a home cook with notions & an appetite
As I’d previously mentioned, our CSA has moved to the North Market. This means an whole new set of vendors to browse each Saturday. This includes Blues Creek Farm Meats. Not only a great butcher in general, but a supplier of meat to a lot of local restaurants in town (and gushed about by the head chef of Latitude 41 when it comes to their pork in a cooking class we took). The other Saturday Blues Creek had lamb chest. Lamb chest includes the lamb belly. For $2-hardly-anything a pound. Imagine my excitement at the possibilities.
Oh, you’re not imagining lamb bacon? I promise I’m not the only one. From Belly to Bacon has done this not once, but twice and read up on plenty of other like-minded people attempting the same thing. B2B was able to get a whole and uncut piece; my cuts were a bit different before I needed to butcher out the belly portion:
I know, mad butchery skillz, no? Sorry you had to see that. I really need to take classes. At the same time, I got four very generous pieces of belly and tried to avoid leaving as much good meat on the rib (I hate to say it, but some sites referred to these pieces as “riblets”) as possible. In the end, there’s a basic fact: pigs are bigger than lambs and the same holds true for their bellies. It’s like distributive property, only instead of algebra, it applies to meat.
Step 1: Take your riblet bone scrap and ferret it away in the freezer, along with your other lamb bone scraps. If you don’t already have this collection started, get it started. This will make a great stock one day soon. Or very fancy riblets. If you can bring yourself to say riblets outloud.
Step 2: Make bacon. This is where the hard work ended and the easy part started for me. I already had basic cure stored away in the cupboard. What’s basic cure? Rhulman reiterates the basic recipe on his site, and here it is:
This makes a ton of cure and can be stored for a long time.
I generally use about a half cup of cure for a 4-pound pork belly. The lamb chest came in at over 2 pounds, but in pieces, so I used roughly a third of a cup. I know I’ve discussed various adds in the past, but for the lamb bacon, I went with naked cure. The important part was to make sure that I rubbed this into every part of the belly pieces. (I do wear disposable gloves for this step).
For a pork belly, the cure will take anywhere from 7 to 10 days. The lamb was more than done in three days. When I say “done,” what I mean is there’s a certain firmness to the meat that says the cure has thoroughly made its way through and ensured that you’ve temporarily won the battle against bacteria and prolonged the life of your meat. I was making a riboletta (we got a lot of greens in the CSA) at this point and didn’t photos of the rub rinse and smoking process, but this is what happened. Husband thoroughly rinsed the lamb, started the smoker and loaded it up with applewood chips (the same homemade smoker featured here). After getting the meat up to 165º (it took a little over 3 hours), we had a fully smoked lamb bacon.
The taste? Very much like regular bacon with a very meaty (lamb!) finish. I’ve taken a photo next to a slice of pork-belly bacon (also homemade), and you can see the immediate size and color difference, as both the natural meat color and nitrates will make for a redder bacon. Crisped bacon slices are not going to be the most practical use since they’ll be so small, but diced bacon for flavoring or as-is snacks are right up this cured meat’s alley. Rest-assured, I’ll be keeping an eye out for this cut in the future…unless, of course, I see beef plate on the cheap in the display case soon. And then we’ll start a whole new curing fun-times project.