Table View: a video call hack

During the first virtual Cardstock meetup on Friday, we (the collective group) mentioned we’d play around with different ways of making the ‘card method’ work for us all online, and report back. I was going to find this, a prototype made from an Ikea desk lamp and a webcam, from five years ago, and see if I could get it working again.

One day later, after our friends suggested finding a way to play a board game with our two families over a video call, I dusted it down, and it was very effective in setting up a game of Diamant across our two houses.

I’ve upgraded it a bit.

A better Logitech 1080p webcam, and now attached with a Joby GorillaPod to the main desk lamp piece, means a sharper, higher-res image with more flexibility in positioning and set up.

And running through the laptop (with sound off and mic muted) as one call into whereby, and then using an iPad as the device for the main room camera, means everyone can see and hear you, as well as the muted feed that shows you the table.

Home Cured Bacon

No, not the usual kind of Smithery post… but these are strange times, no? Helen and the kids bought me a bacon curing course for my birthday a few years back, and since then I have regularly made some bacon we’re feeding lots of people (Christmas, half-terms, camping trips, etc). I offered to share the recipe on twitter, and so a few folks put their hands up. Here you go…

WHAT YOU’LL NEED

Cure mix 

There are various types of bacon cure you can buy online – try:

https://www.weschenfelder.co.uk/bacon-curing/curing-salts/supracure-dry-cured-bacon.html

…which is a 5% cure, meaning for a 1kg piece of pork, you will use 50g of cure (5%)

Different cures have different ratios – ALWAYS follow the instructions that comes with a specific cure mix.

Flavouring

When you combine other ingredients with the cure to make a rub, what happens is that the meat will be gently flavoured with the other ingredients, as the cure begins to replace the water inside the meat. This is my standard recipe that produces a tasty bacon that doesn’t need smoking – you need allspice, rosemary, black pepper and sugar. But do search online for other ideas.

Pork

Either use pork loin to make back bacon, or belly to make streaky bacon. Get the meat deboned by the butcher before you start, or just buy a piece without bones.

If you can include the bones when you’re curing, in order to get bacon bones for making stock for soup. If you do this, then the meat weight includes the bones when you calculate the amount of cure to use. You can leave the skin on in order to have a rind. If you do, make sure to take a sharp knife and pierce through the skin into the meat in various places, to ensure the cure penetrates well.

Two large ziplock plastic bags

Some folk have vacuum packing machines at home already, but I’ve never found the need for one for bacon.

METHOD

1. Prepare the mix for the rub

Combine the curing salt, sugar, allspice, rosemary and pepper in a bowl, and mix round. The amounts are dependent on the weight of your meat. As a general rule…

1 kg pork
50g of 5% cure (e.g. 5% as the name suggests)
20g sugar (unrefined granulated sugar, brown or Demerara sugar)
4g allspice
4g freshly chopped rosemary leaves

A pinch (0.5g) of crushed black peppercorns

2. Rub the mix all over the pork

First, place the pork in a large ziplock plastic bag. Then tip some mix in on one side of the meat, and rub it in throughly all over. Turn the bag over, and rub it in on the other side of meat, and down the sides. By the end, all the mix should be in the bag with the meat, and you can seal it up, getting as much air out as possible. I then put that bag in a second ziplock bag too, and get the air out again.

3. Cure for 4-7 days

In the bag after the first day or so, you start to see a watery brine forming in the bag, as the water is replaced in the meat. Keep turning the bag over every day or so, and give the meat a little massage when you do – it means the cure will distribute evenly. Don’t empty the brine out of the bag. The longer you leave the meat to cure, the saltier it will become – my personal preference is a 4 or 5 day cure.

4. Rinse and dry

Finally, open the ziplock bags and empty the brine out into the sink. Take the meat out and give it a really good rinse under the tap, or place in a sink of cold water. Pat it dry with a tea-towel all over (you’ll probably need two tea towels). Place on a chopping board covered in baking parchment, and leave in the fridge for another couple of days.

Then, just slice rashers off with a long sharp knife when needed. A good trick is to use a second, thick chopping board over the top of the bacon, and slide you knife blade down the edge of it as you cut the bacon below.

If you cured the bones too, just rinse them off too, and make a stock but putting the bacon bones in a large soup pan of water with a few roughly chopped vegetables and maybe a bay leaf. Makes an excellent stock for a pea soup.

And there we go, home cured bacon. It will keep like this, unwrapped, for a good few weeks in the fridge. If you get to the end, and it’s becoming hard to slice, just chop into small pancetta style pieces to add to other dishes.

28 Days Later

It’s hard to know whether London is quieter this weekend, or just feels quieter.

A new chapter for “Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds” no doubt.

Interesting to note how quickly a poster information campaign can be everywhere though. The last mass media format.

via Flickr https://flic.kr/p/2iBJqqb

Plant-Based Lifeforms

There’s something quite Hitch-Hiker’s Guide To The Galaxy about the phrase ‘plant-based’ – echoes of the description of humans as ‘carbon-based lifeforms’.

If it persists as a phrase, ‘based’ is a term that might end up doing a *lot* of heavy lifting, in the same way that ‘craft’ does in beer.

via Flickr https://flic.kr/p/2ix52Py

Startup Prontoprint

Kinda interesting – positioning itself as a walk-in creative studio, where you pay by marketing services by the hour. “Marketing for all” they say on the website. Which is also possibly just flipping round the standard printshop model, where if you wanted the poster, they had someone on site who’d design it for you too.

via Flickr https://flic.kr/p/2ivqu6L

A blacksmith makes their own tools

This week, I gave a talk (with a little bit of workshopping) as part of the third module of IPA Excellence Diploma. This was a course I did back in 2007/8, and without doing it, I probably wouldn’t be doing what I do now, and definitely wouldn’t be thinking about things in the way I do.

It’s never a substitute, but people have asked if I’d be sharing the slides, so here you go. Just imagine that when you get to the ones that make no sense, I am in front of you saying something really profound. Ignore that pesky internal voice of yours that questions that how likely that would be, and just go with it…

It was an honour to be invited back by Amelia and Sera from The Fawnbrake Collective, who have taken over and reimagine dates course for the 2020s. Yet it feels like a gift, because being asked to reflect on 12 years of making / thinking and spot patterns in your own process has given me a view of my own work I’d never have seen otherwise. We alway look at the mountains ahead, rather than the hills behind.

The title of course comes from Dan Dennett’s 2013 book, Intuition Pumps and Other Tools For Thinking, and quite clearly I’m still a sucker for anything that extends the blacksmith metaphor…