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July 23, 2012

Making Pork Belly Bacon Chocolate Chip Pancakes

When I was up at my old summer camp for a week earlier this month, I had the pleasure of working for Kyle Hopkins, who writes about food and whiskey over at Feed Me KC. On Wednesday, which is known as “Cruiser Day” at camp because it deviates from the normal program, Kyle decided to cure his own bacon from a 40 lb. slab of pork belly and make chocolate chip pancakes with it in its grease. They were outrageously exquisite.

Step 1: Fry the bacon:

Step 2: Cut bacon strips in half, pour pancake batter over bacon strips, top batter with chocolate chips.

Step 3: Make the flip!

I asked Kyle about the process and his inspiration:

Can you go over the story of how you ended up purchasing the bulk pork belly?

Definitely–I can tell you two stories about it. First of all, I just got finished master’s degree so my mom was trying to buy me something so she called the Duluth (Minnesota) Chamber of Commerce. They pointed her to Old World Meats, which is in a new location because it burned down but has been owned by the Wrazidlo family for nearly 100 years.

Their pork bellies were beautiful. They said they source them from a farm in Canada that they have a relationship with–so I was pretty comfortable that it was an ethical purchase–and I liked that.

I guess the other impetus for something like this is that I’m really into Michael Ruhlman, a food writer, and his charcuterie book blew my mind. I’ve made a bunch of different bacons and that’s just kind of a standard one–a simple salt cure, and then add maple syrup. It just makes sense with those huge frying pans we have here at camp to get a ton of bacon and just make it ourselves.

One of my problems when I make bacon is that I make, like, eight pounds of bacon for my fiance and me and she loves it, and then she’ll eat like three slices, and then it’s like, “Well what do we do with the rest of this bacon?” So then I cook with bacon for like eight days and make myself sick and then I throw half of it away. So I kind of thought this would be a really good place where I might have enough people that would be able to consume, you know, forty pounds of bacon.

What did you mean by being “ethically OK” with it? Did you mean it wasn’t from a farm factory?

I guess I’m making some assumptions there. When you go to Walmart and there’s chicken for $.99 a pound, that scares the shit out of me. There’s just no way you can feed and slaughter a chicken–and do all those things right–for $.99 unless you’re cutting corners in lots of areas.

But if I’m gonna make my own bacon, I want it to be a good pig. I want to know that my butcher cares about it, that the farmer cares about it. And, if I’m gonna do one round of bacon, I want to be proud of every aspect of that bacon.

So you bought 40 pounds of pure pork belly. What was the process of getting ready to cut?

The night I got it, I covered it with a basic dry cure, which is about 16 ozs salt, 8 ozs sugar, and 2 ozs pink salt. And then I just submerged that in maple syrup. Then I let it sit for seven days. On the seventh day, I took it out, washed it, let it come to room temperature, and then I cooked it an oven at 225 degrees. All I wanted was for the internal temperature to come to 145 degrees–just at that lower level where you want pork–and then I chilled it overnight so it would easily slice and then we could fry it up the next day.

How did you think of the idea of making chocolate chip pancakes with it?

One of my staff members at camp brought it up a little while ago. It was actually an old Aunt Jemima recipe but it was my call to add the chocolate chips!

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