To freeze or Not to Freeze. THAT is the Question?

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flyfishingpastor
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To freeze or Not to Freeze. THAT is the Question?

#1

Post by flyfishingpastor »

One of the positive things my wife and I have found to do during the pandemic is to get into canning our own veggies, baking our own bread and making our own bacon and sausages. We did this largely because we had time on our hands and we wanted to take more control over what we were eating. When you do your own canning, baking and processing meats you know exactly what you are eating. We love adapting the recipes to include (much) less salt, no chemical preservatives (nitrates/nitrites, etc.) and no artificial smoking processes. Though we've cut way back on our meat consumption, we love to smoke meat, make sausages (usually substituting ground turkey for beef/pork) - and if you don't count the expensive equipment involved to process, we've saved a lot of money on meat that has what we want in it and tastes the way we like it. OK. Enough of that.

When we make bacon, it's an involved process that takes several days, so we usually make at least 2 whole skinless pork bellies (20-25 pounds) and sometimes up to 4 if we can find heritage bacon (rare in my neck 'o the woods). We use simple cure recipes that are mostly kosher salt and brown sugar and spices we like. Now, it's kind of gotten away from us! Our last batch was 30 pounds of pork bellies! Now, Cathy and I eat about a pound a month or so BUT our local family loves them and our friends do as well so they make great gifts. It takes 24 hours to prep them and get them ready to cure. We bag the portions in 3 lb slabs in ziplock bags and cure them for up to 10 days, turning every day. Then we smoke them and let them cool overnight in the fridge, cut them up and put them in 1 lb. vacuum sealed bags and leave them set for 3 days - and it takes about 20 minutes for people to show up and empty the fridge! But, that's ok. We're sharing people. Sorry, in advance, since we use no nitrates/nitrites, we cannot ship them and guarantee their freshness. :)

Ok. To prepare for our new food lifestyle/hobby, we had to buy knives, food grade tubs, grinders, slicers, vacuum sealers, etc. And, we're pretty satisfied with all of it - except our slicer - and that is what I need your expertise for. We purchased a "Pro Grade" slicer from Cabela's, not the top of the line, but mid-grade since we're not a commercial endeavor (and NEVER will be). So, in the stack of "READ BEFORE YOU USE" materials that came with it, it said DO NOT SLICE FROZEN MEAT OR BONES (duh!). So, we keep our cured, smoked (to internal temp of 150) bacon in the fridge for several days before we slice/package it. Sometimes it works perfectly and you can buzz through a 30 lb batch in short order. But, sometimes, it simply "smooshes" (technical meat-cutting term) the bacon and makes a mess - like the last batch. So, for those of you with more experience than I, should I be freezing, or partially freezing the bacon before I cut it? Like I said, it is fridge cold when I cut it - but not even partially frozen.

Whaddaya think? Any advice to these Meat Processing Newbies?

Pat

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mer
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Re: To freeze or Not to Freeze. THAT is the Question?

#2

Post by mer »

Huh. send me extra bacon. that solves the problem. :)
I think bacon, if frozen and then thawed can be a bit mushy in texture, but I've only taken frozen (still hard) bacon and put it in a frying pan to thaw and cook.
Sometimes you see techniques that partially freeze a meat so it can be sliced thinly.

The slicer from Cabela's is it similar to a "deli meat slicer"? Basically big sharp rotating blade you keep fingers away from and you push meat across it? If so, I would think "partially frozen" would be good. Not rock hard, but firm so you get good slices. Huge difference between "frozen rock hard use to whack a mobster" and "firm to give even slices".

This may not have helped, but I had fun writing it, because Bacon.

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flyfishingpastor
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Re: To freeze or Not to Freeze. THAT is the Question?

#3

Post by flyfishingpastor »

Ok. "Firm to give even slices" is good. "Frozen rock hard to use to whack a mobster" is not good? Do I have that right? OK. Got it! :)

Yes, the slicer is similar to a deli meat slicer. In fact, exactly like it - except it is supposed to be heavier duty for those who process meats. Anyway, I think I'll try partially frozen bacon and see how that goes. It sure couldn't be any worse than gooey bacon slices. :)

And, I get it. Bacon is awesome. Imagine opening the door of your smoker and smelling the aroma of 30 pounds of it, all beautifully golden and ready to go. Well, except you have to wait overnight for it to firm up a bit to cut it - which is where my problem comes in. Instructions say do NOT slice frozen meat and "firmed up a bit" is still not firm enough for whole, beautiful pieces. Hey! A BLT sounds great for lunch. Thanks Mer! :)

Pat

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Brooks
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Re: To freeze or Not to Freeze. THAT is the Question?

#4

Post by Brooks »

I freeze bacon but let it thaw for slicing.
Prosciutto and Spanish ham I freeze and slice razor thin with a “frozen meat” hand slicer (one of those slicers that kind of looks like an old fashion paper cutter). Slicing it frozen makes it easy to cut paper thin.
A tenkara rod, like a pet monkey, seems like a good idea at first.

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flyfishingpastor
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Re: To freeze or Not to Freeze. THAT is the Question?

#5

Post by flyfishingpastor »

Brooks;

Partially thaw? Or do you thaw it completely?

Pat

jvh
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Re: To freeze or Not to Freeze. THAT is the Question?

#6

Post by jvh »

Hello Pat
Your bacon sounds great. I make my own also. You may be trying to slice it too thin. Try thickening the slices a bit. Try putting the blade of your slicer in the freezer for a few minutes before slicing. It should help.
Good luck. Let us know how it goes.
Vern
P.S. Vegetarian dishes are always better with bacon.

NewUtahCaneAngler
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Re: To freeze or Not to Freeze. THAT is the Question?

#7

Post by NewUtahCaneAngler »

No bacon expert, but if you are putting 30 lbs of 150 degree meat in the fridge, it is going to take quite a while to bring it to normal fridge temp. You certainly should not do this with any other food that may spoil without refridgeration as the warm bacon could/likely will spoil those other foods. Might consider sticking the warm meat in a cooler with block ice and moving to fridge after it has cooled some. My guess is that your slicing still warm meat. Perhaps stick an instant read thermometer in to check before slicing.

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flyfishingpastor
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Re: To freeze or Not to Freeze. THAT is the Question?

#8

Post by flyfishingpastor »

Actually, we let the bacon cool for an hour or so when it comes out of the smoker, and we never put hot meat in the fridge. When it's cool we put it into a special fridge set extra-cold and we have 2 other fridges if we need to spread it around. The bacon stays in the fridge for at least 24 hours, sometimes 3 or 4 days, so it's not warm at all, but it's not partially frozen either. And, we do slice it thick-cut, because that's the way we prefer it. We might thin-slice if were selling commercially and they wanted it that way - though I don't know why? :)

I think the next trial (probably a month or so) run on slicing will be next month. I'll let ya know how we make out. Thanks all. :)

Pat

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mer
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Re: To freeze or Not to Freeze. THAT is the Question?

#9

Post by mer »

Fresh baked bread and fresh bacon. Two of God's minor jokes to teach us patience. They both smell so good you want to tear into them right away, but if you do that, you wind up missing the best part. So you have to wait long enough for them to cool so you can cut them.

Thin cut bacon? What's that?

BLT with good bacon, good tomato, on good bread, hard to beat.
Another favorite: grilled cheese. Good bread (preference for rye), mustard on the inside of the bread, good cheddar, tomato and cooked bacon in the middle, so you have: bread, mustard, cheese, tomato, bacon, cheese, mustard bread. Griddle up.

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Brooks
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Re: To freeze or Not to Freeze. THAT is the Question?

#10

Post by Brooks »

flyfishingpastor wrote:
11/13/20 18:20
Brooks;

Partially thaw? Or do you thaw it completely?

Pat
“American bacon” —I guess partially. And cut thick. Just don’t let it get room temp. If bacon is really cold it is firm, but the minute it hits room temp, it seems to go soft and squishy. At least from my experience.

Prosciutto and Iberian ham, the sushi of bacon, as I
mentioned above, I cut frozen. I’ve never been able to slice Iberian ham razor-thin at room temp like those masters in those “dead pig” shops throughout Spain. Man I love those stores in Spain!
A tenkara rod, like a pet monkey, seems like a good idea at first.

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flyfishingpastor
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Re: To freeze or Not to Freeze. THAT is the Question?

#11

Post by flyfishingpastor »

Ours is refrigerator cold. I'll try partially freezing it and I'll let you gentlemen know how it works out in about another month. This next week or so we're going to experiment with some turkey sausage in casings. We've tried the Cabela's Breakfast Sausage mix with turkey and it is excellent, except a tad too much salt for my taste. Whenever I get around to it, I'll experiment with other spices (and extra sharp Cheddar). We've never stuffed casings before. We want to try this before venturing into Summer Sausage and other Sausages. I doubt I get into the real technical dry sausages - too much equipment needed.

Anyway, thank you for your suggestions.

Pat
P.S. I love Iberian Ham. My brother-in-law was nice enough to send us some when he was in Spain last year. He loved the shops as well. :)

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Re: To freeze or Not to Freeze. THAT is the Question?

#12

Post by cheffy »

Pat
Being a chef/instructor who teaches charcuterie and still makes it at home I can say I’ve cut my share of bacon.
We alway pop the bellies in the freezer for about an hour or so to get them firm. We first break them down into manageable pieces that fit on the slicer. For the big commercial one that’s about 2# so your millage may vary.
I just finished 18# of belly and about 16# of Canadian bacon. Much if it is Christmas gifts.
PM me. We can swap notes and recipes.

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Re: To freeze or Not to Freeze. THAT is the Question?

#13

Post by narcodog »

I had the same problem with the "commercial" grade slicer when trying to slice salami, it just wouldn't slice it thin enough, made a real mess. If your interested I buy quite a bit of spices from "The Sausage Maker" in Buffalo, NY.

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flyfishingpastor
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Re: To freeze or Not to Freeze. THAT is the Question?

#14

Post by flyfishingpastor »

narcodog;

As for the slicer, I tried it on some semi-frozen meat and it worked better. I'll still have to wait until my next batch of bacon to test it on the real thing though, but I think it will work better. As for spices, are you talking about common "Kitchen Spices" or pre-made rubs/cures? I grow/dry Thyme, Sage, Dill, Cilantro, Thai Basil, Chives, Tarragon, Lemon Balm and Mint.

Pat

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Re: To freeze or Not to Freeze. THAT is the Question?

#15

Post by narcodog »

flyfishingpastor wrote:
11/23/20 12:34
narcodog;

As for the slicer, I tried it on some semi-frozen meat and it worked better. I'll still have to wait until my next batch of bacon to test it on the real thing though, but I think it will work better. As for spices, are you talking about common "Kitchen Spices" or pre-made rubs/cures? I grow/dry Thyme, Sage, Dill, Cilantro, Thai Basil, Chives, Tarragon, Lemon Balm and Mint.

Pat
Pre-made rubs and cures, smokers and butchering, canning and food storage items.

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cheffy
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Re: To freeze or Not to Freeze. THAT is the Question?

#16

Post by cheffy »

For all my smoking/butchering needs I go with.
Butcher and packer supply
http://www.butcher-packer.com/

Where the pros shop.

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flyfishingpastor
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Re: To freeze or Not to Freeze. THAT is the Question?

#17

Post by flyfishingpastor »

I'll keep both those supply resources in my file. Thank you!

Pat

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flyfishingpastor
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Re: To freeze or Not to Freeze. THAT is the Question?

#18

Post by flyfishingpastor »

Today we finished a batch of Canadian Bacon. We unloaded it from the smoker yesterday, let it cool and put in fridge overnight. Today, an hour before we sliced it, we put it in the freezer. The slicer worked like a charm! We sliced 10 lbs. of Canadian Bacon in a flash and put it in vacuum seal bags and on to the freezer to "settle." Well, except for the 5 pounds we were giving to family and friends. :) Thanks for the freezer tip!

Pat

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