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Dear cured but never ailing,
In our Food Lab Charcuterie Level One class, we got to play with a lot of really delicious, really wonderful pastured pork from Autumn Olive Farms. Their heritage pork is pastured, well-nourished and consciously raised. Read all the way down to find recipes for bacon, sausage, cured egg yolks and a special pork-belly dish!
The talented chef de cuisine Kevin Dubel, from Terrapin Virginia Beach, led an engrossed class through the steps of curing bacon, egg yolks, and grinding sausage at home. (Locals recognized the name of Terrapin instantly, but for our distant readers – it is the most elite and organic, sustainable and delicious fine-dining restaurant in all of Virginia Beach!) Students each prepared their own unique slab of bacon to take home and salt-cure in their fridge, and the self-selected flavors I saw flying across the table ranged from such traditional seasonings as black peppercorns and sage to more exotic choices like dried ghost pepper powder or kombucha. Everybody enjoyed a fresh charcuterie board, finished out with fresh cheese from Sullivan’s Pond Farm, and decanters of our famous farmhouse kombucha flowed!
Students loved the chance to dig in and grind meat, add seasonings and experiement. We were blessed to have the expertise of Chef in our Food Lab; the pork for Terrapin is custom-raised, delivered from Waynesboro, VA, and chef breaks it down in his kitchen. The salumi and charcuterie in the restaurant is house-cured and delectable – flavors are intense, fresh and undeniably delicious! We loved the chance to meet with our readers and farm supporters, culinary enthusiasts and professionals as well as city-dwellers interested in eating better and living closer to their food.
10 pounds pork belly
450g salt, kosher (no iodine or anti-caking agents)
225 g sugar
50 g pink salt #1*
Optional: herbs, seasonings, peppers or other flavorings
1. In a shallow, wide bowl or pan, combine salt, sugar and pink salt, and add any additional flavors desired.
2. Use salt box method: roll pork belly in the salt and seasonings to thoroughly coat, and shake off excess.
3. Place in non-reactive bag or pan and set in a refrigerator. If in a bag, massage daily for seven days. If in a pan, flip every other day for seven days.
4. After seven days, remove and pat the pork belly dry. Smoke to an internal temperature of 150°F. Alternately to smoking, place in 200°F oven until internal temperature reads 150°F.
5. Slice and enjoy!
*Manufacturers started adding pink color to their curing salts so chefs would not mistake it for regular salt. It is also called TCM (Tinted Cure Mix). Pink Salt #1 or TCM is made up of salt and sodium nitrite; it is used for curing bacon, sausage, hams and other cured products that will be cooked. It is different from Pink Salt #2 which is salt, sodium nitrite and sodium nitrate, which is used for long dry cures such as salami or prosciutto. If you are concerned about sodium nitrites and nitrates used for preserving, remember there are more nitrites in a bowl of spinach than are used to cure an entire salame, and any cured meat that claims to be “nitrate and nitrite free” simply used a celery juice or other vegetable base, loaded with nitrites, to avoid using the sodium nitrite label. There is no nitrite-free cured meat.
More downloadable recipes from Food Lab Charcuterie: Level One
For those interested in going further, the books recommended by chef are from Michael Ruhlman, the US authority on charcuterie and salumi and Chef Dubel’s mentor and teacher in the trade.
Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing (Revised and Updated) | Considered by chef to be the “bible” of the home curing world, this book has everything you need to carry off a successful venture in curing, smoking and salting your own foods at home. It’s a less intimidating world than you might think, once you delve in!
Salumi: The Craft of Italian Dry Curing | The techniques discussed in this book will be covered in our more advanced Food Lab charcuterie classes, but you can start researching now!
Don’t strap your spurs on yet, there’s more!! The leftover slab of pork belly made a delicious staff lunch the next day, braised and slow-cooked in kombucha. Ready to try it out?
Staff Lunch Pork Belly
One slab pork belly
Handful banana, carmen and green peppers, sliced into rounds
A few whole shishito peppers for good measure
A few whole beets, well-scrubbed
Salt, whole tellicherry peppers
Honey or maple syrup
Fresh herbs on the stem: oregano, thyme, sage and rosemary
1. Set a heavy Dutch-oven style pot over high heat. Gently sear the fatty side of pork belly.
2. While fatty side is searing, sprinkle meaty side with a two-finger pinch of salt, a scattering of tellicherry peppers, and a drizzle of honey or maple syrup.
3. Flip pork over, with fatty side on top. Turn heat down to medium. Again sprinkle with salt, tellicherry peppers, and a drizzle of honey or maple syrup. Pile with herbs, then heap in vegetables – peppers, beets, and potatoes if you wish.
4. Pour over pork one to two cups of kombucha, original or the flavoring of your choice. Cover pot and let cook slowly for one to two hours depending on size, or until tender and internal temperature reads 145F. Check occasionally and add more water or kombucha as necessary.
5. Let rest three to five minutes before slicing or shredding, and serve immediately to happy farm hands.
Thanks for journeying through our Food Lab class with us! What flavors do you think you’ll use for your bacon? Any suggestions for our future classes?
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