Introduction: Jerkied / Candied Bacon
The goal of this ible is to show you how to make candied bacon / jerky. I will stop adding the /jerky, it's just that it is the same process up to the point where you candy it; so in fact you end up candying the bacon jerky. So if you want to make bacon jerky, just follow my steps and then quit half way through! :)
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Step 1: Making Jerky: Crash Course
So normally when you make jerky, you choose a lean meat and marinate / brine / season it first. In fact, many brines will chemically pre-cook the meat, giving it a double dose of natural preservation! However, the key word there was LEAN.
Fat does not dry at the same rate as meat, and so because of the extra time required to make sure the fat is humidity-free and does not moisturize your meat (and thus allow bacteria to grow), the process is slightly longer for bacon. This is also why, as you will see, I add a few hot-water rinsing steps to make sure that some of the surface oils get removed to allow for better permeability. In the same vein, I do prefer pre-drying my bacon before I sweeten it to make sure that even if the sugar crystals that form make the dehydration less than absolutely perfect the second time around, I can know that it had already been thoroughly dried and cooked at low temperature, meaning it is not trapping any bacteria in there.
Step 2: Material
What you will need for this
- A food dehydrator. I recommend a square sheet style one, they are very easy to handle and clean.
- It is important that it reach at least 60 degrees Celcius (around 145F), because that is the temperature required for low-temperature cooking / killing bacteria.
- The bigger ones have more racks and more watts, but also cost more upfront and to run. To give you an idea, my 4 rack model from the late 80's does 2lbs of bacon quite nicely; so get what fits your needs.
Some side notes on the choice of meat. First, avoid poultry. Second (back to bacon), this time around I used regular store bought bacon. Despite costing more, it is much thinner than what I get from my butcher. However, it also dehydrates about 4x faster. If you do this with extra thick cuts, it will taste much better, but also expect to use 2-3 days per phase instead of 12-24 hours; this becomes a week long endeavour instead of a weekend project.
Step 3: Soak It!
- First, soak it in cold water for about 20 minutes if you want to remove the extra salt (or not).
- Secondly, use very hot tap water and give it a few quick rinses. The point of this is to remove the fat/oil that covers the surfaces. It won't affect the large fatty parts much, and that's not the goal. We want to make sure that the oil on the meat and the fatty tissue does not impede the drying process.
- Drain, and move on.
Step 4: Prep the Machine and Stack the Meat!
Add parchemint paper on the racks. This paper is breathable enough, but will still prevent drips and make clean up much easier.
Then place slices all over. It's okay if they touch, they will shrink and allow air through between them very quickly, but make sure that the strips are not overlapping. That could spell trouble.
Put your machine to the meat temperature. Aim for 155F (65C), but my device only goes to 145F (62C) which is still considered acceptable jerky making temperature. For some meats, that is not enough, poultry needs 165F.
Step 5: Wait and Check Until You Have Jerky
Enjoy your home fragrance machine while it lasts. After about 12h you can give it a look, it should look about ready. It will always feel slick because of the oil that comes out of the shrinking fat tissue, what you want to see is that the fat is tissue looks more clear than it looks white.
At this point you have jerky. If this is what you wanted, enjoy! If you want to candy it, then keep going.
Step 6: Adding the Sugar
There are three ways to add the sugar. The first was to sweeten it before we started, I skipped that option because I want to make sure I kill the bacteria before I start clogging up pores with sugar crystals.
The two remaining options are cold and hot soaking. If you simmer it in your sugary mixture, it will go much faster (a few minutes), but your bacon will curl and the texture will change. It will have the mouth feel much closer to cooked bacon, and although there is nothing wrong with that, it is simply not the same.
The second option is to cold soak.
Step 7: Cold Soaking
Cold soaking will keep the special texture of the dehydrated fat and meat, and will keep way more fat in the strips than simmering.
Just let your jerky soak in a very sweet mix. Maple syrup is already liquid, this is easy. If you are doing something like brown sugar, you want to add only enough water for the sugar to be extremely thick, like a very heavy molasses. By having so much sugar, bacteria won't grow as you soak the meat, despite the extra moisture we are re-integrating. The down side, this step will require another solid 4+ hours. To be fair, you could soak it very little and bank on the surface sugar to give the flavour, and it will mostly work... but why go through all the trouble just to stop short of amazing? ;)
You will know it is sufficiently soaked when the fat goes back to its white colour.
Step 8: Re-dehydrate
Put the bacon back on the rack, and dehydrate it again. Even though it is not as moist as it was to start, it will likely take about as long as the first time, because we now have a layer of sugar around it.
Step 9: Store and Enjoy!
When it comes to storing, retail packages are always vacuum sealed with desiccant bags for a reason. If it is humid, the jerky will absorb the moisture from the air. The fridge in a sealed container is a good place, but putting the hot jerky in there will cause condensation, defeating the point. You will have to find what works best for your specific house/humidity/appliances (open container in the fridge at first, handfull of rice in a sealed bag on the counter, etc.)
I made another pound to have some plain jerky as well :)
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