1st Charcuterie/Molecular Gastronomy Experiment, Maple Bacon Bourbon Balls

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Revvy

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Since Christmas I've become obsessed with both Charcuterie and Molecular Gastronomy. I've been meaning to make a couple threads on some of the things I've been doing. I put together a curing "cabinet" for meat that can fit into any small closet or room where the temp is in the 60's, I've come up with a hot/cold smoker that folks can use even indoors, I've made sausage (Spanish Chorizo,) Duck breast prosciutto, pancetta and a couple of Spanish cured meats. AND I've even infused bourbon with my maple bourbon bacon.

I've also found out that a few of the compounds used in molecuar gastronomy, such as agar agar, and tapioca starch are readily available, and cheaper than online in Asian groceries.

In a couple of weeks I'm going to have some friends over for a homebrew/charcuterie tasting and I've been putting together and testing some recipes.

I was trying to come up with a dessert for the night, and decided to do a riff the old bourbon balls, using some of my maple bacon bourbon. The classic bourbon balls are usually rolled in powdered sugar. I was looking at a Molecular Gastronomy blog and saw how tapioca maltodextrine or tapioca starch has the power to turn any fat into an intensely flavored powder form, that when exposed to water or saliva turns back into the fat.

So I decided to take some rendered bacon fat and turn it into a powder that I would roll the balls in.

The balls turned out pretty insane, so I thought I'd share with you what I did....

So here's the finished product.



The first thing I did, around the holidays was cure up some Maple Bourbon bacon, the recipe which I found on my new favorite cooking blog Punk Domestics;

The recipe is,

2 ounces/50 grams kosher salt (about 1/4 cup)
1 tsp/12 grams pink curing salt
1/4 cup/50 grams maple sugar or packed dark brown sugar
1/4 cup/60 milliliters maple syrup
1 - 5 lb/2.5 kilogram pork belly

Combine the salt, pink salt and sugar in a bowl and mix well.
Rub this mixture over the entire surface of the belly. Place skin side down into a 2 gallon Ziploc bag. (The salt will make the pork release water creating a brine).
Pour in the maple syrup and make sure it's distributed on all sides of the belly.
Refrigerate, turning the belly and redistributing the cure every day for 7 days until the meat is firm to the touch.
Remove the belly from the cure, rinse thoroughly and pat dry. Place it on a rack set over paper towels in the fridge and allow to dry, uncovered for 12-24 hours.
Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Place rack in a roasting pan. Put the belly on the rack and pour bourbon into the pan. Cook the pork belly to an internal temperature of 150 degrees F/65 degrees C; about 3 hours; replacing bourbon as necessary as it evaporates. Let cool slightly when it's cool enough to touch, cut off any skin; leaving as much fat as possible (the piece I bought already had the skin cut off).
Allow to cool, then wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate or freeze until ready to use.

I rigged up a smoking box, and a venturi cold smoker and smoked the bacon for 2 hours.



After cold smoking it, I baked it in a low oven til it reached the safe internal temp.



I trimmed off a few nice thick slices.



The same night I decided to infuse some bourbon with my own maple bourbon bacon. It was a way basically to recycle the bourbon and maple syrup I doused the bacon with repeatedly while baking it, along with the rendered drippings. I used this recipe to make the bourbon.

So when making the bacon, there was a lot of dripping in the pan.



I also took some of the bacon and cooked it off in a pan,



I grabbed a mason jar, some maple syrup and the bourbon.



I took some bacon rind, and a table spoon of maple syrup and put it into a mason jar.



I poured the drippings from both the baking pan and the fried bacon into the jar, and added 2 cups of bourbon.



I covered it with cling film and let it sit for a few hours for the flavors to mingle.



After a few hours I transferred it to the freezer for 24 hours, so that fat would separate from the bourbon.
 
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After 24 hours in the freezer there was a thick fat cap on top, which I popped off with a spoon.



I then began the tedious process of straining and filtering the solids and fats from the bourbon, using various sized strainers and filters, ending with the gold meshed filter from my coffee maker, I did 6 passes through various things. Starting with the solids in a standard mesh strainers. Anything that had a mesh or was a filter, it went through, large to small.



Regular coffee filters;


And the gold one.



After I finished straining it off, I had a couple cups of really strong maple bacon bourbon. After tasting it, I blended it with some "fresh" bourbon til I got it to a flavor I liked. (It's up to you how much if any you want to blend it.)

This is what I ended up with.



Pretty damn tasty, actually. It's sweet, smoky and bacony....the perfect drink.



So next it was time to make the Maple bacon bourbon balls. I used this basic recipe for the balls.

1 cup fine vanilla wafer crumbs
1 cup finely chopped pecans
1 cup confectioners' sugar
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 cup bourbon
1 tablespoons plus 1 1/2 teaspoons light corn syrup

Thoroughly combine 1 crushed vanilla wafer crumbs, chopped pecans, 1 cup confectioners' sugar, and the cocoa. In a separate bowl, blend the bourbon and corn syrup. Stir this bourbon mixture into the dry mixture; blend well. Cover and chill for at least a few hours. Sift about 1/2 to 1 cup of confectioners' sugar on a cookie sheet. Shape small bits of the dough into balls and roll them in the confectioners'. Store in refrigerator in tightly covered containers. Make these a few days in advance for best flavor, and roll in confectioners' sugar again before serving, if desired.

But rather than the standard I decided to apply what I read about using tapioca maltodextrine or tapioca starch to make powdered bacon fat to roll the balls in.

I used Tapioca Starch from the Asian Grocery, like any of the debates here, there are arguments about tapioca maltodextrine vs tapioca starch. But I found the starch at my Asian grocer, and it worked fine. I am wondering if regular maltodextrine we can get at the lhbs works as well, and will try it out soon.

Once again I rendered down some bacon to get the fat in a 200 degree over for a couple hours, with the bacon on a rack above a tray to catch the fat.

Unfortunately I didn't photograph all the process of doing it, because my phone's battery was low, but I shot a few pics of the end.

For reference I used this video which explained the process.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x5TToltpSUM

I weighed out the fat I had, and began with a ratio of 60% fat to 40% powder, but found basically that you just keep adding powder and blitzing with the food processor until it turns into a powder. It went through a phase of turning into a paste, and then I kept adding more powder til it got to th consistency I wanted.

After I got to the powder level I wanted, I pushed it through a fine mesh strainer to sift it. As you can see it looks pretty much like powdered sugar. But when you taste it, it is pure bacon fat goodness.



I then took bacon that I had rendered and ran it through the food processor along with a little brown sugar and a some more of the tapioca starch til it turned into a powder as well but I didn't run it through a strainer yet.




So then I took the two powders and mixed them together in the food processor with some more starch and some powdered sugar til I got it to the flavor and consistency I liked.

I started with 2 tablespoons each of the powdered bacon and bacon fat, and 1 tablespoon each of powdered sugar and starch, but needed more starch to get it all to combine. I pulsed in a few times in my food processor and then ran that through the mesh strainer to use to roll the balls in.



The dough had been sitting in the fridge for a couple hours, I basically, wearing plastic gloves scooped up a teaspoon of the dough, rolled it in my hands, then rolled it in the bacon coating. The I rolled them around in my hands again til the excess powder came off.
 
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And ended up with with bourbon maple baconey goodness.



They're amazing. It's sweet and savory at the same time. It's kinda confusing to the senses, especially if you smell them. It looks like a dessert and smells like bacon. You get the bacon on as the first hit when you bite them followed up by the classic bourbon ball flavor, but again with more bacon and maple from the bourbon.

Now obviously you don't have to cure your own bacon to do this, nor do you necessarily infuse the bourbon with you bacon. You could buy bacon and use normal bourbon, and just make the bacon fat/bacon coating from the renderings, but the extra steps make it all worth wild.

AND the you can show off your own bag of powdered bacon fat,



One of my FB buddies turned that pic into a meme and reposted it already, calling it heaven on earth.

Enjoy.
 
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Oh, Tapioca Starch looks like thing in an Asian grocery.









There's also tapioca flour. Which I don't know if it will work or not. I'll pick some up next time and give it a try.
 
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I'm drooling. Honestly.

So, when you say "pork belly" what is that cut of meat at the store?

Damn Revvy, wish I could pull those pics off the screen and eat them.
Pork belly is literally that, the belly part of the pig. It's what bacon is made from, it's also recommended to use when making sausage, for the fat part.

I've really only had luck finding it in Asian Groceries, though regular butchers may be able to get it for you.





It usually has the skin/rind on it (sometimes with a nipple or two on it.)

It is dirt cheap at most Asian groceries, no more than 2-3 bucks a pound.

It's an incredibly flavorful piece of meat if you like pork. I've been cooking a fair share of it.

I've been doing a lot of sous vide pork belly confit with it. As well as some Asian recipes.

This is a really tasty recipe I've done with it,

 
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jiggs_casey

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Had me hooked at the 3rd and 4th picture in. I'm a complete bacon whore. I love to tinker in the kitchen and guess what! Now, I have a new goal! :)

Thanks for the post Revvy!
 
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Is all bacon cooked to 150 like that before storing?

Very interesting thread!
I'm no expert, but it appears that if you're not hot smoking the bacon, or cold smoking it for hours and hours, then yes. The bacon is cooked to that temp to kill off the nasties. Unless you're making a prosciutto or pancetta, in that case you're dehydrating/drying it in a controlled environment at around 60% relative humidity and between 50 and 60 degrees until it loses 30% of it's bodyweight.

My back bedroom is a steady 60 degrees this time of year, and less if I crack a window even the tiniest bit. I've built a cure "chest" in there for meat out of a hanging garment closet, with a humidity controller a lot like the temp controllers we use I got from Granger, a cheap small fan and a 20 dollar desktop ultrasonic humidifier from walgreen's, and have been curing meats in there.

The hanging garment closet is from Target. I looked at several stores and it was the only want that was black and plasticy. Many are clear, or made of canvas. You want one that will block the meat from the light.

That's another thread I've been meaning to make.



I cut a hole on the back wall of the bag to run a cord to the humidity controller. I had originally tried heavy duty velcro to hold up the controller by it was just too heavy, so in the pic with the sausages hanging you will see that I ended up hanging that from the top metal frame that holds the bag together.





If you notice, int the pic below, I cut some wooden dowels, and I screwed in some cheap screw hooks on the ends, to fit onto the wire frame to give me some more places to hand the meat from.



And cheap s hooks that can fit the dowels to hand everything from.



FYI, the humidity controller I am using is the DAYTON Humidifier Control, Plug In, 120 V , which I pickedup for 63.00 from Grainger, luckily which is right around the corner from me. It works a lot like a temp controller turning on when the humidity drops below the set point. You can plug a powerstrip of a 2 outlet adapter onto it to run both the fan and the ultrasonic humidifier.


And this is the 20 dollar Walgreen's Desktop ultrasonic humidifier it uses a basic waterbottle;



Basically I just cut a piece of masonite for the base to set the stuff on it.

If you're interested in doing this stuff, I can't recommend enough the Punk Domestics blog and the bible of this whole home curing of meats stuff, Charcuterie, by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn.



And Ruhlman's own blog as well.

They've also come out with a new book called Salume which sounds awesome.

I used this great article when putting mine together. If you don't have a naturally cool enough space to do this, or want to cure year round, then you can always shove everything into a fridge and add one of OUR ubiquitous ebay temp controllers to keep it cool.

 

Leithoa

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Tapioca is also big in Central/South American/African cuisine, marketed as manioc or cassava. You can buy the whole root sometimes just make sure to cook it thoroughly as it has natural cyanide compounds that can cause some unpleasant(mostly non-lethal) side effects.
 
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Tapioca is also big in Central/South American/African cuisine, marketed as manioc or cassava. You can buy the whole root sometimes just make sure to cook it thoroughly as it has natural cyanide compounds that can cause some unpleasant(mostly non-lethal) side effects.


I think it's the fact that the starch/maltodextrin is a fine powder that has the fat absorbing effect. I don't think fresh/cooked tapioca would work for what molecular gastronomists are doing with it.

I bet even using powdered sugar would work, but I think they use the tapioca maltodextrine because it is flavorless and lets the fat flavor shine through. Like I said earlier, folks are making olive oil powders these days with it.
 

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Crazy!

Just met a buddy who has a whole barn full of meat processing equipment and wants me to help him make jerky, bacon, and sausage! I will be contributing a lot more to this discussion soon!

:mug:
 
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Crazy!

Just met a buddy who has a whole barn full of meat processing equipment and wants me to help him make jerky, bacon, and sausage! I will be contributing a lot more to this discussion soon!

:mug:
It's as addicting as homebrewing. I'm sure I'm gonna get into cheesemaking soon too.

What's he got for you? I'd really like a meat slicer.
 

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It's as addicting as homebrewing. I'm sure I'm gonna get into cheesemaking soon too.

What's he got for you? I'd really like a meat slicer.
It is seriously like something out of a movie.

His family were butchers, and he just collected spare meat processing stuff randomly.

He has a deer processing kitchen to rival anybody's.

He claims that that it is a beef processing kitchen to rival anyones....

I picture commercial sh!t houses that could move more meat, but to put it on homebrew terms......

He has 4 , 40 gallon fermenters, and a 100 gallon ss pot fired by a leftover rocket from the space shuttle.;)
 
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Sounds awesome!!!

I just tried some of my duck breast proscuitto, it's the first I've tried of anything I've had hanging since I started this. WOW. Kinda like trying my first homebrew- It was an, "I can't believe I really made this" moment.
 
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Damn, I'm going to have to keep away from them or they'll be all gone before I can share. I tried them last night, and once the excess bourbon fumes evaporated and the flavors came together, they are really amazing. You actually get a hit of bacon fat and bacon when it comes in contact with the tastebuds, THEN you get the bacon/bourbon notes when you bite into it, plus the texture of the pecans. These are pretty ridiculous.
 

hoppyhoppyhippo

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I'll have to play around with my brother for them. I dont' have the means of smoking in my apartment, though maybe I can see fi I can find a way of doing it in my over on low.
 
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I'll have to play around with my brother for them. I dont' have the means of smoking in my apartment, though maybe I can see fi I can find a way of doing it in my over on low.
If you have a good vent van on your oven you can do a vernturi cold smoker like I did, I'm actually looking for a small cheap toaster oven with a metal back because I've seen a few sites where folks have added a 1/2" pipe fitting like on my plastic smoker box, and have actually hooked their venturi smoker up to that and hot smoked in it.

There's also this idea from Chow magazine. Oven-Smoked Bacon Recipe

BUT you can still do the bacon balls by just buying good smoked bacon and infusing a bottle of bourbon with that and making the toppings with the drippings from store bought.
 

hoppyhoppyhippo

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The problem is that the vent in my oven vents back into my kitchen. So it's effectively worthless.

Good point on using store bought bacon. For some reason that didn't cross my mind, and my girlfriend's parent's run a pancake place in New Hampshire that gets this awesome maple glazed bacon. I bet that would go great in this recipe. Hmm I may have to find out if there's an Asian grocer around me.
 
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The problem is that the vent in my oven vents back into my kitchen. So it's effectively worthless.

Good point on using store bought bacon. For some reason that didn't cross my mind, and my girlfriend's parent's run a pancake place in New Hampshire that gets this awesome maple glazed bacon. I bet that would go great in this recipe. Hmm I may have to find out if there's an Asian grocer around me.
I bet that bacon would be amazing!!

I'm watching a Good Eats episode on onions and Alton Brown is making French Onion Soup in an old school Electric Skillet. He just carmalized the onions effortlessly by lust leaving them in it for 45 minutes at 200 degrees.



I'm thinking maybe one of these oldschool ones (which I see salvation armys all the time,) could be used as a hot smoking vessel instead. Just put a rack on the bottom to raise the bacon above the heating element, and put the pipe fitting on the lid. Might be better and more space efficient than using a toaster over.....

There might be an update to this thread this weekend. :D
 

hoppyhoppyhippo

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That's a sweet skillet. I imagine you could make that work out. I also wanted to try Alton Brown's flower pot smoker. Found that an interesting idea because you're basically running a temp controlled smoke so I could so a cold smoke on it. But I can't use it here, but I'm sure my brother or parents wouldn't mind me doing it there if I smoked some for them as well.

This is the bacon they get I believe, it's hard to tell but if it's not this bacon it's one a lot like it

http://ncsmokehouse.com/bacons/applewood-smoked-bacon-91.html
 
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this post, and the links included, is going to bring the monster out of me. my wife already banned the thought of hanging salami from the ceiling fan....buying pork belly this week. thanks revvy. where to get the pink salt....?
 
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this post, and the links included, is going to bring the monster out of me. my wife already banned the thought of hanging salami from the ceiling fan....buying pork belly this week. thanks revvy. where to get the pink salt....?
Butcher and Packer is the place to get stuff from. It's mentioned in Ruhlman's book. I'm lucky, I don't have to mail order. They're a Detroit based company.
 

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Revvy, maybe it's because I haven't had real bacon in a while, but this is something I really want to try out. Of the many impressive things I've read from you, these bacon bourbon balls have got to rate amongst the coolest. On top of it, this thread is a twofer since you get a really tasty sounding maple bacon infused bourbon in the process as well. Thanks for giving me a great to-do!!!

Powdered bacon fat - wow.
 

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If his closet looked like this, even Liberace would have a hard time coming out of it.


I support everything in this thread except whiskey with ice....
 

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Bumping a cool thread. Bought the stuff to make the bacon this weekend. Plan to smoke next weekend and make this awesome bourbon. Can't wait to make the powdered bacon fat to roll the bourbon balls.
 

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Finally made these today and went with three versions of Revvy's recipe.

1. Revvy' bacon bourbon balls using the powdered bacon fat - frigging awesome...

2. Original style bourbon balls - no bacon fat, but there's a hint of bacon and maple from the bourbon. It uses just a powdered sugar dusting and is really tasty.

3. Coffee bourbon balls - cut instant coffee with powdered sugar. I like these as much as the bacon version. There's a hint of bacon and maple (from the bourbon) and is really reminiscent of breakfast even without the coffee, so it all really came together nicely.

Overall, really happy with these treats.
 
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