Uncured Bacon in a Saumure Anglaise

That’s an English Pickle, for the Francophobes

Joel Salatin, aka “The world’s most famous farmer,” up there in Virginia, wrote an entire book about “the pigness of pigs.” Yesterday at the Festhalle farmer’s market I ran across one of my favorite sellers, a young woman who usually has one of her five children with her (this is Alabama). Instead, she had a big cooler full of fresh local pork that she had grown. Here was some real pigness of the best kind.

When she said she had fresh uncured bacon, I nearly had an infarction. I bought a pound, and she instructed me about how to cure it. My response was I always use a Saumure Anglaise when I cured pork like that.

Now, everyone usually looks at you like you are a snake with two heads when you use French in this part of the South, as opposed to New Orleans or Mobile, the two oldest French cities in the region. However, she looked impressed, and said I obviously knew what I was doing. I told her this wasn’t my first rodeo.

Here’s my version of this Saumure, adapted from Jane Grigson’s monumental book on French charcuterie.

Ingredients

Water

Handful of Salt

Handful of Brown Sugar

One Bay Leaf

Sprigs of Fresh Thyme

Peppercorns

Four Cloves

Fragment of whole Nutmeg

I omitted the nitrates (pink salt) from this recipe, as this is going to be eaten in short order. Boil this combo, and then let it steep until cool. Pour it over the bacon or other fresh pork you have, and throw it into the fridge.

For how long? That depends on how brave you are. I let mine go for at least a couple of days, and thicker pieces, like fresh ham slices, for around six. Sugar and salt are decent preservatives on their own, and I’m still kicking, so there’s anecdotal evidence to prove it’s not deadly to avoid the nitrates. Just check out some of the furry Italian sausages sometimes to see if nitrates have to be used.

The bacon will not be furry, but it will be tasty. And it will be cured the natural way.

Lard Help Us

Home Rendered Lard

Not having much else to do one day in one of my writing classes, I brought up the controversial subject of lard. Always being of an ironic frame of mind, I told the following anecdote.

Me: “I can tell you from family experience how dangerous lard is. My Grandfather had a bucket of lard under his sink, and probably never ate anything that wasn’t cooked in it, and he barely made it into his late nineties before it killed him.”

The students who understood irony laughed at that, and I had a very polite young woman who grew up in Brazil in the class, and she raised her hand to say something. I told her to go ahead, and she said:

Brazilian: “In Brazil, we keep it under the stove.”

Lard. Worldwide for a good reason. Healthier, apparently, than butter, and you can make it yourself without a churn, or a cow.

The key to good lard is to render it yourself, and at a very low temperature. Commercial lard is yet another industrial product to avoid, as it’s bad rap comes from it being cooked at too high a temp. So here’s what you should do.

Ingredients

Slab of Pork Fat (My local butcher sells it by the pound)

That’s it. Cut the fat into small chunks, and throw them into a cast iron skillet on the smallest eye of your stove. Let it render down at the lowest possible setting. This is another gem of slow food methods. When you have a big skillet of liquid lard, and nothing left but some cracklings, you’re done. I store mine in mason jars. It will keep a year in the fridge, three in the freezer.

May the Lard always be with you.

Optimus 45–The Boss of Kerosene Stoves

One Mean Cooking Machine

Being a gear head is better than being an alcoholic, in that the gear is still there after you finish playing with it. This Optimus 45 is technically my Christmas present, but Melanie Jane wanted me to test it out before it got boxed up until December 24 (yes, we are both of German extraction, and Christmas Eve is when the celebration really happens).

All I did to this ancient Swedish made device was lube the pump, and soak the burner in mineral spirits. No repairs necessary. And boom! It was burning in no time. And does it ever burn.

That’s just Priming

The stove is primed using alky-hol, but is powered with inexpensive kerosene. In many places, this was more of a household than a camping item. Elizabeth David, while she worked in Egypt in the 1950’s, had a Greek chef who did all of his cooking on two of the practically identical Primus versions of this stove. A great design is timeless. Strangely enough, this stove is engraved in English, Swedish, and Arabic.

Alas, these are no longer made in Sweden, but ebay has loads of them. This design is also popular throughout Asia, and near identical copies are manufactured in India and Malaysia. I am considering buying one of the silent burners for this made in India, but right now, I just love to hear this thing make noise. They don’t call the burner a roarer burner for no reason.