Sunday, November 23, 2014

November 23, 2014: Crispi Pleads Guilty, and Trader Joe's Bacon

MY LIFE WITH BACON continues this week as Cripsi pleads guilty, and I review some Trader Joe’s uncured bacon.  Happy Thanksgiving!


Yes, CRISPI HAS ENTERED A GUILTY PLEA.  You may remember the story a while back – a young lady was arrested for attempted murder, with bacon.  She put a bunch of bacon on the stove and turned the burners on high, leaving the house.  I’ve copied and pasted the news story below for your reading enjoyment, with emphasis in italics and bold mine:

(Newser) What a waste of bacon: A Utah woman angry at her ex-boyfriend admitted to police that she put a pound of bacon on a cookie sheet on top of his gas stove back in March, turned the burner on "high," and left it there—allegedly in an attempt to burn the house down. Making the already-weird story even weirder: Her last name is Crispi. Cameo Adawn Crispi, 32, pleaded guilty yesterday to reckless burning, attempted assault by a prisoner, and intoxication, all misdemeanors.
Charges of arson, burglary, assault by a prisoner, interfering with an arresting officer, and electronic communication harassment were dropped as part of her plea deal, KSL reports.
The man was not home at the time, but called the cops after getting 15 calls and text messages from Crispi in less than an hour. "The bacon was burned and smoking badly" when officers arrived, with smoke pouring out the front door and Crispi clearly impaired. "I asked to come in and observed a wood stove left open with a fire burning inside and hot coals on the floor around the stove," the responding officer says. Crispi was arrested after a brief struggle; her BAC was found to be 0.346, which is more than four times what Utah considers "impaired."

My favorite line: "Crispi clearly impaired."  I think her mug shot on the day of the arrest is more fun than the one from the courtroom where she is entering her plea. She looks more crispy in her mug shot.


 This is their “Classic Sliced Dry Rub” “All Natural* Uncured Bacon”.  The asterisk is followed by the words below, “minimally processed”…

This bacon had a classic aroma out of the package – clean, with a little smoky scent.  That must be due to the “minimally processed” process.  Just guessing.  

The 12-ounce package netted 12.5 ounces, a typical over-delivery excellence from Trader Joe’s.  When cooked, the bacon weighed in at 4.3 ounces; minimal shrinkage, minimal stickiness, and somewhat curly.  Looks great and easy to cook!  

The bacon’s flavor is just classic, and average, rated at 2.5.  Just OK.  Good everyday bacon.  It was of average crispness, 2.5 and average succulence, 2.5.  Average bacon.  But good.  I ate it all.  It was just a quarter pound, grandma!

Again, Happy Thanksgiving!  I'll be smoking a big pork butt this coming weekend... stay tuned.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Novembewr 16, 2014: An NFL game, Pulled Pork, Red Robin

MY LIFE WITH BACON continues this week with a short, late post.  

I had an all-day commitment on Saturday, and on Sunday, attended the Bears-Vikings Game.  Great shot of my 6’ tall son, Jack on the left.  We were absolutely astounded by a surprise fly-over of a B-1 bomber in a fairly heavy snowstorm with low clouds.  Here’s a link to a YouTube video of the flyover.  Unbelievable.  And I don't get surprised often.

I never showed the wonderful pork butt I cooked on my Ugly Drum Smoker.  Here’s the picture!  It was absolutely unbelievably.  The day after Thanksgiving, I will be making a solid 8-pounder for our family.  By far, the must succulent, flavorful pulled pork recipe I’ve ever tasted.  Here's the recipe!  You can really see how the smoke penetrated the meat.  Incredibly succulent.  Sauces another time!

Of course, I ate bacon this week!  On business in Dubuque, Iowa, a nice Mississippi town, my team at NEPS and a valued client had dinner at Caroline’s – a wonderful upscale restaurant with deep, historical roots.  Of course, I asked if they had bacon on the menu.  Who doesn’t?  Turns out that their bacon, from Sysco, was just OK.  A little greasy and less flavorful than I expected (but perfectly acceptable).  I had the steak, which was nearly perfect, and colleagues had other entrees.  The one I wish I selected was the catfish.  It looked great and my new friend loved it.

I also used this recipe to make a Brussels sprouts appetizer.  Cut the sprouts in half, sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Cut in half, then saute on medium-high with chopped garlic until nice & browned but on the outside but hardly cooked on the inside.  At the same time, fry up some bacon but take it off the heat when still limp.  When both ingredients cool. Slip a wooden skewer over the end of a slice of bacon, then put a sprout on it, and alternate.  Cook at 375 for twenty minutes or so.  Great stuff.

Finally, Jack and I went to see a movie on Saturday night, and I had a nice burger at Red Robin.  Of course, it had bacon on it!


There are ccertainly some interesting news items involving bacon, but I'll just share one at this point: a recipe.  I am considering this for Thanksgiving Day....

Sunday, November 9, 2014

November 9, 2014: Hofherr's Meat Co and my UDS in action

MY LIFE WITH BACON continues this week with a visit to a new butcher here in the North Shore of Chicago, and some news..

I’ve you’re a regular reader, you know I built an Ugly Drum Smoker (UDS) a couple of weeks back.  One of the challenges in making the UDS with a kit from Big Poppa Smokers is the lid.  The unit’s photos show using the lid that came with the 55-gallon drum – it’s flat and would work well with the adjustable vent supplied with the kit.  However, when you get a sealed drum, you have to rip the top off!  I used a reciprocating saw and it came off pretty cleanly.  However, getting a seal between the lid and the drum (important for regulating the temperature) proved difficult.

My solution was to purchase a $50 Weber-type grill with a lid that fits a 22.5” drum (the typical diameter).  Worked great, but I had to use an idea from this modification to add an aluminum rim. Instead of employing a welder, I simply cut a couple of pieces of 3"wide aluminum and bolted it to the top.  Even then, I didn’t get a great seal.  That’s where the duct tape, something with a million uses, came in.  Great seal (although temporary); easy to regulate the temp, but I’ll need a permanent solution.

This is the weekend where I test it!  Got a nice five pound pork butt, marinated it overnight, and then coated it with a nice rub.  Check out this link for the recipe (modified) that I used.  

Got the smoker warmed up (having trouble getting it down to the right temp: 225 degrees F) and gently placed the piggy hiney on the grill.  I used Applewood chips in aluminum foil (soaked for at least 30 minutes first).  The UDS performed great!

We had a great dinner party last night and I served up braised veal shanks with sage.  A true “go-to” recipe which can be found here.  Where’d I get the meat?  If you live in the North Suburbs, you may know that The Daily Grind (great local butcher in Lake Bluff) had to close its doors.  The shop is moving to downtown Lake Forest in a couple of months, so I had to find an  First, I called Schmeisser’s Sausage – a supermarket of meat.   But they couldn’t accommodate my order! 

So I took a chance on the Hofherr Meat Company - a relatively new butcher in Northfield, IL.  The store is incredibly welcoming, with a large farm table for in-store chowing.  Well lit, clean, friendly people, and a beautiful meat case.  Of course, they also have bacon, which I review below.  The lovely and friendly Emily took care of me.  I'll be back!


An Ohio grocery chain recently opened in Lake Bluff – Heinen’s.  The brothers have been doing quite well.  They took the spot vacated by Dominick’s demise, and the place is truly beautiful.  I .called them to see if they had the veal shanks, and it turned out that they did and it was on sale.  Unfortunately, they’re pre-cut somewhere else and I could only get 1” thick – recipe called for 2”

HOWEVER, THEY HAD OSCAR ON SALE – 3 packages for a $10!  As you can see, there weren’t many on the shelf.

THIS WEEK’S BACON IS HOFHERR MEAT COMPANY in-store cured/smoked/prepared.

This bacon came HIGHLY recommended by Emily, of the Hofherr Meat Co.  She said that they made five full pork bellies and they sold out in two days!  Customers rave about the bacon, so naturally I had to try it.

This butcher bacon came in at 1.35 pounds.  I cooked it all up and it netted 9.6 ounces of finished bacon, and produced only 60ml of rendered bacon fat.

On opening the package, I couldn’t detect much of a smell at all.  And the appearance of the bacon was uber-pedestrian.  It looked like a federal government worker on the Metro, headed to Washington DC – dour, 20-year-old overcoat fashion, worn-out sneakers, and bad hair.  We’re not starting out well.

The bacon had minimal stickiness and was very, very thin.  It produced 36 slices!  It cooked very quickly, due to the thinness.  Flavor was excellent, and quite salty.  Couldn’t quite place the other flavors.  Interesting.  But also very dry, which puzzled us.  I certainly didn’t overcook the bacon!  I think this would be perfect bacon on a BLT or in a recipe, and it's an excellent bacon.  I need to ask them to slice it a little thicker, so more of the flavor can come out next time.  That DC government worker let his/her hair down, took off her coat, put on pumps/party shoes and got a little racier…we’ll see how the bacon performs next time!

Rating: I give it a 4 out of 5 on flavor. 3 on cripsiness, 3 on chewiness (Debbie says that the meatier parts were like jerkey) but very low on succulence (2). 
See you next week!