The Charcutepalooza Challenge for February is salt cured PORK BELLY. While we did not qualify in the advanced category by making pancetta or guanciale this month, we tried to take it to the next level in a different way… Bacon Ice Cream. Taking inspiration from the now famous blog post by David Lebovitz, and incorporating a brown butter puree a la Ideas in Food authors Aki and Alex, we set out to make a Brown Butter Bourbon Maple Bacon Ice Cream.
But, first, back to the bacon. The heart of this month’s challenge, bacon, has been a relatively new love of mine. Not the eating of bacon; that goes back a long time. But I started making my own bacon about 2 years ago. So, I am so excited to post about this:
EVERYONE SHOULD MAKE THEIR OWN BACON!
There. I said it. Seriously, the hardest part of making bacon is sourcing the pig. But with the growth and popularity of small, local farms that are raising quality animals, this is getting easier and easier. After getting the pork belly, making bacon is no harder than marinating a steak and cooking a roast on a grill. I have a couple friends that I make bacon with. Every few months, we order a couple sides of pork belly and get together to set up the cure. After the standard salt cure, things tend to get a little crazy. I admit, I am the traditionalist in the group and tend to stick to one slab of savory (heavy on the garlic, peppercorns and juniper) and one sweet (maple and bourbon of late). My friend Grace is on the other extreme with bizarre combinations. This last batch included a coconut curry piece and a chocolate raspberry slab. Oddly enough, come tasting time, these are often the winners.
A week or so later, we meet up again to throw everything on the hot smoker grills. Temp up to 150 and we have bacon! Actually, I mispoke earlier; the hardest part of making bacon is trying not to eat too much when the meat comes off the smoking grills.
When Scott suggested this crazy ice cream idea, I fortunately had a slab of bourbon maple bacon sitting in my fridge. I borrowed an ice cream maker and started the process. The brown butter puree was a new adventure from Ideas in Food with ideas from this blog post. My family had tried something similar before and the feedback was that the bacon got a bit soggy in ice cream, so I worked to keep everything as crisp as possible. Plus, I reserved some of the bacon as a topping. The results were mixed. Next time, I think I will try chopping the bacon up before candying it, letting more of the surfaces get a good coating of brown sugar glaze.
The flavor is unmistakably bacon, but it actually works. The richness of the brown butter base countered with a little crunch and salty, smoky bacon! Give it a try with your next batch of homemade bacon!