Sunday, July 31, 2011

- Bringing home the bacon

Island Home

I walk through shadows,
the morning sun tangled
in orchard-high branches
of live oak and Ashe juniper,
belying the heat yet to come

Deer fly before me,
hooves clattering
across the roadway
then thudding into shadows
as birds trace scalloped arcs
from tree to wire

I imagine an outer bank,
a sheltered beach
flung into the sky,
water streaming
down flanks of stone,
the sun baking silt and shell
a million years and more

This then is home,
where driftwood lies
in dry-creek beds scoured clean
by gulf-born torrents,
lithic remnants
of the forsaken shore,
a thousand feet closer to heaven

There is a sense of place and belonging here in the Texas hill country that surprises me, as much as I love the beach. Likewise, it is passing strange that there isn’t a time when I go for a walk that I don’t think of Shelter Island, even though we now live 1000’ above sea level. I’m endlessly fascinated by the grasses, wildflowers, trees, shrubs, rocks, and critters along the roads and nature paths that thread through our neighborhood. And as the sun presses down, I could close my eyes and be once again on the Outer Banks.

Soon after we arrived (hard to believe it’s been two years), I discovered author Susan Wittig Albert. Reading her lyrical memoir Together, Alone marked the beginning of my education about the naming of things in this place we now call home. So last night, as we worked up an appetite by walking our dinner guests around the property, I proudly pointed out lace cactus and rock beds, cleared meadows and DIY bird baths, while rattling off a lengthy list of the critters that share the land with us.

Dinner included an old stand-by ("Williamsburg Trellis Style" in the Salad Days post) with a new twist: our own bacon, inspired by a recent meal of pork belly and duck at Meg and Paul’s. Of course, I didn’t exactly follow a recipe, but I have one now.

Bacon My Way


1 pound fresh pork belly
1 fresh turkey breast (hey, if you’re going to fire up a smoker, you might as well make it worthwhile)
¼ cup brown sugar
½ cup kosher salt
4 cups water
12 cups cold water and ice


Heat 4 cups of water in a 6-quart pot and stir in brown sugar and salt until dissolved. Add ice and cold water until you have one gallon of cool brine.


Place the pork belly into a plastic container (cut the pork belly to fit, if necessary) and cover with brine. Place a 2-gallon plastic bag in a large stock pot, add the turkey breast, and cover with the remaining brine. Put lids on both containers and refrigerate overnight. 


One hour before smoking, remove the meats from the brine, dry with paper towels, and place under a fan to dry before smoking. Smoke the pork belly for one hour. Continue to smoke the turkey breast until it reaches an internal temperature of 165 (another hour or two, depending on your smoker and the outdoor temperature). After the meats cool a bit, wrap them securely in plastic wrap and then aluminum foil. Even so, prepare to have your refrigerator smell like a smoke house for as long as it takes to eat the results of your labors. 


What? You say you don’t have a smoker? Well, you should … the cost is reasonable and the results are well worth the investment. Go for it!


BTW, pan frying the brined and smoked pork belly bacon was disappointing.  But slicing it into thin strips and microwaving it on paper towels reduced it to perfect crisps of goodness that were well-worth the effort.

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