Mail Call: Letters to the Editor — May/June 2017

Readers’ letters to the editors with stories of homemade bread, bacon recipes without sodium nitrate, Irish heritage, gourd birdhouses, guinea hogs, and more.

  • Homemade bread out of a cast iron pot — there's nothing like it.
    Photo by Joni Martin
  • A Kansas homestead cellar, with the corner of the sod house shown as well.
    Photo courtesy Mary Martin
  • Make sure and put a few drainage holes in your gourd birdhouses!
    Photo by Lori Dunn
  • The American Guinea, an endangered breed, is a great homestead pig.
    Photo courtesy Storey/Sullbar Farm; New Boston; New Hampshire

Homemade Bread

Just love the bread! After reading the November/December 2016 issue of Grit, it inspired me to bake more bread. I had already made crusty white bread in my cast iron, but the rye — toasted with peanut butter — and the cinnamon raisin is the best. I took it to work, as pictured, and everyone loved it.

I bought my daughter and daughter-in-law lidded cast-iron casserole pots to encourage them to use cast iron more. Now there is at least one loaf of this bread at every family gathering — what a great tradition!

Joni Martin
Grant Town, West Virginia

Bacon Recipe

In the Mail Call of the September/October 2016 issue of Grit, Linda Smethers of Granite Falls, North Carolina, wanted a recipe for bacon made without sodium nitrate or curing salt. I have been making bacon from our pasture-raised pigs as well as our grassfed Tunis lambs for quite a few years.

The recipe is adapted from “Processing Meat in the Home” by Richard J. Epley and Paul B. Addis and distributed through the University of Minnesota Extension Service. (All quotes are from this article.) “Curing and Smoking Hams and Bacon. There are numerous ways to cure and smoke hams and bacon. Salt may be used alone, with sugar, or with sugar and nitrite.” Since ours is for home use, rather than at a butcher or someone else who would cure large quantities of meat, I mix 8 ounces table salt and 3 ounces cane sugar, then follow the rest of the recipe from “Processing Meat in the Home.”

“Bacon should have one thorough rubbing with a light sprinkling over the flesh side after rubbing.” You won’t use all the salt-sugar mix, but it can be kept until the next time you make bacon. After rubbing, the meat can hang somewhere cold but not freezing (wrap in cheesecloth or put something loose around it) or be placed in a glass dish in the refrigerator. The meat must have air around it. I put a small glass dish inside the glass baking dish so almost all the meat has air around it. I move the meat and dump any liquid in the dishes every few days. Cure for 14 days. Soak well to get the salt off, and dry before cooking. If you don’t mind the salt, just rinse it. “Since bacon has only a one to two month freezer life because of its salt content, it may be advisable to cure one slab of bacon at a time. The uncured belly can be frozen until curing.”

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