nos·tal·gia [no-stal-juh, -jee-uh, nuh-]
1. a wistful desire to return in thought or in fact to a former time in one's life, to one's home or homeland, or to one's family and friends; a sentimental yearning for the happiness of a former place or time: a nostalgia for his college days.
2. something that elicits or displays nostalgia.
A younger version of me
For the past month I've been playing with smoke. As have all us Charcutepaloozers. The 4th challenge laid before us was to make our own hot smoked salmon (we'll get to what "hot" smoking is in a minute), Canadian bacon, spicy smoked pork loin, or tasso ham. I opted to try a few of them. So, I made the hot smoked salmon, and then split a 4 lb. pork loin in half to make Canadian bacon and the spicy smoked pork loin. I also made some smoked almonds because, well, why not? Oh and some maple bacon! How could I forget the bacon?!
There are two main types of smoking, cold and hot. Cold smoking is when you keep the temperature below 90 degrees in your smoker. This type of smoking is used for the long term preservation of meats. It takes days or even weeks to complete. A meat that has been properly cold smoked can be kept without refrigeration for a year or two without any problems. Hot smoking is when meat is both smoked and cooked. The temperature of the smoker is typically kept between 200-300 degrees and the smoking can last anywhere from 2-24 hours. This was the type of smoking called for in this months challenge.
Everything I made came out wonderful. Even the smoked salmon that I was expecting my family to reject disappeared at dinner. My 18 month old son ate at least as much as I did, shoving large quantities into his mouth while making satisfied noises. My husband said that it "didn't make him gag" which is actually really good considering how much he hates fish. But I'm not here to talk about salmon. I'm not here to tell you about how everyone including my uber picky 3 year old that doesn't even like pizza right now scarfed down the spicy pork loin. I'm not even here to confess to you that I secretly made the almonds just a little too spicy for the kids so that my husband and I could enjoy them all to ourselves. Not even about the BLT's. I am here to talk about nostalgia, and how I happily smoked myself into a childhood memory.
I started doing this by making Canadian bacon. And doncha know I considered typing the whole blog like this, eh? But I decided that would get rather annoying and I don't want you to not read this because of some silliness on my part, so instead I've decided to hold your attention with the process.
It started with the brine, and ended with the smoker. It looked a little like this:
The pork loin sat in a brine with some garlic, sage and thme, in my refrigerator for a couple of days.
After 3ish hours in the smoker it was done. I used maple wood for the smoke, with hardwood lump charcoal for the heat.
When it was done and the homemade English muffins were done as well.
Everything smelled amazing. I smelled like I had been sitting next to a campfire, the house smelled like fresh English muffins, and everyone was hungry for dinner. And we'll get to that in a minute, I promise, but first I need to give you the background. And that is where my mom comes into all of this.
Me and my mom watching hang gliders in California
My mom is not only one of my favorite people on the planet, but she is also an amazing cook. I remember watching her make dinners after working all day, and while I'm sure they were not all wonderful and perfect, in my memory they are (with the exception of one Thanksgiving turkey). She made all our breads and pastas from scratch. I remember standing at the edge of the counter and cranking out the pasta for her, eating the raw pasta scraps that fell off the machine. Every Sunday she would make sourdough pancakes with her starter that she kept in a little brown crock. Our backyard had a lemon tree, a lime tree, a rosemary bush that was bigger than me, an artichoke patch, and a pomegranate tree. She's the Mary Poppins of the kitchen. She is the reason I cook the way I do today, and now when she visits she gets to kick back and let me cook for her.
Someone hand her a tissue please so I can get on with this.
Whenever my mom didn't feel like planning a meal she pulled out the green notebook. This notebook holds all of her best recipes as well as inherited family recipes. She would plop it down in front of me and ask me to "pick something". Out of all the fabulous meals my mom made, consistently there were two things she made that were not in that notebook that I would request. One was her hot dogs and beans, and the other was:
English Muffin Breakfast Sandwiches
(Serves one but can be multiplied to suit your needs)
(And it makes a good dinner too)
- One English muffin, halved. I followed the recipe in the link but I used lard instead of shortening.
- Two slices of homemade Canadian bacon (smoked maple bacon would be good here as well. I'd use four slices, two on each sandwich half).
- Two pineapple rings (fresh would be best, but I won't tell if you use canned)
- Two slices of American cheese (white or yellow, whatever suits your mood)
- Toast the English muffin.
- Heat the Canadian bacon in a small frying pan.
- Assemble sandwich in the following order; English muffin half, Canadian bacon, pineapple ring, slice of American cheese. Repeat with other English muffin half.
- Toast the sandwich in your toaster oven or under a broiler until the cheese is melted. Serve immediately.
Besides being incredibly easy to make, they are also very satisfying to eat. You get that whole sweet/salty thing going. Plus the cheese is all melty, and the muffin is all crunchy so you get the whole texture thing too. But really for me, it just takes me back. I made some fairly "fru-fru" things with the rest of the meats I smoked this month, and I'll post on them in the next couple of weeks. This was simple though, and sometimes simple is best.