I recently saw a tweet go by for “Sichuan Bacon.” Hold the phone. Click. It was from Hank Shaw author & blogger of Hunter Angler Gardener Cook, who’s site I just love to follow. What a fabulous idea. I had just purchased a few ounces of Sichuan peppercorns, so the tweet was clearly a sign of planetary alignment. Last year while participating in Charcutepalooza, I honed my curing skills, particularly on bacon and ham. And while I had no pork belly in the fridge, I did have a lovely pork loin from my butcher. Why not change it up and make a Sichuan-style brined version of Canadian Bacon, with a little inspiration from pastrami? Talk about your charcuterie mashups.
I started by creating a spice combination for the curing brine, adjusting for the smaller size of my pork loin. Sichuan peppercorns have an amazing fruity, almost floral, aroma that I wanted to feature prominently in the flavor profile. I further enhanced it with warm Chinese flavors like star anise, coriander, ginger, garlic and dry sherry, then added the warm spice notes of cinnamon and cloves. A little honey took the edge off the harshness of the salt. The finishing touch was a coating of toasted, crushed Sichuan peppercorns and coriander seeds. This was coated on the pork loin just before smoking it in exactly the same manor you would black pepper and coriander before smoking corned beef into pastrami. This gives the bacon a great texture and extra punch of the Sichuan peppercorn flavor.