This week's LA Times Food Section is a veritable food preservation special issue.
First off, the cover story is dedicated to smoking food indoors (Slow-Smoking Ribs in the Great Indoors). Smoking is a very old method of food preservation. Although smoking alone will not preserve food (you need to use another method of preservation for that, such as dehydration), it does assist in preservation. More importantly, however, it adds flavor and color.
A little smoke flavor goes a long way towards supercharging flavor and taking standard recipes into a whole new realm. Add some smoked meat to a chili or stew and ... wow. Other ingredients can be smoked ... instead of regular baked potatoes ... why not try smoke roasted potatoes? Or smoke roasted potatoes in a potato salad.
Anyway, if you haven't tried smoking, then read this article. It demystifies smoking and shows how you can do it with very little equipment right inside your kitchen. The article is focused on stove top smoking, but you can also use similar equipment and methods to smoke in your oven. As for me, I'm going to give the Maple-Bourbon Hot-Smoked Pork Belly a try. Mmmmm ... bacon. I've made maple-cured bacon before ... bourbon sounds like a great addition.
Hmmm ... makes me think that some smoky Scotch would be another way to add smoke flavor in different recipes...
Anyway, moving my mind off the island of Islay, Russ Parsons discusses the increasingly popular trend of nose-to-tail cooking and eating. In this case, learning how to butcher and cook whole pigs (In SoCal Restaurants, a New Passion for the Whole Pig).
Learning how to cook nose-to-tail will inevitably lead to food preservation techniques, which were traditional ways of using the whole animal. Curing, drying, smoking, and pickling are all methods commonly used on the less commonly eaten (nowadays) parts of the animal. What's great about this is that not only are we rediscovering flavors and textures that have fallen by the wayside, but reconnecting with where our food comes from and gaining new respect for those who raise the animals and the animals themselves.
This is why I am passionate about food preservation.
In any case, Parsons references that modern classic Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing and provides a slightly modified version of Pork Belly Confited in Olive Oil. It must be confit week on this blog.
Aging beer gets some respect (Store Beer in a Wine-Like Cave? Southern California Gives it a Try). Although the article is focused on commercial bottles from smaller breweries, some of the most interesting aging that I know is taking place by home brewers who are aging their own brews. Heck, I've got a nice spiced stout (lots of clove and orange peel) I expect will be quite nice come the holidays nine or ten months from now (and almost a year-and-a-half after it was brewed).
"The Find" reviews a place I've been dying to try ever since I heard the words "kumquat chutney dogs" (The Slaw Dogs in Pasadena). I've got to go check them out ...