Dreaming of butchers and home smoked baconPosted by Fiona Nevile in Curing and Smoking | 7 comments
Our new organic butcher buys his beef from farmers whose steers graze the fields in the local studs around our village. Something like ox kidney has to be ordered in advance. Last week I invested in organic shin of beef, just £8.00 for 2 kilos. And a large oxtail that was quite a bit more expensive. Some shin and oxtail went into a beef and vegetable soup and the rest was frozen until an organic ox kidney was available to make our favourite Steak and Kidney Pie.
So this morning I motored over to Fordham to collect the kidney and buy an organic free range happy chicken for Sunday. Free range from your local butcher (if you are lucky enough to have one) is much cheaper than from the supermarket and is probably locally sourced too.
“I’m afraid we only have chicken fronts left.”
Neil indicated a diminutive carcass on a hook. It was so small that it reminded me of Mrs Boss
“What’s a front?”
“A chicken without legs and thighs. Just the breast and wings and bones of course.”
“Well once a lady came in and said that she wanted a chicken but she doesn’t eat the legs or thighs. Then a man piped up behind and said that’s the bit that he likes the best so he’d take them.” He gave me a strong look. “We sell loads of fronts They’re much more popular than a whole chicken.”
I could see where the lady was coming from. I only really like the white meat on a chicken. So I bought a front and will be cooking it tomorrow night. Next time I’ll think ahead and add a whole chicken to our order. Small specialist suppliers just can’t just have everything on tap all of the time. Like most people in the UK I’ve been spoilt by the system. Everything available 24/7 but not necessarily the best and happiest of stock.
We don’t make a weekly trip to the Fordham butchers. We buy far less meat these days. So the development of the relationship has hiccups. But I’m gradually getting to know the butcher (Neil) and his assistant (nameless so far) – the latter is young and fun with ear studs and a bit of banter. Neil and I chat about curing meat and share our triumphs and disasters. This is somewhere that I could really learn a lot about home cured ham, sausages (salami and pepperoni) and biltong. The disaster discussions are much more interesting than the successes, Neil is looking for answers and so am I. A failure handled well should reap dividends in the future.
This week I’m going to present them with some of our low salt home cured organic free range streaky bacon that we’ve smoked slowly in the chimney over our wood burner the past two evenings. They sold me the belly last week. I’ll be really interested to see what they think.
The best laid plans sometimes go awry. The wood burner lit like a dream and roared away far to fast for gentle smoking. I sprayed the blazing wood with the water mister that we use for the orchids. Eventually things heated up so well that the doors expanded and I couldn’t open them. Finally I was forced to open the inspection plate in the chimney and pour a jug of water down onto the fire. It spluttered for a bit like a spaniel who has misjudged the depth of a stream. Within minutes it was smoking like mad and still glowing nicely. Ideal on the bacon front.
Tasting and swapping ideas at the butcher’s is what it’s all about. I never thought that I would sit down to a weekend fry up and chose to eat streaky bacon. But we do if we have cured it ourselves.
David, the manager in Fred’s old shop explained why.
“It’s the fat. It improves the meat and makes it scrumptious. If it’s cured well, the flavour’s far better than loin (back bacon).”
When I have a mini windfall I’m going to buy a free range organic loin from Neil. Use our low salt cure and smoke it carefully over an Ash or Beech fire. I reckon that it will be amazing.
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