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Meredith Bethune's Posts

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Smoke it if you’ve got it: DIY meat for locavores

All photos by Meredith Bethune.

Early man probably just dangled meat over a fire to preserve it, but today smoking is needlessly complicated. The modern process is full of jargon and gear and often discourages some would-be meat-smokers from trying at all.

But there is another way. In fact, I’d recommend trying it with this bare-bones equipment before spending a fortune on a smoker. You won’t win any barbecue competitions with this beginners’ method, but it’s more than sufficient to produce delicious homemade bacon and charcuterie with locally raised meat.

What you’ll need

Charcoal grill: A charcoal grill is an adequate vessel for smoking. Large grills with two grates are best because the meat can be placed further away from the heat source, but you should experiment with a small grill if that’s what you have. If your grill doesn’t have a built-in thermometer, you can place a meat thermometer in the hole in the top.

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Cure and simple: How to make your own bacon and charcuterie

Photos by Meredith Bethune.

Even some of the most adventurous home cooks hesitate to make their own charcuterie -- meats processed for preservation in the European tradition. (Bacon, pâté, pancetta, salami, sausages, and prosciutto are all good examples.)

I was no different; before I started learning the craft, thanks in part to a food blogging challenge called Charcutepalooza, I thought charcuterie involved boiling pig heads for hours and hanging moldy salamis in my home.

It all started because I wanted make locally sourced bacon and sausages -- the kind that are available in Texas, but not always easy to find. Then, thanks to Slow Food Austin, I visited a local family farm that raises livestock on large, open pastures and bought ingredients like pork belly from them in bulk at a discount.

Read more: Food