Category Archives: Charcuterie

SLT – Speck, Lettuce, and Tomato Sandwich

Speck. It is something that we probably do not encounter all that often, nor maybe even heard of, and that is why I am introducing it to you today. Speck is basically made from the hind leg of a pig, and deboned, but the trick to speck is that it is cured and smoked much longer than bacon. Think of speck like pancetta, or bacon, but with a slightly different flavor due to the cure.

I first encountered speck while browsing through some local Bolzano meats from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. They basically provide local charcuterie to Milwaukee, and do a pretty darn good job of it. As I had sampled their pancetta in the past, I thought I would pick up some speck (something I never heard of), and see what I could make of it. Well, I made the class BLT (bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich) and turned it into a SLT.

Speck Sandwich Recipe

Ingredients: (Makes 1 sandwich)

  • 2 pieces of white bread
  • 6 slices of very thinly sliced speck
  • 1 tbsp mayonnaise
  • Fresh lettuce, to your liking
  • 2 slices of tomato

Begin by spreading the butter on each slice of bread.

Heat a skillet on medium heat and add the sliced speck, cooking just until lightly crisp. Remove from the skillet.

Toast the slices of bread until a nice golden brown. Feel free to use the oven, or standard toaster for that.

Speck

When ready, take the slices of bread, and lightly spread each one with the mayonnaise.

Add the speck, the tomato slices, then the lettuce. Slice on a diagonal and serve.

Something different for sure. In my opinion it was a bit saltier than your standard bacon, and had a hint of juniper, but when used in a SLT sandwich, it was pretty darn delicious. If you ever find speck at your local farmers market, or store, give this one a shot.

 

Bacon Jam

Two things I love in the morning are bacon and coffee. With that said, I decided to make some bacon jam. You heard that right, bacon jam. I am always asking my kids what they want to eat over the weekend, and time and time again, the answer I always get from my oldest is, “bacon burger”. So, let’s just say I had bacon on my mind, and I wanted to do something different for my burger, hence why I made a bacon jam.

Bacon Jam Recipe
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This bacon jam was not only phenomenal on the burger and could be my go to condiment for burgers now, but in its simplest form is awesome on pretty much anything, including a basic cracker.

Ingredients: [Print this Recipe]

  • 1 lb of good bacon, cut into pieces
  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cracked black pepper
  • 1 tbsp Sriracha sauce
  • 1/2 tbsp Hungarian paprika
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp mustard powder
  • 4 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 cup of strong coffee
  • 3 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup of light brown sugar

Begin by heating a large cast iron skillet on medium heat. Add the sliced bacon pieces, and begin cooking this, rendering all of the fat, and cooking just until slightly crisp, but not super crispy. This will take about 10 minutes or so. During this time, prepare the rest of the ingredients.

When the bacon is cooked, remove with a slotted spoon onto some paper towel to remove any excess fat. Pour off most of the bacon grease, reserving for a later use. Return the skillet back to the heat and add the tablespoon of butter. Toss in the onion and garlic, and let them begin to sweat, cooking on medium heat for about 5 minutes, stirring along the way.

When the onions and garlic and cooked, add the salt and pepper, along with the brown sugar. Give a good stir, letting the sugar begin to melt away into the onions. After a couple of minutes, add the remaining ingredients and let it come to a boil. Toss in the bacon, stir, and add this to a slow cooker, on low heat, for 3 hours.

Ingredients for making bacon jam

After a few hours in the slow cooker, place the mixture into a food processor and pulse down for your desired consistency. I like mine to have some recognizable bacon pieces, but pieces that are not extremely big, almost like bacon bit consistency. Return the mixture to a sauce pan, and cook on medium heat until most, if not all of the liquid evaporates, leaving you with a jam like consistency.

Store in a sealed container for up to three weeks, if it lasts that long.

When you are ready to serve, feel free to spread this on pretty much anything. The texture is spot on, and the flavor is something out of this world. You get the sweetness from the onion, sugar, and maple, and a subtle but ever so delicious bitterness from the coffee, along with the smokiness of the bacon and a slight sourness from the cider vinegar, this bacon jam was something else. Give it a shot and let me know your thoughts! Hope you enjoy.

Craisin and Cheddar Bratwurst

Wisconsin is known for their bratwurts, or as we know them, brats. Summertime is a time where everyone gets excited about brats, especially while tailgating at a Milwaukee Brewers baseball game. Most everyone that I know cooks Johnsonville, Usingers, or Klement’s throughout the summer, but what most people do not know is that making your own is not only easy, but it allows you to be very creative.

Ever since my wife fell in love with the chicken feta sausage that I made, I have been making sausage on a fairly regular basis. The great thing about making your own sausage is that you are the creator. I think of making sausage like making a pizza. It can be very simple like making a cheese and pepperoni pizza, or it can get as creative as you want that pizza to be. So after I began thinking of what type of sausage I would like to serve to my family and friends, I decided to make a craisin and sharp cheddar style sausage.

Homemade Brats with Cheddar and Craisins

I am so glad that I made this sausage, for only one reason, well there are probably more reasons, but one reason that I will get to after towards the end.

Let’s get started.

Ingredients:

  • 3 lbs of pork shoulder, bone out, cut into 2 inch slices
  • 1 shallot
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 cup of craisins
  • 3/4 lb of 3 year old sharp cheddar cheese
  • Salt, to taste
  • Cracked black pepper, to taste
  • Natural casings, cleaned
  • Sausage stuffer

A couple of key components when making your sausages. Casings and a sausage stuffer. You can get the casings at nearly any butcher, and the stuffer can be purchased online, or if you have a KitchenAid, you can get the attachment. Once you have these items, you are on your way to making great sausage.

So to get started, begin by getting your meat really cold. I place mine in the freezer for about 30 minutes before grinding. You want the meat to be really cold. If you do not have a grinder, you can use ground pork, but just make sure it has a bit of fat in there. I would recommend talking to your butcher and having them grind the pork shoulder for you.

Once you have the meat ground, take half of it, and grind it again. You will thank me later.

Next, take the shallots, garlic, cheese, and crasins, and run those through the grinder.

Start off by seasoning the meat mixture with about one tablespoon each of the salt and pepper. Mix well.

Homemade Brats with Cheddar and Craisins

Form a small patty and cook it on medium heat in a skillet. Once cooked, taste it. The key is to taste the sausage and season with any additional salt and pepper before stuffing three feet of sausage. I know people who have not done this and paid for it later!

Once you have your seasoning right, prepare your sausage stuffer.

Place the casing onto the stuffer, tying a knot at the end.

Begin feeding your sausage, working with both hands. Feel free to use a toothpick at times to poke small holes in the casing, letting out any air, and it will happen. Nothing to worry about though.

Once you are done stuffing the sausage, make into your links, or go old school and use the whole sausage ring, placing it on the grill. Depending on who you are grilling for, this can be pretty fun.

Freeze in plastic freezer storage bags, or if you have a FoodSaver, use that.

The best part of making this particular sausage was that everyone loved it, including my oldest boy who has refused to eat sausage since he was about three years old. Not only is he picky about fruit and having cheese in certain foods, but he had no clue. He loved it! The double grinding of the meat makes these brats really stand out in texture, and flavor.

I served mine sliced, and due to the subtle sweetness, drizzled a bit of Jamaican pickapeppa sauce for a bit of heat. However you serve these, you will enjoy them. Hope you enjoy.

Homemade Bacon

Yep, I said it. Homemade bacon. When I said those words to my oldest child it was as if it was the best day ever. It has been a long time coming, but I finally went through and have made some of the best bacon I think I have ever had. I am honest when I say that as well. I have had good bacon, and Nueske’s is probably some of the best I have had in Wisconsin, until now. Let’s just say there is something about homemade bacon. Not only the satisfaction and almost giddiness that you get when you finally taste the bacon, but the texture is something to be reckoned with.

I do want to give credit to my colleague at work. This is one of the guys that if we are not in a meeting, or rushing off to support some technical issue, that he is the one I am talking to, or vice versa, about food, around 9:30 a.m., every morning. He was the one who was talking about charcuterie, the art of preparing meats such as bacon, pancetta, sausages, confit, and more, primarily from pork. The old school way, and now maybe the only way, to craft and preserve meat. It was he who excited me in this path and informed me to pick up the book, Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing.

Lets get started on this simple recipe of making homemade bacon.

Pink Salt for Making Bacon

Ingredients:

  • 4 lbs of pork belly, skin on
  • 1/4 cup of basic dry cure
  • 1 tbsp cracked black pepper (optional)
  • 1 tbsp garlic powder (optional)
  • large ziplock bag or sealed plastic container large enough to hold the pork

Dry Cure:

  • 1 lb of Kosher salt
  • 8 oz granulated sugar
  • 2 oz of pink salt, approximately 10 tsp

Please note that the dry cure makes a lot, probably enough to keep me making bacon for a year, if not more, and you only need a quarter cup of the cure.

Pink Salt for Curing Bacon

So begin by locating a good pork belly. You might ask, ‘where am I going to find four pounds of pork belly!?’. No worries, locate a good butcher, and stick with that butcher. I have been going to Ray’s for some time now, and I knew that when I would ask if they had pork belly, in that quantity, that I would have to look no further. In all honesty, Ray’s Butcher Shoppe was more than happy to order my pork belly, roughly over nine pounds worth! That was double the bacon, and I am already planning my next savory bacon because after all, this bacon was spot on, and not it is time to experiment with flavor.

So begin by mixing your dry cure, making sure everything is thoroughly mixed.

Homemade Bacon

Take your pork belly and begin sprinkling the 1/4 cup of dry cure all over the belly. Top, bottom, and all sides. Make sure everything is coated, rubbing it into the pork.

Place this into a sealed plastic bag or container, placing in a refrigerator, and wait.

I say wait, but because you are looking at about 7-9 days before the next process.

About every other day, flip the bag or meat making sure to redistribute the cure liquid, a process called overhauling.

In seven days, check the pork for firmness. If it feels firm at the thickest point in the belly, it should be cured. If not, let it go another day before checking again.

Once you have reached the firmness, mine went for about 8 days, remove it from the refrigerator, and container, and rinse it under cold water.

Homemade Bacon

Pat dry with paper towels, and place it back into a clean, sealed container for one more day. At this point the pork builds up a tackiness that I preferred so that I could season the outside the following day.

Now is the day we have been looking for. The day to rub and smoke and slow cook the bacon. This step takes approximately two hours to cook, another hour or so to cool down, then you can begin slicing, and cooking the way you prefer to cook your bacon.

Mix the black pepper and garlic powder. Sprinkle over all sides of the cured bacon.

Smoked Bacon Recipe

Your next choice is to place it directly in the oven, or into your smoker if you have one. I have one, so I decided to light some coals, bring it to approximately 200 degrees, and place the pork inside, covered, skin side up, for roughly one hour. About 30 minutes in, I laid in my soaked cherry woodchips onto the coals, and let it smoke for about the additional 30 minutes.

At this time, I preheated my oven to 200 degrees inside the house, and finished the cooking process there, uncovered, on a wired rack.

Once the additional hour is done, check the temperature of the meat. You are looking at 150 degrees. Once you reach that temperature, remove it from the oven, and let it cool to room temperature.

Now is the fun part. Slicing it. If you have a really sharp knife, begin slicing into your desired thickness. I have a meat slicer (which I totally love) and it worked amazingly well on the bacon. I cut my belly in half to fit on the slicer, and began making thin slices, then thick slices. I took the remaining pork and cubed it, making lardons to be used later on in soups, stews, and other recipes.

Slicing Bacon border=

So now you are left with a lot of bacon. The best thing to do now is to save some thick, some thin, and some lardons to be used in the next several weeks. Take the remaining bacon and seal it the best you can before placing in the freezer, or package it up, and give it away.

The next and final step is to cook it. I made mine later in the night so I needed to try it out. I had the kids waiting in line for fresh cooked bacon, and let me tell you, it was worth the wait.

Remember that giddiness I was referring to? I think I was chuckling to myself while cooking the bacon. Maybe I was tired, but I do not think so. I was excited. Extremely excited that the bacon I just cooked had a texture and flavor like nothing other. It was bacon at its finest. A simple cure, a waiting game, and the ultimate pleasure of making something that almost everyone loves. My kids were even talking about it. Kids in the block came over and asked me if it was true that I made my own bacon. One just showed up this morning asking for some, and as the other kids said, “this is the best bacon I think I have ever had”. Enjoy.