The challenge is on...like bacon!
June 10, 2009 6:52 AM   Subscribe

Food writer Michael Ruhlman has issued the BLT From Scratch—Summertime Challenge where participants must cure their own bacon, grow their own lettuce and tomatoes, bake their own bread and make their own mayonnaise.
posted by slogger (68 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
And if you're lucky it will be as good as what you can get by shopping at Whole Foods.
posted by smackfu at 6:55 AM on June 10, 2009


Fun idea, but:

No, this does not mean raising a piglet for the bacon or growing your own wheat to grind into flour. Yes, extra credit for either, but I want this to be a challenge that everyone can accept, whether you live in a Manhattan walk-up or rural North Carolina, Alaska or suburban splendor.

It's easier to grind wheat in Manhattan than it is to grow tomatoes. And from celebrity photos from the last time it was fashionable to have them as pets, I know piglets are allowed. The real explanation is that he wants to do the fun parts, not the boring or icky parts.
posted by DU at 6:56 AM on June 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


(And I know that's not "the point", but really, it's just a BLT.)
posted by smackfu at 6:56 AM on June 10, 2009


When they have to raise and slaughter the pig, then it will be interesting.... until then, not so much!
posted by HuronBob at 6:57 AM on June 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


I saw this and was intrigued. Garden tomatoes are wicked awesome down here (and I think next summer will be the one when I try to plant them), and I've basically just been waiting for an excuse to make my own mayo.

There are only two things keeping me from trying this: 1) My wife would not be happy to see me hanging pork bellies in the laundry room, and 2) BLTs are only perfect with peanut butter, and I can't see growing my own peanuts to make peanut butter.
posted by middleclasstool at 6:58 AM on June 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


BLTs are only perfect with peanut butter

wh
posted by DU at 6:59 AM on June 10, 2009 [4 favorites]


I'm on this like mayo on country white.

Already have L and T growing in the garden, mayo is easy, bread is My Thing, and curing bacon was on the "to do" list for the summer.

Next up: DIY angioplasty!
posted by bondcliff at 6:59 AM on June 10, 2009


Hmm...we are growing tomatoes and lettuce already. I'm afraid I'll need a bacon recipe that doesn't require a smoker, though, as we haven't got one. Here's a recipe that involves a simple cure followed by roasting for 2 hours at 100ºC. Anyone have a better one?
posted by jedicus at 7:01 AM on June 10, 2009


wh

Hey, don't knock it. My father forced me to eat one as a child (over my loud protestations) and I have rarely enjoyed a BLT without one since. The BLT with PB and mayo on toast is the best thing ever.
posted by middleclasstool at 7:02 AM on June 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


is that a BLTPB or a PBBLT , 'cuz it might make a difference.
posted by HuronBob at 7:04 AM on June 10, 2009


Not that I object to avoiding boring or icky things, btw. I would (and do) do the same. Let's just be honest.

The BLT with PB and mayo on toast is the best thing ever.

Despite the fact that I myself eat tacos with pickle relish, I consider you a war criminal.
posted by DU at 7:22 AM on June 10, 2009 [10 favorites]


There was actually a recipe for BLTs with PB in Southern Living or some such magazine in the early 70's, which is where my mother got the idea. Even though I don't usually do it that way, they are good. Don't knock it until you try it.

DU, please tell me that at least it isn't sweet relish you are desecrating your tacos with.
posted by TedW at 7:27 AM on June 10, 2009


Oh yeah, it's totally sweet relish. But only on hard shell or taco salad. Relish on a soft shell taco or fajita would just be ridiculous.
posted by DU at 7:35 AM on June 10, 2009


DU, that's foul.

Aside from the fact that raw tomatoes trigger my gag reflex (I want to like them, really, but retching doesn't inspire fondness), I'd totally do this. How about a Bacon, Lettuce, and... uh... triscuit? Is there no other food that begins with T? Thyme?
posted by Ghidorah at 7:44 AM on June 10, 2009


Just try and snatch the PBBLT from my hand.
posted by King Bee at 7:45 AM on June 10, 2009


Tabasco, Ghidorah. Tripe. Turnip. Tribble!
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:00 AM on June 10, 2009


If he ordered a grilled cheese sandwich, at least I'd have a chance.
posted by iamkimiam at 8:02 AM on June 10, 2009


And if you're lucky it will be as good as what you can get by shopping at Whole Foods.

Home cured bacon is so much better than what you can get by shopping at Whole Foods.
posted by lexicakes at 8:05 AM on June 10, 2009


How about a bacon, lettuce and taco sandwich? You can even add some of DU's pickle relish.

heathens
posted by ryoshu at 8:05 AM on June 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


The BLT with PB and mayo on toast is the best thing ever.


**hyurlp**
posted by FatherDagon at 8:09 AM on June 10, 2009


A tribble?! They're too cute. Slice up a targ instead!
posted by cranberrymonger at 8:15 AM on June 10, 2009


This FPP and its participants are obviously engaged in an elaborate euphemistic and coded conversation a la grilled cheese sandwiches. "Cure your own bacon." "Relished tacos." You're not fooling anyone.
posted by xod at 8:19 AM on June 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


Peanut butter and bacon? Yes. Still one of my favorite snacks.

With additional vegetables? And an additional condiment? You are out of your tree.
posted by emelenjr at 8:22 AM on June 10, 2009


I totally know people who cure bacon on the porch of their DC condo. They also garden, cook, and bake, so I'll definitely alert them to this challenge.
posted by MrMoonPie at 8:37 AM on June 10, 2009


There's nothin' in the world that I like better than
Bacon, lettuce and home grown tomatoes
Up in the morning and out in the garden
Pick you a ripe one, don't get a hard 'un
Plant 'em in the springtime eat 'em in the summer
All winter without 'em's a culinary bummer
I forget all about the sweatin' and the diggin'
Every time I go out and pick me a big'un

Home grown tomatoes, home grown tomatoes
What'd life be without home grown tomatoes
There's only two things that money can't buy
That's true love and home grown tomatoes

You can go out and eat 'em, that's for sure
But there's nothin' a home grown tomato won't cure
You can put 'em in a salad, put 'em in a stew
You can make your own tomato juice
Eat 'em with eggs, Eat 'em with gravy
Eat 'em with beans, pinto or navy
Put em on the side, put em on the middle
Home grown tomatoes on a hot cake griddle

If I could change this life I lead
I'd be Johnny Tomato Seed
I know what this country needs
It's home grown tomatoes in every yard you see
When I die don't bury me
In a box in a cemetery
Out in the garden would be much better
I could be pushin' up home grown tomatoes

Guy Clark
posted by dios at 8:40 AM on June 10, 2009 [5 favorites]


"It's easier to grind wheat in Manhattan than it is to grow tomatoes."

The growing part might be a problem though, wheat requires quite a bit of space.

"BLTs are only perfect with peanut butter, and I can't see growing my own peanuts to make peanut butter."

Peanuts are just a legume, if you can grow beans you can probably grow peanuts if you get enough warm weather. I've got two rows coming along in my garden right now.
posted by Mitheral at 8:56 AM on June 10, 2009


I've never made my own mayo before, but these last couple photos have me teetering right on the edge.
posted by Ladybug Parade at 9:03 AM on June 10, 2009


I had a friend growing up who loved PB and Mayo sandwiches. Her mom would not let her eat them at her house so she would come to mine to eat them. So Gross. But add some bacon and it sounds good. Is there any sandwich bacon can't make better?
posted by shmurley at 9:13 AM on June 10, 2009


I've always been truly horrified by mayonnaise, and never let it near my food as a kid. Just the smell of an open jar of Hellman's/Best Foods was enough to gross me out, and that was the least objectionable of them all. I grew up, and discovered that a thin scrape had it's place on a BLT. Then I became a real fake grown up, and got a Kitchenaid, and tried making my own mayo. And then I had a hard time not just eating it with a spoon.
posted by amelioration at 9:20 AM on June 10, 2009


Mayo is a snore. Try the BLAT: bacon, lettuce, avocado and tomato.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:25 AM on June 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


I was saving "learn to cure bacon" for some time after I finally mastered "pie crust from scratch", which I have scheduled for like, two years from now.

But I could be convinced to switch it up. I'm still several weeks away from tomatoes though, so there's time to think about it.
posted by padraigin at 9:26 AM on June 10, 2009


Confession time: I'm not sure I've ever even had actual mayo. Miracle Whip's what I reach for when my sandwich needs a tangy zip! (That and spicy mustard.)

Try the BLAT: bacon, lettuce, avocado and tomato.

O.M.G. This is going to CHANGE. MY. LIFE.
posted by DU at 9:31 AM on June 10, 2009


O.M.G. This is going to CHANGE. MY. LIFE.

From this day hence, you will never have just another boring BLT.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:45 AM on June 10, 2009


Wait...is that plain avocado or guacamole? The latter is what my mouth is now watering for.
posted by DU at 9:48 AM on June 10, 2009


Plain avocado, if you're a purist.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:52 AM on June 10, 2009


padraigin: Ruhlman has you covered on the pie dough too.
posted by slogger at 10:01 AM on June 10, 2009


Well I guess I'm screwed as a resident of Phoenix, I don't really see lettuce and tomatoes withstanding 110 degree heat. :-(
posted by TungstenChef at 10:02 AM on June 10, 2009


Aside from the fact that raw tomatoes trigger my gag reflex (I want to like them, really, but retching doesn't inspire fondness), I'd totally do this. How about a Bacon, Lettuce, and... uh... triscuit? Is there no other food that begins with T? Thyme?

Tuna! But you have to catch your own of course...

For those of you who really want to try this, and I plan to give it a shot, the only ingredient not readily available to anyone not living on an island is pink salt (sodium nitrite). You can get that online here. You could just use regular salt, but pink salt keeps your bacon from turning a disgusting shade of gray as it cures.
posted by Patapsco Mike at 10:03 AM on June 10, 2009


>> Plain avocado, if you're a purist.

If you were a purist, you wouldn't be polluting your BLT with avocado.
posted by davelog at 10:14 AM on June 10, 2009


I'm afraid I'll need a bacon recipe that doesn't require a smoker, though, as we haven't got one.

You need more Alton in your life. He made a smoker for curing bacon from an old set of gym lockers, an electric fan and some dryer hose (no, I'm not kidding.) He's also made smokers from:

- A new steel trash-can with the grill from a big charcoal grill wedged in halfway down, and a tiny charcoal grill at the bottom, with air-holes punched in around the base.

- Two big terra-cotta pots on top of each other, on bricks, with a BBQ grill in between. The bottom one is propped up on bricks, and has a disposable aluminum pie-plate full of mesquite chips on top of a portable electric hot-plate, with air and electrical cord coming in through the drain hole in the bottom.

- A big cardboard box with sand on the bottom, an access flap cut into one side, some sticks stuck through near the top to hold an oven rack, and a pie-plate full of hardwood sawdust on an even cheaper electric hot-plate.

As long as you have a yard, you can set up a smoker for under $15.
posted by Slap*Happy at 10:15 AM on June 10, 2009


Next up: DIY angioplasty!

We got ya covered so long as you DIY the l-arginine & l-citrulline part.
posted by rough ashlar at 10:18 AM on June 10, 2009


Nothing better than the 'B.L.T. With Lobster' at B&G Oysters.
posted by ericb at 10:21 AM on June 10, 2009


At least this isn't a bacon, lettuce, and plate of beans sandwich.
posted by hippybear at 10:22 AM on June 10, 2009


I think I will skip the bacon, but the tomatoes and Arugula are already growing nicely and I bake bread regularly. Mayo is a snap to make on your own.
posted by caddis at 10:27 AM on June 10, 2009


Why craft a shitty smoker from substandard materials creating a fire hazard and inevitably pissing off your neighbours in the apartment below when you can just make pancetta instead. Unsmoked air dried bacon, it's arguably better for some things than smoked bacon.

Because it's so dry it fries very crisp, and while its very good in a BLT, you'll have the most important component for one of the only things that's even better, carbonnara. Rhulmanns curing book will tell you how, it's easy and well worth the minimal effort.
posted by Keith Talent at 10:28 AM on June 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm afraid I'll need a bacon recipe that doesn't require a smoker, though, as we haven't got one.

My husband made a smoker out of some cinder blocks at our old house. Now he just uses a charcoal grill for smoking. It's not as complicated as you might think.

You could just use regular salt, but pink salt keeps your bacon from turning a disgusting shade of gray as it cures.

Also, Sodium Nitrite prevents Botulism, which is kind of important when curing your own meats.
posted by lexicakes at 10:33 AM on June 10, 2009


I've never made my own mayo before

It takes five minutes. Only 'downside' is that it's impossible to make a very small amount, and it only lasts 3-4 days.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 10:39 AM on June 10, 2009


I made one of the AB smokers, hot plate and a cast iron pan in a cardboard box, connected to a metal trash can by a length of dryer tubing with a computer fan blowing the smoke through. It definitely cost more than $15, that's about how much you'll pay for a new metal garbage can. It took an entire aftrnoon to solve all the random issues that came up (like how to best cut the hole in the can or how to get at the hot plate to adjust it when it was putting out copious amounts of smoke). In the end it worked really well as a smoker, it was just a pain in the ass to get it to that point.
posted by TungstenChef at 10:40 AM on June 10, 2009


You could just use regular salt, but pink salt keeps your bacon from turning a disgusting shade of gray as it cures.

Also, Sodium Nitrite prevents Botulism, which is kind of important when curing your own meats.


It also makes a huge difference in flavor. It's a little hard to describe, but nitrates are what makes ham taste like ham instead of BBQ pork.
posted by TungstenChef at 10:43 AM on June 10, 2009


"Avacado" is the word you're looking for. It's called a BLAT, and it's awesome.
posted by straight at 10:54 AM on June 10, 2009


As long as you have a yard, you can set up a smoker for under $15.

Yeah, I haven't got a yard, as I live in a high-rise apartment. I'm a big AB fan and aware of all of those solutions, but I need a smokeless recipe. I guess I could go with the recipe I found and just toss in some liquid smoke, though I'd rather not if there's something better out there.
posted by jedicus at 11:18 AM on June 10, 2009


It looks like you're nearby, jedicus. Bring a six pack over and you can use my smoker.
posted by slogger at 11:23 AM on June 10, 2009


It's easier to grind wheat in Manhattan than it is to grow tomatoes

Is it really harder to grow tomatoes in Manhattan than it is for someone new to gardening to grow them in backyard? Do you have an outdoor spot at your workplace, home, a friend's, a local church or nonprofit? Do you have a place you could put a hanging basket for upside down tomatoes? Is there a vacant building or lot nearby that you could negotiate the use of for a small garden? How about a rooftop garden? I understand it's not as easy as buying a tomato, but the point of the project might be to develop some new aspects of your life and food production skills, not to create an easy food supply. Urban Gardening!
posted by Miko at 11:31 AM on June 10, 2009


I HAVE DONE THIS.
posted by sourwookie at 12:02 PM on June 10, 2009


Jedicus,

Here's a link that offers a few alternatives to smoking the bacon. Drying it would probably take a while, but slow roasting it might work?


posted by fyrebelley at 12:08 PM on June 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


This is my baconmaker!
posted by sourwookie at 12:31 PM on June 10, 2009


Argh! Here's the link:

http://thepauperedchef.com/2008/02/adventures-in-h.html
posted by fyrebelley at 1:08 PM on June 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


Homemade mayo is very easy, whether you use a blender, a food processor, or just a whisk. Since it's best to use in a few days, I generally make it with a whisk (the blades are too high on my food processor for just one yolk - which makes the small amount needed for my small household - and my blender died).

My method: I sit on the floor, cross-legged, so as to keep the (large) bowl stable on my lap. This keeps both my hands free. I put in the yolk, whisk it a bit, then dribble in half olive oil and half peanut oil, whisking all the time. Say a quarter cup of each. I add in lemon juice, again whisking. If it's too thick, I dribble in a little water. Sometimes I add some mustard in the beginning. Just whisk LOTS - don't stop.

For aioli, add finely minced or garlic-pressed garlic. For green mayo, mince some tarragon, parsley, thyme and watercress and add that in at the end. Try that with fried fish or seafood - it's heaven.
posted by goofyfoot at 1:48 PM on June 10, 2009


I just made my own this afternoon, using Bittman's recipe from "How to Cook Everything."

Holy shit. I thought I'd had mayo before. That stuff was congealed hobo semen compared to this.

I sit on the floor, cross-legged, so as to keep the (large) bowl stable on my lap.

You can make a little towel circle on the counter and set the bowl on that, and it'll do a good job holding it in place.
posted by middleclasstool at 2:55 PM on June 10, 2009


Speaking of aiolis, if you want a great flavored aioli, start making the mayonnaise as noted above. Place a cup worth of the mayo in a processor. Add in 2-3 coarsely chopped garlic cloves, a couple teaspoons of Spanish smoked paprika, a couple teaspoons of salt, and about 3 seeded piquillo peppers. Process until smooth. Place on any sandwich or burger for lip-smacking deliciousness.
posted by dios at 2:56 PM on June 10, 2009 [3 favorites]


You can make a little towel circle on the counter and set the bowl on that, and it'll do a good job holding it in place.

Yeah, I've done that; didn't work too well for me. We all have to figure out our ways, right? Plus the sitting-on-the-floor thing allows me to alter my whisking arm more than when I'm standing.

By the way, if a homemade mayonnaise breaks (i.e. doesn't emulsify), which happens to everyone eventually, one way to correct it is to start anew. Put a yolk in a large bowl, then very slowly whisk in the broken mayo concoction. This method has never failed.
posted by goofyfoot at 4:01 PM on June 10, 2009


Sorry, I should say it's never failed me.
posted by goofyfoot at 4:02 PM on June 10, 2009


Sometimes I add some mustard in the beginning.

Adding it every time will take care of your breaking; mustard (use proper Dijon, for the love of God) acts as an emulsifier. Going very slowly with the oil takes care of the rest.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 4:30 PM on June 10, 2009


mustard (use proper Dijon, for the love of God) acts as an emulsifier

Good advice. Even a very small amount seems to help and it does help the flavor. with a practiced wrist you will make perfect mayo with no mustard, no thought, but on the first few times why risk the olive oil?

I have always used a whisk and haven't tried a stick blender but I think it might be decent at this.
posted by caddis at 6:18 PM on June 10, 2009


The recipe I used called for Dijon, and I'm very happy with the results. I hadn't thought of using an immersion blender, but my right arm certainly would have enjoyed the rest.
posted by middleclasstool at 6:49 PM on June 10, 2009


I have to say, by the way, that this the most thinking/excitement I've ever had over goddamn MAYONNAISE in my life.
posted by middleclasstool at 6:50 PM on June 10, 2009


A history of sauces. Mayonnaise is among them.
posted by goofyfoot at 7:48 PM on June 10, 2009


Mayo made with a stick blender will be heavier; less air will be incorporated. Unless you use a whisk attachment, obvy.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 9:04 PM on June 10, 2009


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