26 March, 2009

Citrus-Smoked Bacon

I've found some pretty unusual things at estate sales. A month ago, for example, I found ten 2-pound boxes of citrus wood chips packed in the 1960s - new old stock - by a company called Florida Gardens. I scooped all ten boxes.

When I got everything to the car, I opened one of the shrinkwrapped boxes and grabbed out a handful of the chips. The wood was pale and yellowish; one or two chips had some bark, but it was pretty much mostly wood with very little bark or dust, all chips and no chunks. The wood was dry, as I expected it to be from the age, but it had been stored in the shrinkwrap, in a dark and dry basement. There was no mildew smell or discoloration.

I smouldered a chip against the car cigarette lighter, and the smoke smelled delicious. Not "spicy" like mesquite, but quietly aromatic and reminiscent of applewood. There was a citrusy backnote, and a sweet floral scent as well. Quite amazing. I immediately made plans to try it out with my next batch of bacon.

I used my default bacon cure to prepare a 13-pound pork belly, which I quartered and submerged in the brine for five days. After that, the brined pork spent two days on my cold front porch on racks to dry. Following the drying period, I put the belly over the citrus wood smoke for five hours at 100 F with a one-hour finish at 200 F.

The bacon came out amazing. Just as good as the best applewood bacon I've had. There was a good balance of salt and smoke. As I expected, the smoke flavor was similar to applewood, but with floral elements and a tangy citrusy backnote.

The flavor was good enough that, if I lived in Florida, I would be making this kind of a bacon as a "regional specialty" the same way I make apple- and maple-smoked bacon here using native New England trees for the smoking chips.


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