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They say it takes a village to raise a child…

I say it takes a city to make a BLT from scratch…

Earlier this summer, I read about Michael Ruhlman’s challenge to make our own bacon, bread and mayonnaise and grow tomatoes and greens to make a BLT from scratch.

We started out just thinking about it:

We planted a tomato plant:

Bought a pork belly:

Prepared and cured bacon:

Basque pancetta:

and regular pancetta:

Smoked the bacon:

And were totally excited to find that it looked just like it is supposed to:

We Neil hung the pancettas to do their thing:

and we went on vacation to Laos.

When we got back from our trip, we were concerned to find our tomatoes still green:

But slowly they ripened. Thank goodness other people were having the same trouble and Michael Ruhlman extended the deadline for submitting entries for the BLT challenge.

Friends across the city promised us arugula from their garden in exchange for a taste of the bacon from scratch:

Whilst other friends counted their meagre tomato crops and offered to help us out:

We figured if we sliced them very finely, there would be enough to go around:

We were excited to find our pancetta looked pretty darned amazing (if we do say so ourselves!):

I made mayonnaise from scratch for the first time (can’t believe how easy this is and am wondering why I haven’t tried it before!):

Then, there was the saga of the bread. I really tried…

a number of times…

Finally, with less than a week to go before our big “BLT reveal” dinner (for – gulp! – about 20 people!), I made the “Bread 911″ call to a very good friend who also happens to bake very good bread:

And finally, some three and a half months after we embarked upon the challenge and with a lot of help from our friends, we hosted the GTA (Greater Toronto Area) BLT dinner.

Some people enjoyed their BLT open-faced:

Some made tasting plates:

Some people enjoyed the mayonnaise. A lot:

And others just enjoyed, well… everything. A lot:

(we call this the face of BLT ecstasy)

Finally, the host’s plate (this event would never have taken place without Neil’s enthusiastic embrace of the meat curing process so cheers!):

And mine:

Verdict? The flavours of homemade food are definitely more “real” and intense, the colours are much brighter and the ramshackle look of Mother Nature’s contributions lent an air of clumsy elegance to the meal.

But the most fun part was definitely the fact that after months of anticipation, worrying about our little tomatoes, wondering if the meat was going to taste how it was supposed to, enlisting friends’ help and food contributions, our dinner really did come together. And you truly couldn’t get more local. Would we do it again? For sure. Who’s in?


(PS: You can read about the whole process from the start in these posts)

(PPS: This dinner was also our contribution to this week’s Keep it Local challenge dinner)

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50 Responses to They say it takes a village to raise a child…

  1. Frank September 13, 2009 at 13:02 #

    Congrats! I admire your dedication. And the payoff must have been wonderful. :))

  2. Heather September 13, 2009 at 13:24 #

    Horray!! That looks great. Well done guys! I'm sorry I missed the fun…however, I'm feeling refreshed having slept from 9pm-8am. Ahhh.

  3. April Cavin September 13, 2009 at 15:10 #

    Congratulations! The pancetta looks wonderful–

  4. Neil C. Phillips September 13, 2009 at 15:15 #

    Welllllll…..

    Slight apologies for the rather overly-crisp bacon (Chef Kylie would NOT have been amused).

    But with all that glorious fat, and a barbie in need of a new burner (on back order so did not arrive in time today), the flames rather got out of control. (And our fireman friend reinforced the fact that he is a RETIRED fireman friend – so I was on my own!)

    But there you have it – a reason to do this all again next year. An investment in a proper smoker might be fun, as the bacon we had before this dinner was glorious too – and it really is not that difficult, and fairly inexpensive.

    We have one block of pancetta left, which is going into a pasta sauce – might wait a few weeks to see if we get any tomatoes from Plant #2. :-)

  5. Cathy September 13, 2009 at 17:19 #

    Woo hoo – looks good, even the meat bit!
    Do you say Arugula, I say rocket??

    My tomatoes are still green and could well end up in green tomato chutney at this rate.

  6. eatlivetravelwrite September 13, 2009 at 17:23 #

    Frank – Yes – very rewarding!

    Heather – I think the baby needs some bacon..

    April – Thanks!

    Neil – Plant # 2 has flowers – does that count???

    Cathy – wow, if even YOU think the meat looks good… And yes, it's rocket for all other countries in the English speaking world! Green tomato chutney sounds great!

  7. Simply Life September 13, 2009 at 19:56 #

    Wow, I am soooo impressed that you did ALL of that! very impressive and I'm sure you'll have a whole new appreciation for BLT's forever! :)

  8. traveleatlove September 13, 2009 at 20:25 #

    What a fun meal. . . I love all that went into it! I want to attend your dinners :)

  9. eatlivetravelwrite September 13, 2009 at 20:35 #

    traveleatlove – yes it was a lot of work, some likened it to giving birth!

    SimplyLife – I won't be able to eat store bought bacon for a while, that's for sure!

  10. Janis September 13, 2009 at 20:43 #

    Beautiful! Good job.

  11. Eat Blog Sleep September 13, 2009 at 21:06 #

    That looks amazing! I can't believe what a fantastic job you guys did with the pancetta … it looks absolutely delectable. My mouth is watering as I type this. Great job guys!

  12. eatlivetravelwrite September 13, 2009 at 21:17 #

    Janis – thanks!
    EBS – cheers and yes, Mr Neil Amateur Butcher did a great job with the pork.

  13. penny aka jeroxie September 13, 2009 at 21:24 #

    I am in for it. Summer is round the corner. I love making bread and I should be able to cure some bacon. Looks like so much food. I am excited now!

  14. eatlivetravelwrite September 13, 2009 at 21:28 #

    Penny – get Ruhlman's book – it's awesome!

  15. MenuManiac September 13, 2009 at 21:45 #

    Out-freaking-standing. The pancetta and bacon look divine. F*ck, the whole meal looks divine. I feel very inspired.

  16. Anonymous September 13, 2009 at 22:46 #

    It was ultimate heaven for me, being a lover of the BLT. I'm afraid my lowly packaged bacon will sit unopened in the fridge for a while as I do not want to spoil the lingering memory of homemade.

  17. eatlivetravelwrite September 13, 2009 at 22:52 #

    Menu Maniac – it was pretty divine, yes!

    Anonymous – I can't think who you might be but thanks – we're flattered!

  18. Conor @ HoldtheBeef September 13, 2009 at 23:32 #

    Hooray for you! Congratulations! I was wondering how the bread making was coming along… thanks god for talented friends eh?

    It all gets me very excited that spring is finally here and soon I'll be growing my own tasty tomatoes, woo! Not sure about making my own pancetta, but you never know.

  19. eatlivetravelwrite September 13, 2009 at 23:33 #

    Conor – I wish you a drier spring/summer than we have had this year!

  20. Jen @ My Kitchen Addiction September 14, 2009 at 02:23 #

    Wow – I am so impressed! I have never tackled homemade bacon or pancetta, but I'm thinking I might have to give it a try soon!

  21. Natalie September 14, 2009 at 02:33 #

    What a challenge! Everything looks so great, especially that bacon! The mayonnaise looks like its the perfect consistency as well. What a great job, I would feel so accomplished after serving this to 20 people!!

  22. CheapAppetite September 14, 2009 at 06:17 #

    This is really BLT from scratch. I love the blt ectasy photo. lol.

  23. PAM.XXX September 14, 2009 at 07:29 #

    Congratulations Mardi,Neil and all the foodies that made the event such a spectacular success. What's next?

  24. mathildescuisine September 14, 2009 at 08:24 #

    it seems to have been a long process but your BLT looks absolutely amazing

  25. eatlivetravelwrite September 14, 2009 at 12:49 #

    Jen – thanks. It's not as hard as it sounds!

    Natalie – accomplished? yes. Tired? Exhausted!

    CheapAppetite – we loved the pic too!

    Pam – is that you mum? Not sure what's next!

    Mathilde – a lesson in patience, to be sure!

  26. 5 Star Foodie September 14, 2009 at 13:48 #

    Congratulations on completing this BLT challenge! How awesome that you made everything from scratch! I would love to taste this sandwich, I bet it tasted especially good for you after all this hard work!

  27. Cathy September 14, 2009 at 13:50 #

    Wow, am I impressed! Your homemade pancetta looks perfect, everything about the BLT is perfect. What a great experience to make it all.

  28. eatlivetravelwrite September 14, 2009 at 14:34 #

    5 star – thanks yes it did taste special!

    Cathy – yes – we were most impressed with the pancetta and how lovely it looked!

  29. haya September 14, 2009 at 15:29 #

    wow!!! fantastic

    i've heard that once you make your own bacon, you will never go back. i need to learn more about meat. and also find a pig belly source ;-)

  30. eatlivetravelwrite September 14, 2009 at 15:34 #

    Thanks Haya – Cumbrae or Rowe Farms would probably be able to help you out…

  31. My Man's Belly September 14, 2009 at 17:11 #

    Congratulations! I'm glad to see your tomatoes finally came around for you – I was sending good tomato growing vibes.

    I have not forgotten about sending you my bacon recipes that I promised.

  32. Sophie September 14, 2009 at 17:25 #

    what a fantastic post!! Good for you!!

  33. tastyeatsathome September 14, 2009 at 17:34 #

    So awesome that you embarked on this challenge! I just thought about it. That was all. And your bacon and pancetta look amazing! Job well done!

  34. eatlivetravelwrite September 14, 2009 at 18:24 #

    My Man's Belly – thanks for sending the vibes, they worked!

    Sophie – thanks!

    TastyEats – I am glad we did the challenge too and think we might do something similar for next summer!

  35. Maria at Fresh Eats September 14, 2009 at 21:53 #

    Oh, it all looks so good. SO good. I can't imagine how wonderful homemade pancetta must be, but I'm about swooning thinking about it. Love that you took the Ruhlman challenge and rocked it – way to go!

  36. eatlivetravelwrite September 14, 2009 at 21:54 #

    Thanks Maria – I feel we really did "rock it" but I am sure there were others out there in cyberspace who did too – I can't wait to see the results sometime soon!

  37. PAM.XXX September 15, 2009 at 02:33 #

    YES, IT'S ME! P.

  38. Kate at Serendipity September 15, 2009 at 08:42 #

    Oh, Man! Does this look good! This has to be my all time favorite sandwich. I´ve made bread and mayo, but I have never cured my own bacon. Thanks for posting this.

    yeah, now I have drool all over the keyboard…

  39. eatlivetravelwrite September 15, 2009 at 16:12 #

    Thanks Kate! (sorry about the drool on your keyboard!)

  40. Short and Bald September 15, 2009 at 17:21 #

    fantastic, great job! i love the face of "BLT ecstasy"

  41. eatlivetravelwrite September 15, 2009 at 18:21 #

    We all loved the face of BLT ecstasy!!!!

  42. High/Low Food/Drink September 16, 2009 at 20:47 #

    Your pancetta looks fantastic! We would definitely join you for dinner – unfortunately we won't be back in T.O. until Christmas! how about Christmas ham? =)

  43. eatlivetravelwrite September 16, 2009 at 21:02 #

    Hmmm… Christmas ham – there's an idea High/Low!

  44. Helen September 19, 2009 at 16:00 #

    This is brilliant! I can't believe I didn't know about it – I totally would have got involved and I'm already growing my own tomatoes anyway. I've always wanted to try curing my own bacon. I think the time might have finally arrived.

  45. eatlivetravelwrite September 19, 2009 at 17:27 #

    Helen – it's much easier than you think!! Go for it!

  46. Jennifer S September 19, 2009 at 19:29 #

    Your pancetta is gorgeous, too! :) Wasn't this challenge fun? Much nicer pictures too. I love the BLT Ecstasy shot. :)

    Jennifer S

  47. eatlivetravelwrite September 19, 2009 at 19:40 #

    Jennifer – Ah but I didn't get an email from Michael Ruhlman telling me I had gorgeous pancetta…

  48. The Best Family October 13, 2009 at 03:42 #

    congratulations on such a successful blt challenge! it all looks gorgeous and i am once again saddened that we live so far away and couldn't be there for the fun. i'd have definitely liked to have gotten to know george. ;)

  49. Katja October 17, 2009 at 05:30 #

    Mardi, That looks like fun! It reminds me of making (hanging) peking duck when I was in collage on the rez in South Dakota.
    There is a place here called the Inn at Snoqualime Falls that has a blt made with a whole pound of bacon! I bet a little of the homemade bacon would have better bang for the buck from those photos!
    Andrea

  50. Mardi @eatlivetravelwrite October 17, 2009 at 11:56 #

    Katja – yes it was a lot of fun! Making your own Peking duck though sounds intriguing!!! In a college rez, no less!!! A BLT with a whole pound of bacon – I don't know I could handle that!

    Best Family – You never know, we might organise some home-cured bacon for next spring's reunion!!

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