Chocolate Bacon Braised Lamb Shanks

After tasting my Chocolate Bacon Jam in my last post, I thought that it would be perfect as a base for braising either lamb shanks or short ribs. Having 4 lamb shanks in the fridge sealed the deal for me.


4 Lamb Shanks
1 Tbsp. Bacon Fat
1 Med. Yellow Onion chopped
3 Carrots Chopped
3 Celery Stalks Chopped
3 Garlic Cloves Minced
1 Cup Red Wine
1 Cup Chicken Broth
1/2 Cup Water
2/3 Cups Chocolate Bacon Jam
5 Peppercorns
1 tsp. dried rosemary

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Brown all sides of the lamb shanks in the bacon fat in a 4 quart dutch oven on medium-high heat. Remove the shanks and saute the onion, celery and carrots on medium heat until tender, about 5-7 minutes. Add the garlic and saute for a further minute.

Add the wine, broth, water, jam, peppercorns and rosemary and heat until boiling, making sure that any of the brown crispy bits on the bottom of the dutch oven are scraped off. Once the liquid is boiling then remove from heat and add the lamb shanks to the liquid. Cover the dutch oven and put into the oven for 3 hours.

Remove the shanks and strain the liquid then reduce liquid by half on the stovetop over medium low heat. Spoon liquid over the lamb.

I served the lamb with roasted root vegetables including baby turnips, fingerling potatoes, carrots, and golden beets then paired the meal with a 2005 E. Guigal Gigondas.

2005 E. Guigal Gigondas

Chocolate Bacon Jam

The obsession continues. Just plain bacon jam was obviously not good enough so when we tasted our finished product it gave me an idea. Why don’t we add espresso instead of coffee and also some chocolate to add richness and depth to the bacon jam.

Game on!

Chocolate Bacon Jam – an original Saint Elk recipe

4 lbs of double smoked bacon chopped
2 medium white onions chopped
2 oz. 90% cacao dark chocolate
2 cups of espresso
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1/3 cup of molasses
1 cup apple cider vinegar
2 cups water

Cook the chopped bacon on medium heat until brown but before it becomes crispy. Remove from the pan and set aside. Cook the chopped onions on medium low heat until the onions start to take on a light caramel colour approximately 15-20 minutes. Remove from pan.

Combine all ingredients except for 1 1/2 cups of water in a dutch oven and heat until boiling then reduce heat and simmer for about 2 hours. Every 30 minutes add another half cup of water.

Once the liquid has been reduced to a thick syrupy mixture remove from heat and let cool for 20 minutes. Place mixture into a food processor and puree for about 30 seconds.

Dark Chocolatey Colour

There you have it. Rich and velvety undertones of chocolate and espresso but with the salty, savoriness of the bacon.

The Finished Product

This is going to be a great flavouring for the braised lamb shanks I am going to make tomorrow.

We’re Jammin’…Bacon Jammin’

Extreme Makeover Bacon Before Shot

Today was a very good day. Any day that involves cooking 4 lbs. of bacon has to be great. This was the start of our exploration into the world of bacon preserves. We started out easy basing our jam on a recipe from Not Quite Nigella.

The Recipe

4 lbs. choppeddouble smoked bacon
3 cups chopped onion
1/4 cup minced garlic
4 cups brewed coffee
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1 cup apple cider vinegar

Start by cooking the bacon on medium heat until it is browning and not quite getting crispy. Then remove the bacon from the pan and add the onion and garlic. Cook until tender, about 5-7 minutes. Remove the onions and garlic from the pan and combine with the bacon and all the other ingredients in a 4 quart dutch oven.

Cooked for 2 Hours and Ready for the Processor

Bring to a boil and then simmer for approximately 2 hours until the all of the liquid has been reduced. Then let the mixture cool for about 15 minutes and then puree in a food processor for about 30 seconds.

Ready for Toast

The jam is in jars and should be good in the fridge for 2-3 weeks.

Tomorrow morning we will have it on toast with poached eggs. For lunch we will have it on a chicken sandwich with tomatoes and lettuce. Tomorrow night maybe as the rub on a pork loin roast.

Creamy Polenta

Stir in the Parmesan

This last weekend we had 2 dinner parties and made polenta for the first one, intending to make couscous for the second one but liked this recipe so much that we made it for the second night. This is an easy dish to make.

Creamy Polenta with Herbs

3 Cups of Veal Stock

3 Cups of Whole Milk

1 Tsp of minced fresh Sage (we used Tarragon the second night)

1 Tsp of kosher salt

1 Cup of Cornmeal

1/2 Cup of grated Parmesan

In a saucepan heat the stock and the milk with the salt and the Sage over medium-high heat until just below a boil. Slowly whisk in the cornmeal until you get a nice thick consistency.

Reduce the heat to low and stir the polenta until it has thickened enough to mound on a spoon. This takes 10-20 minutes. Stir in the parmesan and serve.

The first night we served the polenta with a veal saltimboca and on the second night with braised lamb shanks and it was fantastic.

Peameal Bacon

Only 3 Weeks To Go!

As I mentioned in a previous post, you just can’t buy decent peameal bacon in Calgary and this is made obvious everytime we go to Ontario. So as a result I decided to fix the situation and make it myself.

Peameal bacon is bacon that has been brined and not smoked and then is rolled in cornmeal. It is very different than back bacon which is smoked and is basically the same as a smoked ham but made from the loin. Peameal bacon on the other hand is very moist and needs to be cooked prior to eating and is equally good cooked as a whole “roast” or sliced, fried and eaten like back bacon.

This is the recipe I am using but since I don’t have room in my fridge, I have the loins in a stock pot in my BBQ (to keep out the critters). It has averaged a little colder than the 34-38 degrees but hopefully that won’t affect the brining process too badly. We will find out in 23 days.

Trim the boneless pork loins and cut them into 12-14″ lengths and chill to 34 degrees in the center.

For 25 lbs. make a brine as follows:   

    2 lbs non iodized salt
    1/2 lb. sugar
    1/2 oz. saltpeter (potassium nitrate)
    Dissolve in 3 pints of water

Place in a non reactive container large enough to contain the meat and 1 1/3 gallon of water – this includes the 3 pints above. The water should cover the meat by at least an inch.

The water must be no higher in temperature than 38 degrees F. Using 8 pounds of ice and 3 pints will produce the proper amount of water and temperature.

A sterile weight — a ceramic/porcelain plate weighted with a gallon jug of water will work — should be placed on top of the meat to hold it down. No part of the meat should be above the water.

Maintain the the temperature between 34 & 38 degrees for 3 weeks. On the 5th and 15th day, remove the loins and stir the brine real well. Return the loins oriented oppositely from their original position. After 3 weeks, remove, wash well under warm running water, then wipe dry. Store in a cool dry storage for 2-4 days. Then rub well with fresh yellow corn meal.

This can be eaten at once or stored at 34-40 degrees for weeks.

Sausage Party


15 Lbs Ground and 25 to Go

What better way to spend a Sunday than with friends drinking wine and making 40lbs. of sausage?

That’s what we recently did with 2 other couples at our house. We had been talking about it doing this for months and finally bit the bullet and made the plans.

Each couple were to bring the ingredients for a sausage with the plan being that we would all pitch in and then split the 3 different kinds amongst ourselves. We would provide the sausage casings.

We had to call around to local butcher shops to find natural pork casings but found them on the second try and ordered enough for 45lbs. of sausages. When we saw them measure out the casings we asked them to give us about 50% more. (It still wasn’t enough!)

On the Sunday, everyone arrived ready to do battle. We were making a Chorizo sausage, an Andouille sausage and an Assyrian lamb sausage. We were outfitted with one large hand crank meat grinder with a sausage stuffing attachment as well as a  meat grinder and sausage stuffing attachments for a Kitchen Aid mixer.

In head to head comparison we found the Kitchen Aid meat grinder worked faster and more easily than the old fashioned meat grinder but in the sausage stuffing old fashioned was way faster and easier. As I mentioned before we ended up being short about 10-15 feet of casing so made meatballs with the remainder.

This #@$% Thing Doesn't Work


The recipes:

 Chorizo Sausage (based on a recipe at

2.5 lbs coarse ground pork butt
2.5 lbs coarse ground chuck
1 cup cold white wine
3 Tbsp spanish paprika
2 Tbsp salt
3 Tbsp fresh minced garlic
2 Tbsp cayenne
1 Tbsp cumin
1 Tbsp dried oregano
1 Tbsp freshly ground black pepper

Combine all, mix well & stuff into hog casing
Andouille Sausage (based on a recipe at

2 lbs finely ground boneless, skinless turkey breast
2 lbs finely ground boneless, skinless chicken breast
2 lbs finely ground pork loin
2 Tbsp browning-and seasoning sauce
1 Tbsp salt
1 Tbsp pepper
1 Tbsp rubbed sage
1 Tbsp ground marjoram
1 Tbsp dried thyme
1 tsp ground bay leaves
2 Tbsp minced garlic
½ cup dry white wine

Combine all, mix well & stuff into hog casing

Assyrian Lamb Sausage

5 lbs coarsely ground lamb shoulder
½ cup pomegranate juice
3 Tbsp chopped fresh basil
1 Tbsp chopped fresh rosemary
2 Tbsp minced garlic
1 Tbsp salt
1 Tbsp ground black pepper

Combine all, mix well & stuff into hog casing