Posts Tagged ‘pork’

Balsons Bacon

RJ Balson & Sons bacon Since 1535

It was Thanksgiving morning when I decided to open my first package of RJ Balsons bacon. This is not merely any British Bacon, it is a piece of history, dating back to the time of King Henry the VIII. I can just imagine what it must have been like back in the time when RJ Balson and sons opened their doors in 1535. A family of butchers passing down their skill, recipes and techniques from one generation to the next and now I hold in my hand the culmination of all the previous generations. The oldest butcher shop in the world. Fantastic!

Balson Bacon 3

The Flavor and the Sizzle if you could only smell it.

I could digress and go into a complete history of RJ Balson and Sons and how they opened up a second shop here in the states so we yanks could have the opportunity to indulge ourselves in the authenticity that is British Bacon. I will say this, after coming to America to play professional soccer in Atlanta, Mike Balson, son of Donald Balson,  realized that he couldn’t find any British bacon that had the same flavor or quality that he was used to. So he along with his son Oliver decided to solve that problem. They opened a branch of the family business here in the states. The process began with the sourcing the proper hogs with the right feed combination. The next was to source the same quality of spices and curing ingredients they use back at their home shop in Birdport, Dorset, England. Through this process they successfully created their beloved bacon and other products that were, until 2007, only found in the original Birdport shop.

Unlike American bacon the British version is mostly meat with little fat. The bacon is made from the loins of the hogs rather than the belly, which is traditional for American bacon. Cured and smoked to perfection through centuries old methods RJ Balson and Sons has created the perfect recipe that brings out the sweetness of the meat with a hint of smokieness that lingers on the palate.

The bacon is cured using the same methods that have been passed down for generations and then subtly applewood smoked to create the delicate and sweet flavor of their bacon.

Bacon & Eggs

Finished ready to eat Balson Bacon & eggs & leeks

I ended up serving it with scrambled eggs and leeks to compliment the bacon and yet keep it rather simple. The final result was a breakfast that was so full of amazing subtle flavors and could satiate any palate.

RJ Balson & Sons products are available online at http://www.balsonbutchers.com

In the weeks to come I’ll be sharing more about their bangers and a lot more about their history.


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Braised Spare Ribs

Beer Braised Spare Ribs

I heard about the opportunity to create a recipe for New Belgium Brewing through FoodBuzz.So I figured I’d sign up and see if I was one of the lucky ones that would be chosen. I got the email and then it was time to think what I would make. First check out their website. The only beer they make that I was familiar with was Fat Tire. I check out their site and was blown away with the variety of beers they have to offer. So many styles of beer I just wanted to do a marathon tasting of all of them, but, alas that was not possible. The next best thing was to see if I’d be able to find a location that carried all their beers, well no such luck. At least not around me. So I went to the local BevMo and worked with their selection. I picked out 3 for my recipe.

New Belgium Beers

New Belgian Brewing Beers used in recipe and for pairing

Their Enlightened Black Ale 1554, the Ranger IPA and their Organic wheat beer Mothership Wit. I knew the IPA would have a bit of a bitter flavor and that the 1554 would be more coffee/chocolate like. After reading the description on the bottle I knew it would work well for the flavors that I was thinking of, since it was a bit on the sweet side and not too bitter. The Wheat beer I thought would be a good pairing for my recipe because of it’s citrus and sour flavors  that would balance with the deep rich spice, cocoa and sweet flavor of the ribs.  I decided on beer braised spare ribs and with a beer reduction sauce. I got some wonderful meaty spare ribs and then began my process.


1 Rack of Spare ribs about 3 pounds

24 oz Ranger IPA

24 oz 1554

2 generous Tblsp Cocoa Powder

1 Tblsp ground Cinnamon

1 C brown Sugar – 3/4 for liquid and 1/4 to adjust sauce if needed

1 tsp ground Cumin

1tsp chili flakes or 1/2 tsp for less spice

Salt & Pepper to taste

1 medium onion diced

8 large cloves of garlic roughly chopped

1 6oz can of tomato paste

Begin by combining all the dry ingredients in a

Ingredients for marinade in Bowl

Ingredients for marinade in Bowl

large bowl and mix well so there are no large chunks of brown sugar, then add chopped onion and garlic salt & pepper at least 1 Tblsp each. Add in beer and mix ingredients well. Lightly trim some fat from the ribs and place in large baking pan bone side up. You may need to cut the rack into 2 or 3 sections to fit in your baking pan. Pour in marinade and make sure the ribs are mostly covered. Cover pan with aluminum foil or plastic wrap and place in refrigerator for at least 4 hours overnight would be better.

After marinating is finished remove from refrigerator

Ribs cut in sections placed meat side down in roasting pan

Ribs cut in sections placed meat side down in roasting pan

and remove cover. Turn ribs meat side up and season with salt & pepper then cover with aluminum foil and put on middle rack in 275º oven for about 4 hours. Check the ribs after 3.5 hrs to see how they are cooking. The meat should be tender when they are done. Times may vary depending on your oven.

Once they are finished remove racks and let stand. If you will be serving them immediately then cover with aluminum foil till you are ready. Pour the braising liquid from the baking pan into a sauce pan through a sieve. If you want to use

Ribs with marinade in the pan before and after braising

Ribs with marinade in the pan before and after braising

cheesecloth in the sieve or strainer that would be even better. The finer the stainer the better.  Add the can of tomato paste and whisk it into the braising liquid. Put burner on high and bring to a boil let the sauce boil till it is reduced by half to 2/3. When it gets close to half reduction taste the sauce and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper to taste and if needed some more brown sugar.

Stages of reducing Braising liquid into sauce

Stages of reducing Braising liquid into sauce from left to right strained braising liquid, boiling to reduce by half to 1/3, finished sauce

Finished ribs before cutting

Finished ribs before cutting - Brushed with sauce and Broiled for final caramelization

When the sauce is finished place ribs under the broiler or on a hot grill to warm and add color to the meat. Then brush with sauce and place back under the broiler or on the grill till carmelized. It’s all about personal preference at that point.

When done slice ribs along the bone to separate into individual ribs and serve with sauce.

I paired the ribs with the Mothership Wit beer and it went perfectly with them. Also you can serve with asian slaw and

Plate full of ribs

Plate Full of ribs with corn and potatoes paired with New Belgian Mothership Wit

mashed potatoes or mac and cheese or roasted/grilled vegetables.

All I can say is these ribs are amazingly good. The sauce is rich with many flavor layers sweet, a bit spicy, and chocolate caramel from the beer and a slight tang. One word describes it best… Amazing!!

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Antica Macelleria Falorni is the oldest butcher shop in Italy. In 1729 Gio Batta founded the Macelleria Falorni Butchers in Greve Italy. In 1840 the word Antica which means ancient was added and still hangs today. It’s in the Chianti region of Tuscany. Through the generations the techniques, recipes and “secrets” to the incredibly high quality products that they produce which have been passed down from father to son. Today it is being run by the 8th generation grandsons Lorenzo and Stefano Falorni. Their attention to quality begins with using the highest quality local certified meats, Chianina for Beef and Cinta Senese for Pork and wild boars that come from the woods of the Chianti region. Spices such as fennel, laurel, juniper, garlic, parsley, sage, rosemary and more are used and all come from the local region. With this plethora of local ingredients it couldn’t be helped to create the Salumi – Salted meats, ham, salami prosciutto and more that are are characterized by the unique smell known only to fine Italian products. Even the Chianti Classico is added to some of the preparations of sausage and salame that are typical to the region of Greve also contributing to the nature of the product.

Bistec Fiorentina

Mark Schatzker said in his book “Steak, One Man’s Search for the world’s Tastiest Piece of Beef”,  the Falorni is as much a busy butcher shop as a living ode to its butchering past. Out front, facing the town square stands a butcher block that was the primary meat hacking surface from 1820 to 1956. The interior is filled with tools of the butchering trade, a stuffed wild boar, old copper scales, black & white photos of Chianinas, a bright red meat grinder and a sausage stuffing machine from 1930.

The attention to detail even goes as far as to what kind of wood is best for grilling the beef. The recommend oak and Stefano will go as far as cutting his own wood and bringing it to friends homes to make sure that the meats get their due respect.

This is one of the wonders found in the Chianti Region of Tuscany Italy. A wonderful place that we will be visiting on our Photo/Culinary experiences. Come join us in 2011 and explore the culinary wonders of this rich part of the world. Early discounts available here’s the link – Experience Italy

* Photos courtesy of Vivandare.it, Informacibo.it and Antica Macelleria Falorni

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So I arrived at the Hotel Vitale to find the FoodBuzz Blogger Festival Table to my left in the lobby. At the table to greet me were several FoodBuzz employees including Dorian Asch whom I met at the Beso event several months earlier in Los Angeles. My festival pass around my neck and program in my pocket I proceeded upstairs to the 8th floor terrace for cocktails. As I walked out to the terrace I saw a sea of people with a bar in the corner.


Skyy vodka cocktails, sparkling wine and beer

The interesting thing about this sea of people was that they were all food bloggers. A bunch of foodies all in one place all talking about food.


The Ferry Building at night

The backdrop to this cocktail party was a picturesque night scene looking down the Embarcadero.  The yellow street lights illuminating the street trolly car tracks glistening as vintage trolly cars passed, each ringing their bell from times gone by. Behind that rises the Ferry Building perched at the waters edge, clock tower standing tall signaling that there is something special about this building. A building whose contents consist of some very special merchants who bring only the best culinary products to those who desire them. And isn’t it fitting that here on the terrace overlooking this marvel are about 200 to 300 foodies enjoying cocktails and telling each other of their culinary adventures.

I found my friend Adam Rubenstein from VivaLaFoodies on the lower terrace. We got caught up with the latest food goings on. He’s making sushi a the corporate café at Guess in downtown LA. It seems like he is having a good time.  Adam loves food and the blogging world. He has carved out a niche for himself writing restaurant and event reviews. The interesting thing about being amongst all these bloggers is that no two are alike. Everyone has their own story both about how they got into blogging as well as why they chose to write what they do on their blogs. Tomorrow I will have more information about some of the various bloggers here at the festival. Once the cocktail hour was finished we descended down the stairs to go to the Ferry Building where a veritable feast was awaiting us.

entry sign-4109We arrived at the Ferry Building arcade where they street food fair was awaiting us. We walked in to first have some beer from Speakeasy Ales & Lagers was pouring a wheat beer and an Ale. I chose the Ale and Adam and his wife went for the wheat beer.

adam beer-4112

Adam Rubenstein and his wife, capturing beer images for his blog

They had a nice refreshing taste to begin the dining portion of the evening. I was greeted by a woman holding a tray of chichharones to tantalize the guests with. porkrinds-0162These fried swine skin delicacies had a nice clean flavor with a spice mixture sprinkled on top.  The only problem what there was little to no crunch. Although they weren’t stale they were not crispy, but the flavor was good. So what goes with chichharones? You guessed it ice cream. Coffee ice cream to be exact. Why not. Who says you need to eat your meal in any particular order, this is after all street food which can be eaten as it comes to you. So there it was staring at me. the Strauss Family Creamery table. Topped with 2 containers of Ice Cream one coffee flavored and the other vanilla. This family owned dairy makes cream, yogurt and a wonderful european style butter with an 85% milkfat content for added flavor. The second generation agreed to stay on provided that he could make ice cream. Thus the Strauss Ice Cream was born. This is no ordinary Ice Cream it has a rich and creamy texture similar to that of gelato. There are no artificial binders or ingredients in it. The result speaks for itself. cupcakes-4115

Right next to this was the Mission Mini’s Gourmet Cupcake table. They make an assortment of cupcakes including Pumpkin, lemon custard, chocolate, ginger, red velvet and more. If you like cupcakes you’ll love these. I had the pumpkin and the lemon custard and they were both very good. Not too sweet and the frosting made a excellent compliment to the cake enhancing the experience instead of masking it.

So now it’s time to have some real food. I noticed people coming toward me with these wonderful looking tacos so I went in search of them. Luckily I didn’t have to go far. I got to the Tacolicious stand and found them busily making tacos. The were serving 3 kinds – Braised short rib, potato chorizo and blackeyed pea. I spoke to the proprietor and he told me that they were looking for something different to do with their tacos. Many tacos they tried were made with meat that was dry. So they came up with the idea of braising their meats to keep them moist. They also endeavor to use locally sourced product for all their tacos. The quality shows through.


Tacos, Tacos and More Tacos

I went to go see the Pie Truck table where they were serving 2 kinds of pies – Zucchini mushroom and steak & gruyere. These pies are all made from scratch. They have  converted catering truck that they use to cook their pies in and roll around the city serving these crusty saucers of deliciousness to their eagerly awaiting patrons. The great thing about these pies is that they are heavy on flavor and filling and light on crust. Which in my opinion makes for the perfect combination. There is just enough crust to encapsulate the filling so you get the full flavor without all the extra doughiness.


The best meat pies

Next was Hog Island Oyster company who was shucking their Kumamoto oysters which they raise in Tomales Bay. These oysters are small with an oceanic sweetness to them. They need nothing other than perhaps a drop of tapatio or tabasco to add that bit of spice that I like with my oysters. Later they were also shucking Malpec oysters which are a bit bigger and very flavorful as well.


Kumamotos, shucking and the larger Malpac

I had seen these pork sandwiches going by and as you know I love all things pork. The meat has a sweetness that is not found in any other. I walked over to the Roli Roti Truck whos motto is I love crispy skin. And boy do they live up to that. In speaking with the owner who has a deep seeded passion for his craft. He is Swiss and he lives by the philosophy to do what you do the best that you can do it. He raises all his own hogs, which keeps his quality way up. He only butchers his hogs when they are at their optimum flavor. If they are not quite ready then he waits until they are. As he said – “If I have to wait a week until they are ready then I wait a week.” That is the type of passion that I admire in the culinary world. He makes a large roll out of his pigs with the skin on the outside of the roll. Then he slow roasts it on a spit to ensure that the meat stays tender and the skin becomes crispy. The sandwich contains succulent pork with crispy pork skin, onions carmelized to a dark brown with greens and placed on a fresh cibatta roll. This was my hands down favorite of the evening.


The ultimate porcine experience

Next I explored the world of Raw food with Chef Leland Jung from Alive. He specializes in raw food. He was serving 3 things- 2 kinds of pizza and a lavender cheesecake. The pizza was made with a flaxseed crust that was dehydrated and topped with tomato and avocado. I had that one and it was surprisingly good for what it was. Not my favorite but if you are into the raw food thing then you’ll probably love his stuff.Raw pizza and cheesecake

I stopped by Spencer on the Go to see what was cooking. He had a mushroom dish comprised of oyster and shmeji mushrooms in a light cream sauce on top of a puff pastry topped with watercress and truffle cream. This was a wonderful dish. He added just a touch of parmesan cheese which gave offset the richness of the cream. He also made a beet salad from both red and golden beets. He slow roasted the beets in a 300º oven for about 4 hours to maximize the sweetness of the beets. It was a simple dish with only a very light olive oil vinaigrette and Point Reyes blue cheese which complimented the sweetness of the beets beautifully.beet&mushroom

So I’m getting kinda full. The bloggers are buzzing all around and some of them are beginning to dwindle down. I pressed on to find a mobile wood burning oven that was cooking pizzas to perfection. The pizzas that Pizza Politana was making were topped with spinach, olives, feta and mozzarella cheese. They got their start at the farmers market in Novato. They found that they really love what they are doing and are happy to make pizzas at all hours of the day or night. They buy all their ingredients locally with the exception of the mozzarella cheese which comes from Wisconsin and the San Marzano tomatoes which come from Italy. It’s interesting but when I was speaking with the owners wife she told me that the reason they import their tomatoes from Italy is because the American tomatoes were just too sweet. I thought to myself, that’s a first. I was always under the impression that most commercial tomatoes were relatively tasteless and not anywhere near the sweetness that I have found overseas, particularly in Greece. They also use a combination of 2 different flours for their crust. One is higher protien content which is good for building up gluten which gives it a good structure and the other has a malt flavor so the combination gives the dough the perfect flavor, structure and elasticity for their use. An you know what, it works. Their crust is thin and with a nice balance of flavor. Their woodburning oven is on wheels for easy transport to some of the street corners and farmers markets they frequent as well as the evening bar crowd.


Simply great pizza

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Last cocktail of the evening

So last but not least on my trek was to have a cocktail from Speakeasy Ales & Lagers. It was called a blood and sand that was made from Glenrothes Select Reserve whiskey, orange juice, Cinzano and cherry liqueur. The drink was a perfect way to cap off a wonderful evening filled with great food interesting people and the ambiance of San Francisco as a backdrop for the entire event.

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