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Reaping a Harvest of Hogs

Written By Culinary Pen on Tuesday, July 28, 2009 | 7:37:00 PM

Beautiful, isn't it? A field of bacon--cured, smoked and sliced. The work has all been done. Now, the only thing left to do is enjoy. Pardon me if I get a bit wistful, but good bacon has that effect. So far I've tried the herbs de Provence and molasses cured bacon, but Saturday morning looks to be a great time to test-run the Cajun cure. I found the herbs de Provence to be delicately herbal, which makes me think it'll be perfect as garnishing on a salad or in other uncomplicated dishes where you won't lose that aromatic nuance. This will be my summertime bacon, so to speak.

The molasses cure had a bit more octane behind it, calling out for beans, sausage, or just tucked next to some hoecakes. I didn't taste the clove or coffee I had added to the molasses cure, but maybe that's a good thing, as the might easily overtake as a dominant flavor.

Lastly, I want to speak briefly on the subject of pork skin. If you cure your own bacon, you'll most likely get it with the skin on. After you smoke it, you can easily slide a fillet knife under the skin to whisk it off. But don't throw it away! In your hands you hold an incredibly powerful piece of porcine anatomy. Italian readers may have already enjoyed copious amounts of pork skin in the classic cotechino sausage, which blends all the fatty pieces of the hog together in one delightfully unctuous casing.

If you're new to eating pork skin, my recommendation would be to fry it. I know it sounds counter-intuitive, but I love fried pork skin scattered over a salad. Crunchy, salty, and porky all at once, like the croutons Marlon Brandon would use. Just chop the skin into 1" squares, fry in a cast-iron pan or deep-fryer, then toss in salt, sugar, and cayenne for a kick. If you feel uncomfortable about eating pork skin (yet still bought a whole pork belly...) you can use it like pig's feet to add a silken quality to soups, stews, beans, or sauerkraut. Remember, a lot of work went into that belly--don't waste it!

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