Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Smoked Turkey Breast

I was in the grocery store the other day and found some good deals in the 'Manager's Specials' section. Those are the meats that are close to the expiration dates and marked down considerably. That's the first thing I check when I go to the store. Meat that is aged in the proper temperature, of course for not too long, is very good. When I shoot a deer I like to hang it for 5-7 days if it is cool enough (under 40 degrees maximum), so I have NO problem buying most of those specials.

I found all of these for 50% off; a huge turkey breast, a brisket, a large flank steak and some frog legs. I figured I could smoke the turkey, make corned beef with the brisket, jerky with the flank steak and I could be daring and try smoking the frog legs. Hopefully that will be a new post here in the very near future.

I had great success with brining the Thanksgiving turkey so I thought I might try brining this turkey breast before smoking it. For the brine I used:

1/2 gallon of water
1/2 cup of canning salt
A few smashed garlic cloves
About a teaspoon of onion powder (I was out of onions)
2 teaspoons of Instacure (pink salt, Prague powder) This is optional, I was winging it and thought I would try it.

I mixed all of this up and placed the breast into the bowl and let it sit in the fridge for 24 hours. After this I patted it dry and placed it on my smoker.

I smoked it for about 4 hours but this did not bring it up to a safe temperature of 165 degrees(I need to build a bigger, better smoker!) This is not a problem though. I wrapped it in foil, poured a few Tablespoons of water into the foil, closed it up and placed it in a 300 degree oven. After about 45 minutes it was at 160 degrees. When you pull it out of oven, the temperature actually rises as it rests, and it did go to 165 degrees.

I placed it in the refrigerator until it cooled down considerably and became more firm for slicing. The fun part was using my new meat slicer that my girlfriend Sue gave me for Christmas. Nothing says love more than a Waring meat slicer! Ha!

I sliced it fairly thin and tasted it, I thought I had gone to heaven! It was that good. Take a look:

Turkey breast can be bought cheaply, so try this sometime.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Makin' Bacon

I've wanted to make homemade bacon for some time now. I finally jumped in and the water was just fine. I saw Cowgirl's post on her blog on making bacon and I just had to do it. I would just direct you to her blog, but mine was slightly different and possibly worthy of a different post.

First I had to get a pork belly. It was a week before deer gun season and the first few butchers that I called said I would have to wait until after the first of the year for them to start getting pigs. Apparently most of their work for the rest of the year is limited to processing deer.

So I called the place that I should have thought of first, my favorite meat store Mom Wilson's. Mom Wilson's is just north of Delaware Ohio on Route 23. They have an excellent supply of specialty meats like sausages, trail bologna, jerky, etc, etc. It was the day before Thanksgiving and they could have it by the day after Thanksgiving! Cool.

First, the ingredients for the cure:

1 cup of canning salt
1/2 cup of brown sugar
2 Tablespoons of Instacure (AKA pink powder, Prague powder, etc)

If your pork belly comes with the skin on, leave it for now, you can remove it after you smoke it.
Mix the cure ingredients well.

I cut my 6 lb pork belly into two 3 lb pieces so that it is easier to work with and to fit on my small bullet smoker. Using half of the cure, rub it generously onto the entire cut of meat, including the sides.

I need to buy a plastic bin to work on and cure meats, but lacking this I just placed it in two layers of garbage bags. I use two just in case one leaks!

Fold over the bag and remove as much air as possible. Then place it in the refrigerator for one week. Once a day turn the meat over.

After 7 days it's time to smoke it. First rinse the meat off well, then place it in cold water for about 30 minutes or so, change the water and soak it again. This is to remove some of the excess salt. I didn't rinse it very well with the first half of the meat, and it was way too salty! I soaked the second piece and it came out much better.

If you like pepper, sprinkle a heavy dose of FRESHLY CRACKED pepper onto the meat, then place on your smoker. There is a huge difference between pre-ground pepper and freshly-cracked pepper, I use fresh-cracked whenever I can.

I smoked my meat for a few hours with low heat, but a lot of smoke. Many recipes I read state to smoke it at 200 degrees until the meat reaches 150 degrees. I can't control my heat that well on my little smoker so I decided to try a different route.
I smoked it for a few hours, then wrapped the meat in foil with a small amount of water added (1/2 cup?). Then I placed it in a 300 degree oven until the meat reached 150 degrees, checked with a probe thermometer.
Then let it cool in the refrigerator overnight, still wrapped in foil. When the meat is chilled it slices easier. I need to buy a good meat slicer, but I just used a good sharp knife to slice it manually.

Now doesn't that look good? It tastes even better than it looks!

A few things I will make sure to do from now on:

- make sure the meat is rinsed well and soaked in cold water after curing in the refrigerator.
- make sure the temperature is LOW on the smoker, but the smoke is plentiful the whole smoking time.
- buy and use a meat slicer.

As you can see in the picture, this bacon was really lean compared to store-bought bacon. It doesn't lose most of its volume when cooked. The flavor will make me swear off store-bought, it was that good.

- Marty