You may have read our smokehouse blog about the tour we took around the Casa Boix smokehouse a few weeks ago however, if you missed it don’t fear, click HERE to read it before continuing on with this post as it gives you great pointers for different smoking techniques and tips about smoking in the Fornetto.
What I learnt about making bacon and smoked turkey breast at Casa Boix wasn’t as difficult as I had always imagined it would be. The curing process I’ve created here is my own, based on some independent research I did crossed with the technique I learnt at the smokehouse. As any good business owner, Jaume (the owner of Casa Boix) protected and kept his brine recipe a secret but I came up with one of my own that has a great balance between salt, sugar, water and spices that would please any discerning palate.
A brine is simply a mix of salt and water. Salt water from the ocean is a brine in itself for that matter however, for the sake of flavour, brines used for cooking consist of sweeteners, herbs, spices and even fresh fruits or vegetables. The rule of thumb for a basic salt-water brine for cooking is one cup of salt to 3.75 litres of water (roughly 1 US gallon), although I use a more traditional method involving an egg when preparing my brine for curing. As you may know, buoyancy is elevated in salt water and as such, a tried and true method is having the right salt to water ratio and to mix the salt into the water slowly while a fresh egg in its shell sits on the bottom of the bowl or basin. When the brine is concentrated enough in terms of salinity, the egg will float to the surface. That’s when you know that you’ve added enough salt for a curing brine. To make it easy for you though, the ratio is roughly 3 cups of pure, additive-free and non-iodised sea salt or kosher salt to 6 litres of water (roughly 1.6 US gallons). This is more than a standard run of the mill cooking brine however, because for the purpose of curing, the elevated salt content is paramount. If you will be consuming the bacon or turkey in its entirety in the amount of time you would any other brine-cooked meat, you can feel free to use the less concentrated brine, though for storing meats once they’ve been cured and smoked the brine with the higher salt content must be used. Times will vary greatly. When making bacon or smoked turkey for immediate consumption I recommend brining for around 12 to 20 hours though brining for curing requires more time. What I learnt at the smokehouse is that 4 days is sufficient for most cuts when curing them though you can cure for up to a week in brine without worrying. Be sure to keep it covered in a cool, dark place during the curing process or keep it in the fridge if you’re unsure.
Once the meat has been brined it’s time to smoke it. The turkey needs to be packed in something that won’t melt or burn, such as professional wrap made specifically for smoking and cooking, muslin, cheesecloth or parchment paper. It’s important to use a porous material or the meat won’t absorb the smokey flavour. Be sure that when packing the turkey into the cloth or paper that you attempt to squeeze out as much air as possible. The bacon can be cooked directly as is.
As I mentioned in the smokehouse blog, the humidity level is important when smoking in this manner. Be sure to use a steam bath in the bottom of the Fornetto and to remove it about 2 hours before the smoking process is complete.
The full smoking process takes about 6 hours in the Fornetto. Follow the instructions for hot-smoking in the Fornetto in the smokehouse blog and try your best to keep your temperature around the 70-75C (approximately 160-165F) mark. Bear in mind that the curing process will change the cooking temperature guidelines normally recommended for raw, uncured meat.
Smoked turkey breast and bacon cured and smoked in this fashion are ready to eat as is with no further cooking required. If you’re so inclined, the bacon can be fried to remove any excess fat and crisp it up however, it isn’t necessary. They should be stored in the fridge although it is important to note that unlike smoked goods produced commercially, our bacon and turkey only contain salt and no other additives or preservatives such as sulfites and/or nitrates to preserve the pink colour of the meat or for extended storage periods. I suggest that both the bacon and the turkey be consumed shortly after having been cured and smoked. They can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 7 days or frozen and used as needed.
Nothing beats a turkey-bacon sub, especially when you’ve spent so much time curing and smoking the meat yourself! Fries and a cold beer make for an excellent side!