Regis University Goes Whole Hog

Executive Chef John Dirks and Catering Chef Ryan McTighe making Italian sausage at VMware

Submitted By TeaJae Goltz, Express Grab and Go Prep Cook

One mark of a chef is knowing what to do when a whole pig is delivered to your kitchen. After breaking everything down into primals, the chefs at Regis University in Denver, CO, decided to try their hands at making house cured ham from the leg and bacon from the belly.

The bacon was made from pork belly rubbed with a wet mix of pure maple syrup, kosher salt, and curing salt, and allowed to sit for about a week, refrigerated. It took some tending, though, as it needed to be flipped every other day. After its maple syrup and salt bath, the belly was rinsed and left to soak in plain water to prevent excess saltiness. After another week, the meat was hung in front of fans set up in the walk-in refrigerator. This step allows the meat to dry out and creates the pellicle, a film on the meat that helps the smoke adhere. One week more, and it was time to smoke the (almost) bacon. Using a combination of apple,maple, and peach woods, the chefs cold smoked the bacon for two to four hours. At that point, it was ready to slice and fry.

For the ham, the bone-in leg was first soaked in a pickling liquid of kosher salt, curing salt, bay leaves,mustard seed, peppercorns, sage, garlic, and onions. Some of the liquid was also injected into the meat to speed up the process. After a week in the curing liquid, the ham was washed and hung to dry in the walk-in refrigerator. Then it was smoked using the same process and wood as the bacon, but for six to eight hours. After that, it was ready to cook.

The house-cured meats were well received by students who were excited to try bacon and ham made from local pork. Next time you find yourself with an entire pig on its way to you, don’t get nervous; just call the chefs at Regis University!