Saturday, 22 February 2014

Scrumptiousness & Odiferousness

And oh, wow, but I have made the most yummy, scrumptious, perfectly gorgeous, bacon. And yes, I know that I am perhaps overdoing the description of this bacon , but believe me when I say that it was perfection.

Now I am not a person who does something and then expounds at length about how fantastic what I have done is. I am critical of whatever I do, and if it is rubbish, then I shall say so. I rarely compliment myself. I am my own worst task master. I do not put myself on top of the heap and say 'look how fantastic I am'. So when I say that the bacon was flipping gorgeous, it really was.

I have made bacon from our pigs, but it has been too salty and not very nice. It has been eaten, but not with any particular  enthusiasm even after soaking the bacon slices to get the salt out, which only reduced the saltiness by about half, so my thoughts about making bacon again have been minimal.

So what I have done in the past was do a dry cure, which requires the soaking of the bacon in salt, brown sugar, and spices. Put everything into a ziplock bag, then leave in the fridge for a few days, turning daily. The salt draws out the liquid from the pork, shrinking it into a more solid mass which can then be kept for ages and ages in the fridge or freezer. I also tried leaving the pork on a rack so that the liquid drained off rather that the meat being left to soak in the salt liquid:

.....but no matter which method I used for the dry cure, the bacon remained salty. So, the Bacon Project has been left on the back burner.
And then a chat with Sara down the lane produced the thought between us that perhaps we should try wet cures to make our bacon. Here in France the supermarkets have Pork Fetes, whereby pork can be bought at a silly price, and Sara had bought a huge slab of belly pork (actually it was the complete side of a pig) for 8 euros (about £6). Christmas was coming, so she thought she would make some bacon for her guests but was not enthused about dry curing. We were also rich in pork, but from the recent culling of our large female Tamworth. Putting our head together, we thought that perhaps a wet cure was the way to go, and it is. She did the experiment first, and was enthused about the end product. So I have just had a go. (No photos yet because I am still trying to understand my new camera.)
So I made a solution of: Half a gallon of water, 1 1/4 tbsp salt, 1 tbsp brown sugar, and sundry seasonings (bay leaves, garlic, black pepper, etc) The salt content seemed very small, so I added another tablespoon. I put everything into a saucepan, and brought the contents to almost a boil. Then I let the liquid cool down again until it was almost the same temperature of the pork, and then I put it all into a plastic container which I put in the fridge. 
The meat was in the brine for four days. It looked anaemic and still floppy when it came out of the liquid, and didn't look particularly appetising. With the dry cure I could see that something was happening to the meat because it shrunk and became a hard lump, but with the wet cure the meat stayed soft and about the same size. This I did not think was healthy. Lester said to change to the cure and add more salt to it. So I drained the brine away and let the pork sit for a few hours, after first giving it a wash. But then it firmed up and did not feel so much like dead lump of nothing, so I thought I would fry up a morsel just to see what it tasted like. And wow. And wow again. With just an pleasant hint of saltiness, which was mostly overlaid by the seasonings I had put into the brine, that morsel was superb. So I put the slab of bacon into the freezer for half an hour until it was firm enough to cut into slices. Then I froze the slices individually so they didn't stick together in a clump. When they were rock hard I put them into bags.

And now I shall end my enthusiastic report about the re-awakened Bacon Project before I bore you silly! Oh but I really wish I could give you a taste as well. I am sure that it would inspire you to have a go at making bacon yourself.
However, the odiferousness of this seasons goats (chevre) milk would put you off ever wanting to have anything to do with goats milk. Just as I was enthused about the bacon, so I am equally as un-enthused about the goat milk. Last season's milk was lovely, and taught me how to handle milk coming into the kitchen twice a day, and how to make cheese. We drank the milk as well, and enjoyed doing so. However, when we mentioned using goat milk  and goat cheese, people would respond with horror, saying that the cheese and milk tasted 'goaty'. We thought that these people were being divas, and that when they refused to have goat milk in their tea and coffee  during a tea-and-cake visit and did a 'Quelle horreur, I won't have that horrid milk in MY tea' attitude, that they were, well, being downright rude.

However........ had our first chevre milk of the 2014 season a few days ago. It was much looked forward to. Lissie, our cow, is still providing us with milk, but it is very rich and heavy with cream so best used in small amounts for drinking, otherwise it can bloat the stomach out because of the lactose it contains. So.....first litre of chevre milk. Now I thought that it had a funny smell to it when Lester made our late evening milky cup of Bournvita with it. I didn't say anything though, just thought 'Wahoooo, that smells a bit pongy'. Breakfast the next day. We were having our usual 'start of the day' tea and toast picnic, with Lester still in bed and me perched on the edge of the bed. I took a sip of tea. As my nose hit the close proximity of the tea an odiferous aroma assaulted my nasal passages. It was not nice. But I rode through the odd smell and took a sip of tea, only to find that the odiferous aroma seemed to travel down my throat as well. It was as if the smell had locked itself into the liquid. Yuk. I tried again, not wanting the truth to hit me, that this indeed was the reason why people do not like goats milk, and I cannot blame them for doing so, not at all. Lester followed me with these thoughts, as he, too, started drinking his tea. He, too, left his tea unfinished.

So, why was the last season's chevre milk alright and this season's not? Because last year our goats (all females) were already with kid when they arrived here. Then we let one of the male goatlings subsequently born mate with those females although it is not wise to allow inbreeding. But this was only a stop gap until we could purchase a Sanaan male goat, so for one season we thought it would be alright. And it has been. We have several goatlings born, and all are doing well.

However, our little herd of goats is a mixed herd, with the male goat continuing to stay with the females even though they now have kids. Now he is not very much into smothering himself with his own wee, so we didn't think he chucked up too much of a pong, but apparently he must do, because his pong is what was in the milk that we were looking forward to drinking, but couldn't.

What to do...... nothing for the moment because we have been too busy with other things. We have not milked the goats again because there is no point until the plan to make separate accommodation for the male goat has been put into place. At the moment we are concentrating on getting the back field fenced so our two pigs can get off the muddy soup of their paddock, and to also protect our veg plot from the foraging  antics of our chickens, geese, and ducks.

And to help with the veg production, this is what should be arriving here in three weeks time:

Yahooo, a second hand mini tractor! Lester is looking forward to playing working with this tracky. Its a B7001 Kubota, similar to the one in the above photo. And it is coming with its own plough, rotovator, and topper. Oh, and then we had to buy a remoque (trailer) to put in on so we can tow it back from the place we are buying it from. Its a sixteen horse tractor. It should manage our veg plot. Better than trying to rotovate with a clapped out machine whose wheels keep falling off, and which keeps getting jammed up with clumps of roots. Better than having to manually dig. Better to sit and enjoy the sunshine and let the tractor do the work, that is what Lester thinks, bless him.

But seriously, the purchase of the tractor will move us forward with the farm, the new fencing will move us forward with the veg plot paddocks, the chevre milk will alright when the male goat is interred in the freezer, because that is where he has to go. Then we shall look around for a male Sanaan, who should then hopefully introduce new blood into our little flock. And the bacon is fabbo.

And, plus, my back seems to have sorted itself out. In the end I did not mind the fact that I was slowed down to a fraction of the speed at which I put myself about the place. I probably needed to have a rest anyway, and it gave me time to think. Funny thing is, though, that as soon as I gave in to my sore back, and accepted that it was giving me a much needed rest, that that is when my back got better, making me feel sort of cheated out of having a slow time.

Ah well.... it is a lovely day here today. The fruit trees are starting to flower so spring is on its way. Thank you for sharing time with me, and I hope that you are feeling bright and full of sunshine, even if your weather is not too good at the moment.


PS. And do have a go at making bacon in brine. You will have to put the bacon into the freezer for storage after you have made it, but the slices cook quickly enough when you want to eat them.


Ohiofarmgirl said...

look at that tractor! wow!

and very exciting about the bacon! but i must ask... did you smoke it or is it just cured? maybe it was lost in translation on my end. we normally think bacon is smoked. however our pancetta is not but rather hung to dry. but your bacon sounds like cured only? i must know more!

and yeah. goats. *sigh* i only like goat milk if it is very cold - not in coffee. except the milk from Nibbles is good that way. it's all very individual. but i do love a very 'stanky' goat cheese.

good work all around for you!

Claude Vergne said...

I thought that bacon had to be smokedand that the nearest french thing to it is "oitrine fumée". Am I wrong ?
ckaude vergne

Kev Alviti said...

We plan to have pigs this year so when we have them killed I'll have to have a go at that! I've got a few books on curing and I'd love to make a large parma style ham but whether we've got the weather for that is another thing!
Goats milk like that doesn't sound great. I can't really have milk anyway as it unsets my tummy!

Horst in Edmonton said...

The Bacon sounds very good. Any kind of Bacon meat is very expensive here, which is stupid because we raise huge amounts of hogs here in Canada. Good to here you are getting a tractor. Will make things much easier for you. I should have mentioned to you that you should separate the male from the females after breeding. I really hate the smell of the male goats, makes me want to wretch. Have a great Sunday.

Vera said...

OhioFarmGirl, we don't have smoking equipment so can't smoke the bacon, but in the UK I used to only buy non-smoked bacon anyway because I didn't like the taste which smoking gave the bacon. But by doing the cure the way I did, the bacon would have to be kept in the freezer until it is used. With dry curing I didn't have to, and the bacon stayed happily in the fridge until it was used. I am not sure if smoking the bacon would give the bacon I did a longer shelf life in the fridge though. I shall have a go at air drying ham, but need to find out how to do that first.
And well done for you for liking 'stanky' goat cheese! I don't think I shall ever give myself the opportunity to give it a go. You have goats which are real milking goats, whereas ours give only a dribble in comparison to yours so I can't make much cheese!

Claude, back in the UK I used only to buy non smoked bacon, and from our local supermarket here in France I have bought non smoked bacon as well although it is not quite the same as 'proper' English bacon!

Kev, oh wow! Pigs! Well done you! I haven't made Parma style ham, nor any other type of ham yet. Looking forward to reading about your adventures with your pigs. As for the goats milk.... you are lactose intolerant to the milk from cows, but if you had raw cow milk which had been left to stand at room temperature for a day or so then you would be alright, because the lactose would have broken down.

Vera said...

HORST, here is a copy of the comment you made because for some reason it would not get onto the blog page:The Bacon sounds very good. Any kind of Bacon meat is very expensive here, which is stupid because we raise huge amounts of hogs here in Canada. Good to here you are getting a tractor. Will make things much easier for you. I should have mentioned to you that you should separate the male from the females after breeding. I really hate the smell of the male goats, makes me want to wretch. Have a great Sunday.

Vera said...

....and here is my response!:

I am not sure why pork is so cheap here, but it does mean that the pigs must have been kept in factory type conditions. Fortunately we eat our own though. As for the male goats: I have not quite wretched but have almost done! Hope your Sunday is a good one as well.

Rhodesia said...

Mmmm sounds like this is well worth a try. Keep well Diane

Vera said...

Diane, it is, although most people seem to think that the bacon needs to be smoked, but we don't have a smoker so we have to have it unsmoked, but it is still good.