stores in our fair city so this was a really good week as I have two of them to report on – one really is new and the other, while a few months old, is new to me!

First, my new neighbourhood find –

We were driving home after work one evening this week along Richmond Road and when we spied a sign saying ‘The Piggy Market’ we just had to turn around and investigate.

Turns out the place, which bills itself as a local food delicatessen, is actually located at 400 Winston Avenue. Winston is one of those closed streets running north off Richmond but the store is almost right at the corner, making it highly visible (and accessible) from Richmond Road.

The first thing we noticed through the window from the street was a large rotisserie full of chickens. The second, when we opened the door, was the wonderful aroma! These are not your average supermarket chickens – they’re brined first and the birds are seasoned differently on each day of the week.

They also produce their own in-house smoked charcuterie products from heritage breeds of pork.

Rounding things out are a nice selection of Ontario cheeses from Black River, Fifth Town and Back Forty, along with Cochrane’s milk, Art is In bread and other locally produced items.

The guy in charge was an owner, I think – really nice and very happy to talk about their products, their mandate and their vision. We were really just there for a look but came out with a small pack of applewood smoked bacon, sliced to order, and a loaf of Art is In bread. What I didn’t realize it at the time, and was pleased to discover at home (from the label) is that it comes from the Tamworth breed, which is considered one of the best for bacon – bonus!

Now comes the hard part – I really like the store, I really like their selection of goods, I really like their philosophy, I really like the guy I spoke with … but I did not enjoy the bacon. I wish I could say otherwise and perhaps it’s just my personal tastes, however, it was not highly flavoured enough and seemed to cook up quicker than the bacon I’m used to, ending up overdone and very dry. Disappointing.

So far, my bacon of choice still comes from the meat counter at the Fresh Produce store on Carling Ave. Just their regular stuff, but sometimes the double-smoked if I feel like treating myself.

The Art is In bread, on the other hand, was delicious, and it’s great to know where I can get it here at my end of Richmond Road.

I do plan to go back to the Piggy Market. I want to support local small business and this is exactly the type of place I’d like to see succeed! I plan to try some other things but also plan to share my view with them.

Too often, customers don’t speak up when things could be better, especially in a small neighbourhood place. But those are the places that benefit most from sincere – and honest – customer feedback.

Which brings me to my other concern – price. Many in our neighbourhood have larger disposable incomes than do I and I suppose I classify as a skin-flint on occasion. But I wonder just how often enough people will be able or willing to pay that much more than Superstore prices, no matter how superior or local a product may be …

Regardless, I do recommend the Piggy Market – if you’re nearby, stop in, check it out and, most important, let them know what you think.

Now for a completely different food experience – T & T, the new Asian superstore that opened this week at the corner of Hunt Club and Riverside – wow!

This is a whole new experience for Ottawa shoppers. I dropped in on Friday at lunchtime, two days after their debut, and was blown away by the selection. Not just the stock on the grocery shelves, but the amazing sushi selection and dim sum counter – fantastic!

I’m not very experienced in the art of Asian cooking but this place may tempt me to try it more often. It was a zoo while I was there but, interestingly, staff and customers alike were really pleasant and happy, and the long lines and wait times at the cash were not irritating at all because the waiting shoppers were happily conversing with each other (and more than once I overheard “so, what do you do with this?!”).

So totally different from the typical Loblaws experience.

I’d give it a big thumbs-up except for one thing: they sell shark fins.

A few weeks earlier this would have gone right under my radar but I recently watched the documentary film ‘Sharkwater’ – what an eye-opener!

I strongly encourage everyone to see this film.

What’s being done in our oceans is barbaric and criminal – not to mention the likelihood that it could have vastly negative and irreversible repercussions for our planet and its people in years to come.

I have feared and disliked sharks for years, however, this documentary accomplishes its goal – it is impossible not to come away with a whole new understanding and way of thinking about our oceans, their importance and of our ignorance and misconceptions.

See it!

Anyway, back to T & T – recommended, despite the shark fins. (I’m trying to think of an effective way to convince them to ditch them – I don’t think a boycot is it.)

And if you go, a tip – entry for most people will be from Hunt Club but the exit, except to turn right (east) onto Hunt Club, is at the other end of the parking lot, onto Riverside – no left turns onto Hunt Club!

Happy shopping and, if you visit either place, let me know what you think!