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Cuisine: American

How to Make Bacon

How to Make Bacon

How to Make Bacon

Before I cured our first bacon I did a lot of research online. How to make bacon. If you Google that you’ll get how to cook bacon and recipes using bacon but not nearly as many links to how to MAKE bacon. I probably should have used “cure” instead of make. Susy at Chiot’s Run made bacon that looked incredible. “I can do that,” I thought. If I’m going to eat bacon I want it to be slab, salty but not too salty, and I want something a little different at times. Plain, quality bacon is excellent but homemade Maple Bourbon bacon – seriously. It’s one of life’s great pleasures.

You can use pork belly from a pig you raised, bought locally, or ordered from the butcher. When we’re in danger of running out of bacon I call a local slaughter house / butcher and put in my order. If they aren’t killing pigs at the time I’ll call a small market in Lincoln that has a great meat department. They’ll order pork belly, flank steak or most anything else out of the ordinary.

No matter which flavor(s) you make, flip the pork belly twice a day to make sure all of it soaks in the brine.

Disclaimer

I don’t use Insta Cure (pink salt). Our bacon is stored in the freezer until we use it and/or smoked. Smoking heats it to a proper temperature. Do your research and make your own decisions.

Tips

Ask to have the rind (skin) removed. You can do it but there’s no extra to have it done for you and it will, at least in my case, be smoother. I didn’t think to ask a new-to-us butcher to remove the skin on last year’s pork belly. I’d looked up how to make bacon and found myself needing to find out how to remove the skin from a pork belly. I lost some of the meat. Live and learn.

If you over salt the bacon, soak it in cold water for a couple of hours. Drain, rinse, fry a small piece and be sure it’s okay. If not, soak, drain and try it again.

Taste the Blend

If you’re mixing something like maple syrup and bourbon, taste it before you put it on the pork belly. If you don’t like it as it is you probably won’t like it later when the bacon is finished.

Variety

This recipe is for Maple Bourbon bacon. I’m tucking some suggestions in, too.

Cracked Pepper Bacon

Crack the pepper when you’re ready to use it. After patting the pork belly dry, coat it with the salt and then the cracked pepper.

Maple Bacon

I think the most common flavored bacon is Maple. You may use maple syrup or maple sugar. I prefer to salt the bacon for a day or two before adding the maple. Drain the liquid that has been pulled from the pork belly, salt it again, and then pat in the maple sugar or pour in the maple syrup. The salt will pull more liquid from the pork belly to make more brine.

How to make bacon – did you know it’s this simple!?!

Maple Walnut Pound Cake

Maple Walnut Pound Cake

Maple Walnut Pound Cake

It’s maple season again. Our friends at Chandler’s Sugar Shack in Kossuth are tapping 4,000+ trees this year. It wasn’t that long ago that they started out with less than 200 and now here they are with a sugar “shack” the square footage (or more) of our house and thousands of thousands…and thousands of taps. I decided to use some of our syrup to make Maple Walnut Pound Cake. Oh my gosh. It’s just enough maple flavor without being overwhelming, and not too sweet.

If it lasts more than a few days, pound cake loses its quality. By day four or five I didn’t want another slice but didn’t want it to go to waste. I turned the rest of the pound cake into one-inch slices, dipped it in an egg and milk mixture, and made Maple Walnut Pound Cake French Toast. That’s a mouthful – literally and figuratively. It was delicious!

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Maple glaze, maple walnut pound cake, maple syrup recipes, Chandler's Sugar Shack
maple glaze recipe, maple walnut pound cake, maple walnut, maple syrup recipes
Maple Glaze

I wanted a nice glaze on the pound cake and wanted to use maple syrup. I think this turned out well! This would be great as a glaze on cookies, over cupcakes or as a substitute for maple syrup on pancakes and waffles.

Substitute for Cake Flour

If you don’t have cake flour in the pantry (I didn’t) you can make your own. Measure one level cup of all-purpose flour. Remove two level tablespoons of flour and replace it with two level tablespoons of corn starch. Corn starch lowers the protein level of the flour. Protein turns to gluten, and gluten is what makes breads chewy. A little less protein is a little less gluten and that makes the flour lighter.

Cake flour is around 8% protein. All-purpose flour is around 10% protein.

And now you know! Really, it’s the simple things in the kitchen that delight me the most.

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Mac n Cheddar Cheese

Mac n Cheddar Cheese

Mac n Cheddar Cheese

Baked Mac n Cheddar Cheese is a favorite for lots of us. I never tire of it. This is nothing like the bright orange powdered cheese mac that comes in a box. I used Clothbound Chedder from Grace Hill Farm in Cummington, MA. I found the cheese at Boston Public Market on a weekend trip with Taylor to visit Kristin. You should use your favorite cheddar. Or, use Gouda. If a cheese melts well and you like it, use it. You could add a little Mozzarella to make it stringy. I wouldn’t use all Mozzarella but maybe 25% of the total cheese would be great.mac n cheddar, mac and cheese, homemade, macaroni and cheese

Changing it Up

If you want to change up your mac and cheese you can add two teaspoons of dry mustard, or a tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce. I like to saute mushrooms and onions and add them to the cheese sauce. Remember those “helper” boxed meals you add a pound of ground burger to? You can fry your burger and add it to mac and cheese. Or, how about some slightly steamed broccoli? Variety is good!

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Baked Beans Recipe – Traditional New England Saturday Night Supper

Baked Beans Recipe – Traditional New England Saturday Night Supper

Baked Beans Recipe

Baked beans were not my favorite Saturday night, or any night for that matter, supper. They’re as traditional as lobster bakes on the beach, clam chowder and moose tenderloin but that didn’t mean anything to me. Over the years I’ve tweaked the recipe, as you should do to make it suit your tastes, and now I love baked beans. Protein and iron rich, filling and satisfying, healthy fat from homegrown pork, and great for leftovers. What’s not to love!

baked beans, new england, recipe

Well…what’s not to love…”homemade” using baked beans from a can. I have nothing against them, some are delicious, but clearly they’re not homemade no matter what you do to them. It’s like melting butter, adding a little salt, pouring it into a bowl, and saying you made butter.

Bean Pot or Slow Cooker

baked beans

You can bake the beans in a traditional bean pot or your slow cooker. If the weather is bitterly cold I use the bean pot and keep the oven on to warm the kitchen. However, it’s easier to keep an eye on the beans using a slow cooker with a glass top so you can make sure they don’t dry out.

Warmed up baked beans for breakfast will hold you well to lunch time if you’re busy outdoors. They’re great in chili and refried beans.

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Fish Chowder – From Lake to Bowl

Fish Chowder – From Lake to Bowl

Fish Chowder

A steaming bowl of fish chowder, a thick slice of homemade bread slathered with good butter, and a big spoon. That’s all I need to make a meal that leaves me wanting more even after I’m stuffed to the gills (you see what I did there?). Chowder isn’t just for seafood. You can use fresh water fish, and it’s especially good if you’re using fish you’ve just caught while ice fishing. I stick with white fish and skip any that are oily. If you’d prefer to use ocean fish I suggest haddock, cod or pollock. Good fresh-water choices are cusk, yellow and white perch, and bass.

fish chowder

Mixing it Up

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Rather than tell you how to make fish stock let’s use Hank Shaw’s recipe. He makes great stock and it’s so similar to my recipe there’s no need for me to duplicate it.

You can exchange the butter for salt pork or bacon. Cut it into half-inch cubes and saute to release some of the fat before you add the onions to the pan.

I grew up with chowder made from canned milk instead of heavy cream, and now I sometimes use half ‘n half if I don’t have heavy cream. All three are good but I prefer cream.

Some folks add 1/2 cup of chopped celery when they saute the onions.

Chowder stores well in the refrigerator. Refrigerate leftovers immediately without letting the chowder cool to room temperature because of the dairy and fish.

This looks great served in bread bowls. Traditionally, it’s served with Saltines or Oyster crackers.

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Eggnog Cookies with Creamy Frosting

Eggnog Cookies with Creamy Frosting

Eggnog Cookies with Creamy Eggnog Frosting

Growing up, Christmas was about food, visiting family, food, presents, food, and food. Mum spent days baking and making candy. The dining room table, so big it seated eight easily and ten if we squeezed together, was covered with sugary treats. I carried that tradition on for decades. Now, with a waistline I have to keep a very close eye on and only two of us in the house, I seldom bake sweets. Or…I did until I realized I can bake, have a few cookies or whatever it is I’ve created, and send the rest to work with Steve. Winning! Eggnog Cookies have been on my “I’m going to make that next year” list for a long time. I finally made them this week and now I’m kicking myself for waiting for so long.

eggnog cookies, eggnog frostingThe eggnog cookies recipe I started with came from Pinterest. Looking at the ingredients and amounts, I knew I wasn’t going to love the cookies. I made adjustments twice and came up with a recipe so good I can’t stay out of the cookie jar. I packed them up and sent them to work with Steve this morning.

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Potato Pancakes Recipe – Thanksgiving Leftovers

Potato Pancakes Recipe – Thanksgiving Leftovers

Potato Pancakes

I’ve adjusted the ingredient measurements for these Thanksgiving leftovers recipes. They’re a little more solid than the recipes I gave in this week’s On The Fire on air – but there’s still a lot of wiggle room. The moisture content in your mashed potatoes will determine whether or not you need to use an extra egg or add all-purpose flour in your potato pancakes mix.

You’ll find another Thanksgiving leftovers recipe in Squash Soup.

Thanksgiving leftovers are one of the best parts of Thanksgiving. We spend hours roasting, washing, peeling, slicing, stirring, mashing, smashing and serving the meal. Thirty minutes after we say Grace everyone’s pants are unbuttoned and dinner’s over. After Dad and his hunting buddies and their sons, nephews and grandsons left for hunting dinner Mum, Melissa (my sister), Aunt Betty and I got the leftovers from the fridge and ate again. I stood in front of the stove frying potato pancakes for half an hour. Waddle we did when we were done and it was worth every single bite and calorie.

I like to serve potato pancakes with a dollop of sour cream and maybe some fresh chives. Topping them with shredded cheese as they come out of the pan is always a winner. Or top them with a fried egg and Hollandaise sauce.

Salted Caramel Apple Pie Recipe

Salted Caramel Apple Pie Recipe

Salted Caramel Apple Pie Recipe

Salted caramel apple pie is my new go-to pie for potluck suppers, Thanksgiving dinner, having guests over, and girlfriends’ lunch when it’s my turn to host here on the homestead. Steve takes it to office luncheons.  This pie is rich, sweet and immensely satisfying so you might consider a smaller-than-usual slice. Hahaha…no. Eat the pie. Enjou the pie.

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I am all for kids in the kitchen. Mine started cooking when they were three or four years old. This caramel sauce is not for safe for kids to make. The cold heavy cream hitting the hot syrup will spit and sputter. Adults need long sleeves and oven mitts. Kids need to be away from the stove. They can stir the sauce into the apples when it all cools down and drizzle is over the pie when plating slices. If you want to skip making the caramel sauce you can keep it simple. Go to the store and buy two 12 oz jars of caramel sauce. Warm the sauce and stir in the sea salt. Salted caramel apple pie without salted caramel really isn’t quite right. You will miss the salt in the caramel when you drizzle it over the top crust at serving time.

Apples

I like to use at least two varieties of apples for pie – Honey Crisp and a Winesap. Use what you like best for pies. This recipe is different. You’re going to cook the apples before they go into the crust. You do this so you can mix in the caramel sauce without it flooding the bottom crust. You’ll have no empty air pocket (a result of using apple varieties that aren’t great for baking in traditional apple pie recipes) between the top crust and filling no matter what varieties you use.

salted caramel apple pie, recipe, crust

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Pumpkin Whoopie Pies – Sweet Seasonal Treat

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies – Sweet Seasonal Treat

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies

I use the recipe for soft pumpkin cookies for Pumpkin Whoopie Pies, and then use a cream cheese frosting recipe to make the filling for the pies. This filling recipe is very, very sweet. You might want to use almond extract instead of vanilla (did you know that lessens sweet taste?) and eight cups of powered sugar instead of nine. It’s not a huge difference but it does help.

pumpkin whoopie pies, recipe, cream cheese frosting recipe, cream cheese fillingGundy has a great suggestion. Make these for Halloween and double the batch. Freeze leftover whoopie pies for Thanksgiving, and eat frozen. I’m doing it!

And another suggestion – replace the milk in the filling with Bailey’s Irish Cream and make sure the kids don’t get into the adult batch of whoopie pies.

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Apple Cider Pulled Pork

Apple Cider Pulled Pork

Apple Cider Pulled Pork

Pigs love cleaning up the ground in an apple orchard. It seems fitting to simmer and serve pork and apple cider together. This is one of my favorite autumn meals, and it carries easily into winter. Busy with a day of hunting, stacking firewood, raking leaves, ice fishing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling or shoveling the driveway after a storm? Whatever it is that’s keeping you busy on these chilly days, Apple Cider Pulled Pork is the answer to “What’s for dinner?” It takes about 30 minutes total to prepare and then takes care of itself the rest of the day.

Vinegar in pulled pork doesn’t sound quite right but don’t skip this ingredient. It will help break down the pork so that it shreds well.

You can change up the recipe by adding shredded carrots, chives or green onions, or chunks of apple in the last hour of simmering.

A toasted sourdough roll is a great way to serve this pulled pork. The sauce isn’t as thick as a barbecue sauce so it needs a sturdy bread, or you’ll probably want to drain some of the cider before serving. Or, keep the cider sauce and eat this sandwich with a fork.

Sauerkraut, baked beans or coleslaw are great sides with apple cider pulled pork. Gundy, my co-host at On The Fire, didn’t have a slice of bread in the house. He cooked a fast-cooking rice in the unthicked sauce and serve the apple cider pulled pork over the rice. I can’t wait to try this!