We were very excited when we read about the April Charcutepalooza Challenge. In fact, hot smoking is what got me started in on Charcuterie about 5 years ago. I started out by smoking fresh pork belly, then moved on to whole chickens, barbecued brisket, and the spicy pork loin. It’s addicting, you know. It makes so much sense while cooking things on a grill to add wood chips to the equation, and how hard is it to add soaked wood chips? As far as contraptions go, it’s much easier than cold smoking, which Paul explained back in January. So with hot smoking in mind (and since now that the sun is out we don’t have to dig out the grill anymore), I thought I’d try my hand at Canadian bacon, which I hadn’t ever done.
I should come right out and say up front that I’ve never been a huge fan of Canadian bacon. It’s always felt basically like hum-drum breakfast ham to me, which is fine and all (and it can be great, of course), but I’ve always preferred bacon and sausage (and corned beef hash, actually, which is my diner sidemeat of choice. What better way to evaluate a new diner than to see if their hash is any good?). Now, don’t start calling “heresy” just yet because I’m saying that a particular cured and smoked pork product isn’t my favorite. I’m just being honest. Plus, mediocre Canadian bacon is just that: mediocre. It’s probably because since there’s less fat in the loin it’s easier to dry out, especially if overcooked. In fact, I think I decided on making Canadian bacon this time to find out how much of a difference it makes when you do it all yourself. (I always cringe when people say that they don’t like pork chops, for example, which usually means that they don’t like overcooked and dry pork chops, which nobody likes. So I didn’t want to be like that.) I’m happy to report that I’ve either proved my misconceptions wrong (if you want to look at it that way), or I’ve proved that curing and smoking meats at home can be leaps and bounds better than anything you’ll get elsewhere (which is what we’ve been saying for a while, and I’m sure many of you agree). Either way, I think it’s a win-win. I loved this stuff, and I easily ate a 1/4 pound right off the cutting board as I was making dinner (that wasn’t even going to include the Canadian bacon). What a great appetizer!
This was sweet, not too salty (it was just right), with a touch of maple from a glaze put on right before smoking, with hints of cinnamon, garlic, and bay leaves. It also picked up plenty of smoke over the two hours. The easiest way to put it is that I’d make it again, exactly the same way. I followed the basic recipe from Charcuterie, give or take: a 5% brine with crushed garlic cloves, black pepper, whole coriander, 1/2 a cinnamon stick, bay leaves, brown sugar, and a shake of crushed red pepper flakes. I made less brine than usual this time, and I put the pork loin in a zip top bag set in a Tupperware container in the fridge for 72 hours. I rinsed it off in cold water, pat it dry, and set on a toaster oven rack in the refrigerator overnight to develop a pellicle. I smoke-roasted the pork loin over indirect heat (25-30 briquettes) with 2 cups of soaked hickory chips set into a metal tray on top of the coals. I put a quick glaze of maple syrup onto the loin, and I used a digital probe thermometer to keep track of the temp of the meat and the grill. The grill temp ranged from 185-210 degrees, and I pulled the meat off at 145 degrees after about 2 hours and 10 minutes.
So here’s how it worked: