Experiments with Sodium Nitrite (and a few semi-related comments)

As a lifelong professional cook I have always been more interested in real foods than fussy ones. By this I mean foods made from scratch entirely...the old fashioned way. I have no interest in food-as-art meals or so-called celebrity chefs (click here to read an excellent article by the inspirational chef and food writer Joyce Goldstein; click here to read an article written by yours truly regarding my sentiments towards Gordon Ramsay). I am far more interested in making foods like homemade pasta, sausage, sauerkraut, naturally leavened bread, and yogurt, than I am silly bite sized morsels with a few dots of foam or streaks of puree that looks like it belongs more in an art gallery than it does on a plate. That said, and regarding the most recent sentence, I apologize to those chefs and cooks who toil long hours over stoves producing those foods--so long as they are true to themselves--but it is simply not for me. When you stand facing a stove day-after-day and year-after-year you'd better find something that fuels your passion or you will be in serious trouble. When I was a young culinarian I was briefly enamored with over-manipulated food but soon realized it was like fitting a square peg into a round hole. But when I delve into the real made-from-scratch foods (and the anthropology of them) that's when I am truly on fire as a cook. Anyhow, this brings me to my latest foray into experiments with sodium nitrite. One of my cooks asked me about certain preserved meat recipes and I didn't have specific answers...so the best way I thought to find our answers was to make the recipes in question. Thus, we recently cured and cooked our own corned beef (pictured above), and Canadian or back bacon (pictured below); we had them for staff lunch today. Both were very easy to prepare and very delicious...we'll make traditional American-style bacon this week. If you like this type of thing I recommend you try it as it is very simple to do in your home kitchen as well. There are plenty of places to purchase curing ingredients, but locally I purchase mine at The Sausage Maker (they also ship world wide). For a simple recipe for corned beef, click here; for a recipe for Canadian bacon, click here.