The Swineapple and Culinary ExperimentationOriginally published on 6/17/2015
Over the last 2 weeks, if you have the slightest interest in BBQ or even just bacon, you probably saw this image make the rounds on social media.
At least half of the times I saw it, the person passing it along suggested I should give it a shot. That's actually pretty awesome because it indicates how many people know that I actually do like that kind of stuff.
So, on Saturday, I gave it a shot. But, I can't just do things as designed, ever. I made a few changes to the construction on some hunches and made a second one. Based on the lessons of that 2nd one, I'll include what I believe to be a 3rd, better design.
Anyway, on to the details. Based on the photo, I aimed to replicate it as-is as best I could, though I didn't keep it handy and worked from memory, so, probably not accurately.
I started with a single pineapple, some country "ribs" (country ribs are actually strips of pork shoulder and have nothing whatsoever to do with actual ribs) and some bacon.
I took the top off the pineapple (first divergence from the original), cored it out with a melon baller, sliced the outer bits off and took the bottom off to end up with a pineapple cylinder.
I coated some chunks of country rib in BBQ rub (this recipe, plus some mustard powder). and, after the pineapple broke open a bit, made a bundle as best I could.
I then wrapped that in bacon, putting toothpicks in to hold things in place.
And wrapped in the other direction to completely surround it.
That completed the first one, matching relatively close to what I saw in the picture.
For a second one, I went with more of a "layers" approach rather than a "loaf". I put bacon on the bottom, then a layer of pineapple wedges, then a layer of country ribs.
And I wrapped that in bacon too. The original is on the right and the v2 on the left.
I put everything, including the extra country ribs I had, in the smoker.
Then I took a break and waited.
They were in the smoker for about 7 hours or so and came out when they looked like this.
I sliced each open to see the results (and made a bit of a mess, sorry). On the left is the original and the v2 on the right. The one on the left, the pork is a bit gray, the pineapple a bit mushy, and the whole thing a bit too wet. On the right, the pork got a smoke ring (that pink tinge is smoke, not undercooking) which means more smoke flavor.
But, the one on the right also carried a little extra surprise. The bacon on the bottom of that one actually completely disintegrated, exposing the pineapple to the heat. And, it caramelized into this amazing result.
Here are the lessons I take away from this experiment.
- What makes this taste good is: the crispy bacon, the caramelized pineapple, the pork shoulder and the smoke.
- Given that, more surface area covered in bacon would be better.
- Also given that, the pineapple should be exposed to heat.
Overall, this reflects my experience with other BBQ items that are "loaf-like". They seem like a really great idea, but they actually are sub-optimal given the very idea they're pursuing. You almost always benefit in these kinds of combinations when you go with more, smaller items.
So, my suggestion for anyone who wants to try this would be this approach instead: individual appetizer servings.
- A piece of pineapple on the bottom
- A piece of pork shoulder or pork loin (the cooking would go faster and still get the smoke flavor because of the surface/mass ratio being better than the original).
- Wrap the bacon *around* the stack, leaving the pineapple exposed on the bottom.
- Toothpick from the side to hold together and maybe one from the top too.
- Add items like jalapeno peppers or mushrooms to the stack if that's your thing
The net result is almost certainly something that lines up better with what you're imagining the taste of when you see the original. Or, maybe I just screwed it up. Who knows?