As I’ve mentioned before, one of the annoying things about living away from my homeland is the lack of availability of many of the grocery basics, treats, and general comfort foods of home. For the most part, they’re easy enough to make, once I put my mind to developing a recipe (Tiger Tail Ice Cream, or Honey Garlic Cooking Sauce, for instance!)
Recently, I was disappointed with a purchase of “Canadian bacon” (we don’t call it that – it’s back bacon!). I lamented the lack of availability of not only GOOD back bacon, but also peameal bacon. My husband had never even heard of peameal bacon, and had only ever had “Canadian Bacon” as they sell it here in the USA… anemic, flavourless, very blah ham product. This was a situation that needed to be rectified!
So, I did some research on recipes and techniques, and created a recipe of my own, using the flavours I wanted. I ordered a few necessary items – including Prague Powder, which I’d never even heard of – and then called my husband to let him know that I was taking up a new hobby – curing meat. You know you’ve married well when such a declaration isn’t met with some variation of “WTF? Because we don’t have enough hobbies?”, but with “Awesome! I’ve been meaning to take up smoking meats! We can do both!”!
Anyway, both back bacon and peameal bacon start out the same – soaking in a flavourful brine for a few days – and then veer off in different directions from there:
Peameal Bacon is then rolled in cornmeal (Back in the day it was crushed up dried peas), wrapped, and chilled. It’s then cut into thick slices and fried up as needed, usually served in sandwiches. So far as I can tell, peameal sandwiches are mostly a Toronto thing… I have no idea why. They’re fantastic!
Back Bacon skips the cornmeal, and gets smoked until fully cooked. You can serve it as-is, though it’s usually reheated in some form: fried as part of breakfast or in a sandwich, or thinly sliced and used to make pizza. I promise you, making a pizza with this will wreck you for all other pizzas. I made a spicy Hawaiian one the other day – back bacon, pineapple, thinly sliced jalapenos, and a drizzle of sriracha.. spectacular!
Says Porter: “It has a better texture than the stuff I’ve had – firm but not stringy or chewy. Much better flavor, more character. I definitely see a big difference, and I’m not going back”
While back bacon requires smoking – usually requiring special equipment / technique – peameal bacon is ridiculously easy to make, and requires no special skill or equipment. I was really kicking myself for not having done it sooner!
Homemade Peameal Bacon and Back Bacon Recipe
1 Pork loin, about 4 lbs
12 cups cold water, divided
1 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup pickling salt
2 Tbsp Prague powder #1 cure (I found it on Amazon)
2 Tbsp mustard seeds
2 tsp black peppercorns
4 cloves garlic, pressed
3 whole cloves
2 bay leaves
1 lemon, sliced into wedges
Cut pork loin into 2 approximately equal sized chunks (crosswise, NOT lengthwise!). Trim most of the visible fat, if you’d like. Some people don’t both, I don’t like the extra fat on mine. Set aside (in fridge).
Measure 4 cups of of water into a large pot, add remaining ingredients (aside from rest of water!). Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat, add remaining water, stir to combine. Allow to cool to room temperature.
Place one chunk of pork loin in each of 2 gallon sized freezer bags. I like to manually divide the lemon wedges and bay leaves equally between the two bags before pouring half of the brine into each bag. Push out most of the air, seal the bags, and put them in the fridge – I put both bags into a 9 x 12 cake pan, just in case of leakage, etc.
Allow the pork to brine for 5 whole days, turning once daily to ensure the pork loins are completely submerged.
After 5 days, discard brine, and rinse pork loins with cold water. Use paper towels to pat dry.
For Peameal Bacon
Pour a generous amount of yellow cornmeal onto a plate large enough to accommodate the chunk of pork loin. Roll loin in the cornmeal, pressing to form a uniform crust. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap, chill for at least an hour before slicing and frying/grilling… if you can handle the wait! (I was unable to!)
(Excuse the crappy cellphone pic. Hubby was at work, and I was SO excited to try some!)
For Back Bacon
Hot smoke it with your choice of wood chips until it reaches an internal temperature of 145-150 F. I left this completely up to Porter, here’s what he has to say about how he did it. (This was the very first thing he’s ever smoked!):
“First I put it in the propane grill at about 225°F for one hour. Then I transferred it over to the charcoal grill for about 2 1/2 hours. The charcoal grill was about 250°F (that wasn’t intentional, was trying for 225°F). While on the charcoal grill I put on soaked applewood chips about every twenty minutes or so, just a small amount each time. I put the wet chips directly on the coals.”
|With 2017 being Canada’s 150th birthday, it’s about time I wrote the Canadian cookbook I’ve been planning for YEARS.
“More than Poutine” will be a Canadian cookbook like no other – written by a Canadian living away, it includes both traditional homecooking recipes, as well as homemade versions of many of the snacks, sauces, convenience foods, and other food items that are hard to come by outside of Canada!
High quality gluten-free versions of most recipes will be included.
The Kickstarter for “More Than Poutine is live, here. Please consider backing, and sharing the campaign with your friends!
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