Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Canadian Bacon - First Attempt

As you, my millions of loyal fans, know ... I love pizza.  I love it too much for my own good health.  But, this is a bit about cooking .. not a health quest.

My very favorite pizza is Canadian bacon and Italian sausage.  And this isn't just favorite as in "I like it a little more than others" ... this is favorite as in "I believe this is the King of All Pizzas, ruler of the Land of Pizza, Pizza As It Should Be."

I've managed to make some Italian sausage.  It's pretty good.  Perhaps over time, I'll make it better.  But, it's certainly good enough to go onto my Dream Pizza.  The pizza for which I quest.  Of course, if I still lived back in the US, it would be more of a pizza drive not a quest.  Here, I must make it myself.  That seems like a lot more fun.

I poked around on the web and found this recipe for making Canadian bacon.  It sounded simple enough for me to start with.  I figured that I would start with the simple one of go from there to improve the quality with each iteration.

Here is my attempt ...

  • 2.5 kilograms pork loin
  • 1 gallon water
  • 1 cup salt
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup Prague #1 (Cure)
  • 1 tsp pickling spice
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves

First, I mixed the brine.  I put all the ingredients together (except the pork loin, of course) into a large steel stock pot. 

Ah, there it is.  The lovely pork loin.  Two-and-a-half kilograms of tasty baboy (pork).

I cut it into three equal pieces because I planned to make three different versions.  One I'd brine for a day, one I'd brine for two days, one for three days. 

I enlisted the aid of my sous chef to inject some of the brine into each piece.  I have a two fluid ounce stainless steel injector.  I injected one of the pieces with a full shot from the injector ... putting the needle portion directly in the middle of the piece of meat.  My sous chef did the other two.

I put the now brine-filled loin pieces into the brine in one of my stainless steel pots.  A little plastic wrap on top and into the fridge it went.  

The instructions said to cook the meat in hot water (170F / 77C) until the internal temperature came up to (155F / 68C).  Notice my little probe thermometer swimming in the water and its head barely clinging to the side of the stove.

Here's one of the pieces as it cooks into the water. Notice the color.  This just didn't look like Canadian bacon to me.  Had the wrong look.  To be fair to the recipe source, I'd only brined this one for two days where they call for four or five. 

Here's one of the water-cooked pieces on the chopping block.  The taste and texture were OK.  The color was off for me.

While I was cooking the two-day brine, I'd fired up my smoker to make some ribs (see previous post).  So, I thought, why not smoke one instead of cooking it in hot water.  The results of this test are the picture at the top of this post.

Test Results

Primary Test Group:  Very good.  A bit salty.  One day brine's flavor was weak but the salt was about right.  Two-day brine was too salty and flavor was not-so-good.

Test Group M:  Good.

Potential Improvements

Definitely needs more flavor and less salt.  That's accomplished through the brine.  I need to cut way back on the cure and salt that I put into the recipe.

I'm also not a big fan of the pickling spices.  Those will go in my next attempt.  Replaced by brown sugar.


This was a good first attempt.  While I don't think that I'm close to making good Canadian Bacon, I'm definitely on the right track.  Brine followed by smoke seems to definitely be the way to go.

There are options to consider ... do I soak the loin after brining?  Do I put it directly into the smoker without soaking?  Soak after smoking?

I hate leaving options untried ... I'll try them all ...

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