Berea College Farm Grits

Berea College Farm Grits

As bacon editor for Scrumptious Chef I’m always looking for novel ways to source, cure, and smoke pork bellies. In late Spring of this year I traveled from New Orleans to Madison, Alabama to meet Henry Fudge, the legendary old timey hog man of the Deep South.

Daybreak found Fudge and I tracking across his pastures and talking about what life on the farm means for a man in the 21st century. As our visit drew to a close he beckoned me into his garage where he cracked open his chest freezer with a pleasant ‘have a look’.

Fudge has been in the game for nearly 50 years and I was over the moon to have this sort of access. Imagine a whiskey writer visiting Four Roses and having master distiller Jim Rutledge (before his departure) offering you the chance to raid his personal liquor cabinet.

Love of bacon runs deep in my family’s bloodlines as sainted grandpappy Big Jim Sullivan was a Kentucky hog man from the 1920s thru the mid-80s. He kept our farm’s smokehouse stocked to the rafters with curing pork bellies and big smokey hams.

Berea College Farm Grits

Berea College Farm Grits

Jim Sullivan came of age in lean times and he made sure our family never ran out of meat.

At Fudge Farms I scored a big pork belly, a Boston butt roast and a mammoth pork chop making the 900 mile roadtrip worth every inch of travel.

After a 10 day cure, and a three hour smoke over cherry wood, the belly was ready for eating.

Here’s one of the first recipes I’ve created with this gorgeous Henry Fudge Duroc pork belly

RL Reeves Jr Cured Bacon With Farm Grits

RL Reeves Jr Cured Bacon With Farm Grits

Recipe: Bacon Confit With Grits And Fried Eggs

Part One

5 strips bacon (if possible, please source your bacon carefully)
1 c. bacon fat (or lard or use your favorite oil)

* Heat bacon fat to 200 degrees
* Add bacon to pan
* Simmer gently for 60 minutes
* Drain fat
* Return bacon to pan
* Raise heat, cook for five minutes til just crisp
This will yield a bacon that is not much better than the best bacon you’ve ever eaten

Part two

1 c. Grits (If possible, do not use instant grits)
2 c. Water (I used chicken stock and if you have some I do recommend it)
2 t. Salt
1/2 c. Buttermilk
2 T. Fat, Bacon

* Bring salted water to boil
* Add grits
* Reduce to simmer
* Cook 5 minutes
* Add buttermilk and bacon fat
* Cook for 10 minutes longer
* Turn heat off, let grits rest for 5 minutes

A Kentucky Country Breakfast In New Orleans 9th Ward

A Kentucky Country Breakfast In New Orleans 9th Ward

Cooking notes:
I keep a few pounds of hand-cured bacon in the freezer at all times. There are now dozens of artisan bacon sources across the US. Once you’ve had the good stuff you’ll never go back to plain old grocery store bacon.

Like bacon, there are now dozens of sources for old-fashioned grits. I was excited to purchase a two pound sack from the Berea College Farm Store in Berea, Kentucky. They grow the grain and mill it on-site. It is delicious.

I had never used the confit method to cook bacon before. In our test kitchen we’re always trying new methods of cooking as we develop recipes for the site and for our pop up supper club series. The bacon from this cook was superb and had a candy-like flavor (perhaps from the cherry wood I used to smoke the belly)

I garnished the grits with a fried egg dusted with JQ Dickinson salt, a West Virginia concern with roots running all the way back to the 19th century

Reserve the fat used during the confit process. If you have used a vegetable-based oil you’ll find the resultant fat to now be bacon-flavored. This elixir will be a boon companion in subsequent cooking ventures.

This was an experiment using the ancient technique of confit. I’ve used this method to good effect over the years, primarily with ducks and chickens. Would I go to the bother of using this method for bacon again? Probably not but as an experiment in our test kitchen it was a fun, novel way to make breakfast.

Next up: we’re going to confit an entire rack of pork ribs then finish them hot and fast on our antique Weber smoker.

Make your own bacon

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