By Greg B. Part of being a man is trying new and potentially stupid ideas (sometimes involving bacon) that may workout, and if the do, the idea becomes awesome. However, the success rate on such things is rather low. Once in college my friend Mike and I ate egg sandwiches, each sandwich contains 12 eggs. Great idea, but I’m pretty sure I almost died that afternoon. Anyway, in this post I’m going to tell you about another dangerously stupid idea. I don’t know how the idea of making a bacon pinata came into my head, but it occurred to me sometime in early May of 2009. I figured it would be a great accompaniment for the July 4th pig roast, or at least be something extremely silly and entertaining to post on the website. Turns out, it was dangerous (awesome!), but the outcome was less than perfect. Next time.
In order to make a bacon pinata my way, I needed to drop by a hardware store. Now, In my head I thought I could find some very wide spaced chicken wire or fencing to use as part of the form for the body, or at very least find some steel wire of a rather thick gauge that I could use. It turns out that Home Depot had a lot less of the materials to make a bacon pinata than I hoped. However, I did find a few things I needed. My initial intent was to make an empty pinata, and then stuff it with various meat treats, pepperoni, bacon wrapped sausages, sausages, meatballs, etc. I was even going to wrap them all up individually inside wax paper to keep them from getting dirty after they break free of their bacon-y prison. le sigh.
Material for Pinata frame:
- many feet of wire – I found galvanized steel wire, though it was the only wire in Home Depot that was remotely usable, and the gauge was rather fine (16) , but we made it usable.
- A thicker piece of metal rod to use as a ‘backbone’ for the pinata – This will be used not only to support the weight and the metal/bacon on the pinata, but to hang the pinata later, so it needs to be strong.
- A slightly thinner piece of metal rod – I used this for the legs and the basis for the head
- some kind of a hook – I used these little circular steel rings I saw in the hardware section. I made sure to put one of these on the ‘backbone’ before wiring up the rest of the animal, so it could be hooked up at the very end to a string for pinata smashing purposes
From here, I essentially made the backbone and the front/hind legs from the two main thicker metal rods (being sure to add the metal ring before closing off the backbone rod!).
Next, we strung the thinner metal wire around for a rib-cage type deal, giving ourselves some extra wire which we cut later as the pig really took shape. Gabi went ahead and made a little curly tail with the wire which we would later cover in bacon.
After this, I went ahead and made the circular back of the head for the pig, while then fastening a frame for the ‘face’ out of the 16 gauge wire, as well as the ears.
The next step, obviously, involves bacon! I purchased 20lbs from BJ’s wholesale, and ended up using 10lbs on this pinata.
While I unwrapped the bacon and pulled myself away from staring at the mountain of bacony goodness before me, Gabi went ahead and fixed the wire for the ‘rib-cage’ to the backbone using aluminum foil. This was movable, or slidable, but it also was pretty sturdy, and sturdy enough for us to begin affixing bacon to the beast.
Before going ahead and covering this animal in bacon, it’s important to note a few things. First, I bought two kinds of bacon, normal regular bacon (4lbs) and another bacon which was thicker cut (6lbs, not all shown). My intention was to be able to use the thinner bacon to cover holes, gaps, and for general bacon pinata coverage, while using the thicker cut bacon for any kind of ‘support’ or heavier tasks. However, since the bacon from BJ’s was mostly fat anyway, these goals turns out to be moot, so I just went ahead with the baconing.
I started by covering the ‘underbelly’ of the pinata from the inside with layers of bacon, working my way up the sides of the frame until the frame could not hold the bacon by friction alone. Then I worked from the top-down, making a layer of bacon right at the spine, then draping bacon down to meet the bottom half. I was sure to leave a trap door under the tail, where I could insert the meat treats when this was all said and done.
Yep. The bacon pinata, which we hoped would be a pig, came out looking A LOT like a Scottish terrier. Almost a dead ringer, actually.
It looks slightly better after I added a few more layers of bacon to make it ‘fatter’, as well as a bacon-weave mat on it’s back to give it some more girth. However, when dealing with the bacon I was always sure to let the metal ring poke through, so it wouldn’t be lost later.
And voila! Here is the raw bacon pinata. Now the question is, how to cook it?
Cooking this much bacon all at once is dangerous. I thought about doing a very low heat temp in the oven for a long time, and basically ‘sweating’ the fat off the pinata, collecting it and just watching the drippings as best I could. But after a short time, I decided that this was probably going to burn the house down… I just didn’t want to take the risk of having a fire in my oven, especially since an oven only has one way in and out, so removing a burning bacon pinata from an oven means putting your face/hands/body in the fire…. So, I opted for the grill.
Now this is not the best way to go about making something of this nature. I didn’t want a really intense heat, so I tried my best to make a fire on one side of the grill, and have a few coals towards the other side just to keep the pinata warm, again hoping to cook it slowly for a long time and sweat off some of that fat and to crisp it. I turned the airflow on the bottom very low, and most of the top of the grill was covered with a flat baking sheet, on which the bacon pinata stood….
I think this picture says it all. Within a few short minutes, the bacon fat was dripping, almost pouring off the sheet and into the grill, where it was smoking…. and then burning…. and then burning more bacon fat, and then more and more
As you can see, it rapidly got out of hand. We stopped taking pictures because Gabi went inside to get a wet towel, and I was trying to find a way to remove this heavy and clumsy thing from the heat source. In that short time, the height of the fire more than tripled (I’m not kidding), the inside of the bacon pinata caught fire, so whenever the heat came into contact with oxygen in the small gaps in the bacon, flames were sputtering out, and its ass had an almost constant stream of smoke and fire shooting out.
So right about that time, I decided to make an executive decision and push the bacon off the heat source. I could hardly get near it, even with the long grilling tools to do so, as the fire was so hot, but I managed to shove it off into the grass and it immediately smothered itself and became a smoking pile of mostly raw bacon, with some burnt crispy edges.
What went wrong & How to fix it.
Ok, so the heat was obviously too hot, and the bacon too fatty, and the tools for the job lacking. BUT, I do think this is a possible endeavour. Before starting, Gabi and I had thought about pre-cooking the bacon. Not a lot, just a little, to render out some of the fat but still leave it pliable. I opted not to do this since I only had limited number of pans and it would have taken hours. Well, I think that may be the key to getting this done. Alternatively, I think perhaps lining the frame with some other pork product, thin ham or ‘Canadian’ bacon, and giving the pig an outer skin of woven bacon might be the way to go. These are ideas that I want to explore and try in the future, though I am open to suggestions. Before the new years is in, I want to have achieved the status of Builder of Bacon Pinata! (hopefully not an effigy of a Scottish Terrier, but an actual pig this time!). And if any of you out there have ideas and suggestions, I’d be happy to hear them!
As for what happened to the extra 10lbs of bacon in my fridge. Well, 6lbs of it were consumed in the early morning of the pig roast, another 2 were eaten in various meals (posts will go up later), and I still have 2 lbs left. There’s something awesome about considering quantity of bacon in pounds, even tens of pounds. I may need to re-stock soon.