Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Smokin' Bacon

After finally getting my hands on some pork belly, I decided to try to make my own bacon, or pancetta to be exact. The main difference is the higher number of seasonings than regular bacon, and a long drying time (about two weeks). The basic procedure for dry curing is to create a salt cure, rub it liberally into the meat, seal it in a ziplock bag and keep cold for about a week.

The cure mix, containing salt, brown sugar, black pepper, juniper, allspice, garlic and thyme.
I bought a seven pound (just over 3kg) pork belly...
Trimmed it up into a nice rectangle...
with a couple of pieces left over, one made a very nice pot roast, the other chopped into cubes and slowly braised in Asian flavours (soy, mirin, oyster sauce, ginger).
The cure is then rubbed liberally into the pork. I did this in a dish so as not to loose any cure.
The pork and the remaining cure was then placed in a bag and as much air removed. This was refrigerated for seven days in the bottom of the fridge, rubbing and turning the meat every day. A good amount of liquid is extracted from the pork that needs to be kept against the meat.
After seven days in the cure, the bacon is rinsed well then smoked. While this is not in the traditional recipe for pancetta, i love the smoky flavour that 3 hours over apple wood chips would give the bacon.
I used a two compartment smoker in order to keep the temperature down (aiming for more of a cold smoke than a hot smoke). The aim was not to cook the bacon, only to add flavour.
Keeping a small fire also helped keep the temperature low (below 150F).
Smoked for about three hours, there was time for a quiet beer...
and then the grand unveiling. I also smoked a couple of sausages and a turkey leg...
a nice close up shot...

The final product before drying. We needed to check if it was good...

So we fried up a couple of pieces. Very nice :)

Monday, June 18, 2007

Inspire Local Acadamy III

So we got into that environmental engineering as I was saying. I am not really a slave driver, it was just the photographer!
They had to make filters to clean dirty water. Of course we made up the dirty water and knew what was in it. They had to optimise time, cost and effectiveness against colour (sorry, color) and particles.

Then we went to an elementary school so they could implement some of the things they had learnt. Many people did the tower building in different forms.

Back to procedures. They are very important in engineering you know! This part was about industrial engineering which is mainly optimising procedures for things such as assembly lines and manufacturing plants. Our manufacturing plant made 'fuzzy' dice. These were a bit like Fuzzy Wuzzy the bear, ie not very fuzzy waz he? The dice were made from paper! We learnt that assembly lines were a better use of limited tools (1 glue, 1 marker, and 2 scissors for a team of 5) than everyone making their own.

Now we get down to the theory of engineering. Everything that happens in the engineering design process can be put into 5 catagories: Ask, Imagine, Plan, Create, Improve, according to the Boston Museum of Science. We just proved the theory to the teachers.
Finally it was over and the team all went to Boiler Market for a well earned beer. Left to right round the table: Heidi, Macon, Daphne, RJ, Gemma, Patti, Holli, Matt, Euridice.

So as Macon said, it is all over. I just happened to say, "Until the next one," and Heidi hit me! Next stop, Hawaii for 5 of us! A great holiday.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Inspire Local Acadamy II

After the sail boats, we used our knowledge of catching the wind to make windmill blades. Of course, they first have to be brainstormed and sketched.

They were made out of juice cartons with dowel. The better the windmill, the more pennies it could lift in the cup hanging off the back. Some were quite efficient, but others did not move. That is why there is the "Improve" step in the design process. In the end, they all worked to some extent. The greatest amount lifted was 100 pennies. As I said, that one made a lot of 'cents'!

The next step was following and writing procedures. Of course we had some fun with this one. Take an egg beater, bowl and rollingpin out of a bag and use each of the utensils. They did not always say 'hands'!

There was a procedure given for cookie cutting.

Then they gave a procedure for sticker arrangement.

I wasn't giving anything away!

Next we we going to talk about environmental engineers so we took them all to the EPICS constructed wetlands. They were basically a set of settling ponds next to corn, soy and pig farms to take the nutrients out of the water before it flowed to the creek. Water was pumped in one end and gravity did the work through the ponds and out the other end.

"Get in there!"

These, that I had never actually seen before, are elderberries! Go ahead, quote Monty Python to your geeky heart's content!

These are the 6 ponds flowing towards this end.

Stay tuned to see us putting environmental engineering to the test in the classroom!

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Inspire Local Acadamy I

On Sunday night we started the Inspire Acadamy for local teachers. So much happened and it was a very long week. I got up at 5:50 every morning and took the 6:10am bus. We were given breakfast and lunch every day and the food was great. The teachers were all fantastic and I think they got a lot out of the week.
I am going to split the photos into 3 blog entries because there was so much fun stuff to take photos of.
The first thing we did was build towers out of note cards and a small amount of tape. Each group had their own approach and some worked, others didn't. They were supposed to hold a small toy on top for a few seconds. Some held for a lot longer.

The second thing was a talk about technology that I gave. Good fun. After the story from the Boston Museum of Science, I talked about Mechanical Engineers. I used rolling pins and egg beaters to demonstrate machines.

Then we looked at properties of materials for sail boats. Of course they had to build the sail boats and test them. Llew actually built the fishing line rails the boats ran on. They worked perfectly, even if the sails did not!

The sails were part of the catching the wind module. Stay tuned for the rest of the module with the windmills.