26 January, 2009

Not Very Good Wine, But Very Good Bacon

Made by B F Clyde's Cider Mill in Mystic CT, Clyde's Yellow Jacket is an apple wine with orange concentrate added. It's put up in clear glass bottles, through which one can admire the rich, cloudy amber of the wine and the thick layer of yellowy sediment choking the bottom.

The label says to SHAKE WELL and so I did before pouring. Shaking it, of course, distributes the orange concentrate throughout the wine and gives it the appearance of water pulled from a peat bog with a bucket.

Despite this appearance, the wine is thin, with very little body. The citrus is absolutely overwhelming to the point of throwing the flavor out of balance, and in fact the stuff is almost unbearably sour. Orange concentrate in this wine equals epic fail. I found it unpleasantly acrid; comments from other tasters included "horrid," "bitter," (okay, so the actual comment was much less kind: "it tastes like earwax") and "what the hell were they [meaning the cider mill] thinking?" No one - including me - finished the short pourings I'd provided. It really was that bad, and letting it breathe improved it not one microscopic bit.

Note: The sour acidity was purely the result of the orange concentrate. The wine had not corked or started to turn to vinegar - there was no taste of acetic acid at all, so speculation that the wine had somehow "turned" is misguided.

Allowing the sediment to settle back into bottom-of-the-bottle sludge, I carefully poured off some of the less-adulterated (but still somewhat cloudy) apple wine and found it somewhat less disagreeable. It was now identifiable as an apple wine, though it was still not as good as the other apple cider/wines we tried from B F Clyde's.

By the end of dinner, I still had a good 2/3 of a bottle remaining. Well, not really "good," if you know what I mean. But it's still many ounces of 34-proof undrinkable beverage, and I wasn't sure what to do with the rest.

But it so happened that I had a couple of chunks of pork belly in the refrigerator, waiting to be made into bacon. And so it was decided to use the remainder of the Yellow Jacket to flavor the bacon, because the whiskey-cured bacon I'd made previously was so good.

The pork belly pieces spent three days marinating in the apple wine. Then I poured off the wine, patted the meat dry with paper towels, and rubbed it with a mixture of two parts kosher salt to one part brown sugar, with a dash of Morton TenderQuick added. After three days in the rub, I rinsed off the excess cure with a touch more Yellow Jacket, and put the pork over apple smoke at 200 F for three hours to make a Russian-style "hot smoked" bacon.

The result was excellent. The finished bacon has a sharp apple-wine aroma accented by the smoke. Eaten in the Eastern-European manner - sliced without further cooking - the wine flavor nicely complements the salt and smoke flavors in the pork. When fried, the apple smoke becomes more prominent and the wine flavors fade. But best of all, the sour citrus flavor is not present at all in the bacon.


B F Clyde's Cider Mill Official Website - Clyde's is the oldest steam-powered cider mill in the United States, and they produce a number of hard ciders and apple wines. The other ciders we tried - Lucky Lion and Old Fashioned Hard Cider - were very good.

1 comment:

Mr. Dave said...

You know, I have been on a limited search for some pork belly (not really trying, hoping to happen upon it) and I have been noticing a disturbing trend. All of the old timey pork stores in my area are closing, like within the past couple months! Another casualty of the economy. I applaud you for your home bacon making prowess.