Archive for February, 2011

I’m kinda done with bacon.

There…I said it. Quick and painless–like pulling off a band-aid. I feel a bit better now. You can understand why that was so difficult for me to get out, can’t you? I mean, I am participating in this year-long celebration of charcuterie, and to mention that I’m tired of hearing about bacon is like a cheese maker expressing their displeasure for mozzarella. Homemade bacon (and mozzarella) is a gateway into the age-old craft, so why would I say that I’m done with it?

It’s because of the bacon donuts and bacon ice cream (Sorry Mr. Lebovitz) and other bacon desserts and bacon explosions and all this bacony crap. For the past 4 or 5 years it seems that people have been talking about bacon. All the talk about bacon has turned a wonderful food into a trite, cliche, marketing gimmick. Don’t get me wrong, I do like bacon; it’s fatty and salty and, if cooked properly, crispy. But I find myself wincing every time I see people talking about it. Why?!?

Maybe it’s because I’ve had enough bland, limp bacon in my life to wonder why people go nuts over it. Maybe I’m picturing people sprinkling Bac-Os on everything (you’re choice of Bits or Chips, but don’t worry neither contain meat or animal fat!). Maybe bacon has a PR problem.

Amidst all of this confusion I started to see the word “lardon” pop up in discussions about bacon. I didn’t have the same reaction to the word lardon as I did to bacon, yet there isn’t much difference in what they are. Maybe there was hope for me after all. So I started on my February challenge with the intent to make both a sweet and a savory bacon. I followed Rhulman’s recipes and added brown sugar to the sweet cure and garlic, black pepper, juniper berries, and bay leaves to the savory one. In the fridge for a week. Flipping the belly over for a nice massage every other day. By the eighth day, the thickest part of the belly was firm to the touch, so I rinsed it off and popped it into the oven for a couple of hours.  L and I had some friends over to do a taste test between the two types of bacon. The consensus seemed to be that each type of bacon had a significantly different flavor that it was hard to compare them to each other.

During the week that the bacon was curing, I was trying to decide what recipe to use for the challenge. It didn’t take long for me to remember a recipe that Deb at Smitten Kitchen posted a while back for Asparagus Hash. I’ve made it a handful of times, and I think we made it two times within one week once because it is so tasty. The savory bacon would be perfect for this recipe. Deb’s recipe called for pancetta, but since my pancetta wasn’t ready yet the savory bacon (lardon) would work fine in it’s place.

Into the pan goes the lardons to crisp. Pull them out and place them on a paper towel to drain. Into the pan goes chopped potatoes. Next goes the onions and shallots. Last into the mix is the asparagus. When the asparagus is finished, toss the lardons back into the pan and mix it all together. In a separate skillet, fry up a couple of eggs and plop them on the top of the hash. Pour yourself a tall glass of OJ or a Bloody Mary and enjoy!

I’m glad I chose the savory bacon for this recipe; it paired so well with the asparagus and potato flavors. I think the sweet bacon would have caused a bit of pallet confusion, and that’s never a good thing. I started to make pancetta for the February challenge, but it’ll still be hanging by the 15th, so I’ll put that post up when it’s done. In the mean time, I’ll raise my fork to home-cured bacon…er, lardons….er, whatever. This taste too good to quibble over semantics.


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I am learning that winter is a strange season for me as a farmer. Rather than my days filled with the sun beating down on my and dirt underneath my fingernails, I am trying to familiarize myself with the muted glow of a computer screen and paper cuts. The winter season (for a zone 5 farmer) allows me to catch up on some needed rest and affords me some time to start planning for the next years farm. The seasonal transition reveals it’s effects on my body as the sun-kissed  color fades from my skin and as weight adds itself to my frame.

The physical demands of the winter season are far less than the demands from the spring, summer, and fall, yet the season has needs that are unique to itself. Winter is the season for dreaming, planning, and preparing for the up coming year. It is a time to reflect on the previous seasons and evaluate the vegetables that grew well sold quickly. It is a time to check the quality of your equipment and the supply of your seeds. The toll of the winter season is on the mind rather than the body.

A while back I picked up a book entitled, “The Organic Farmer’s Business Handbook” by Richard Wiswall. The book has been a great resource for challenging me to think of the farm in terms of a business– to think beyond the production aspect of farming and to think about core business decisions that can make the farm profitable. Many young farmers that I know have been drawn to farming for philosophical or ethical reasons. These aren’t “bad” reasons to pursue farming, but there must be some element of profitability involved in the farm or it can’t be sustainable. Wiswall’s book has helped me understand that. So I started to create spreadsheets of average plant yields and farm maps and planting dates. I started to calculate how much produce I could expect to grow on our little 1/2 acre. Then, I tweeked the types of vegetables to maximize my yield to profit ratio. For example, in the space that it requires to grow 2 ears of corn (about 1 sq. foot) I could also grow 12 beets, three times throughout the season. If I bunched the beets into groups of 6 and accounted for a little loss, then in the same space I could either yield 2 ears of corn or 5 bunches of beets. The market value of an ear of corn might be $.50 and the market value of a bunch of beets is around $3.00. So when I compare the two crops I quickly find that it makes more sense to grow beets rather than sweet corn.

The detail-oriented-ness that this type of planning takes does not come natural to me, but I know that this is as much of a priority as weeding is for the farmer. I am slowly learning to embrace spreadsheets as a tool as valuable as the hoe.

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