Apr 112019
 

The Call for Speakers for PASS Summit 2019 has just closed, and now the Program Committee will begin the task of evaluating speakers and sessions and using those results to build a schedule.

It’s not easy.

Really, it’s not. I’ve served on the Program Committee numerous times and there’s a lot of effort that goes into building that schedule. There are also many difficult decisions made, and many great sessions that there just isn’t a timeslot for because they were pre-empted by an even better or more timely topic.

These unfortunate facts got me thinking about topics that will probably never again be presented at PASS Summit or other major conferences.

Log Shipping

Log Shipping is the 1994 Toyota Camry of SQL Server. It’s not new or sexy, but it’s extremely reliable and can be a very simple way to implement disaster recovery, especially for smaller shops without a lot of resources. It doesn’t require Enterprise Edition, and works in every version* of SQL Server. As an added bonus, it’s based on transaction log backup and restore technology, so there’s not much of a learning curve.

Policy-Based Management

Still an awesome book!

If you want to make sure your server(s) are configured in a certain way or abide by a specific set of requirements, Policy-Based Management is an incredible tool to help get you there. You can define lists of requirements, known as “policies”, and then go evaluate those policies against other SQL Servers. Regular reports of servers that don’t comply can be an incredible tool, and PBM makes this easy.

Database Mirroring

Yes, Database Mirroring has been deprecated is in maintenance mode. And with the introduction of Basic Availability Groups in SQL Server 2016 there’s a newer alternative. But I feel mirroring is still going to be around for quite a while because lots of environments depend on it.

Transactional Replication

Unlike mirroring, replication has not been deprecated, likely because it offers unique capabilities that no newer feature competes with. But it’s an old technology that hasn’t changed much recently. It can be difficult to set up, and a pain to fix if it breaks, but if you truly need it then nothing else will do.

So why aren’t conferences covering these topics?

Like I said above, I get it. There are many hard decisions to be made, and topics like I listed above are easily the first to head to the conference schedule chopping block for many reasons, including:

  • They’re old. The newest of the 4 features above is Policy-Based Management, and that was introduced in SQL Server 2008.
  • Many have been replaced by newer features.
  • They don’t work in the cloud. The only above feature that works in Azure SaaS is replication. Azure SQL Database can be a subscriber for transactional or snapshot replication, and Azure SQL Database Managed Instance supports transactional replication.

Why should conferences cover these topics?

To put it frankly, because users still depend on them! I just spent two years consulting for customers of widely-varying sizes, and for many of them, vendor software forbids usage of the cloud. Yes, it’s often stupid, and you can grumble all you like, but that’s the reality right now for lots of third-party software. Other clients were being held hostage on old (sometimes very old) versions of SQL Server. It stinks, because “newer” features of SQL Sever 2014 and later are still out of reach in many shops.

So a lot of the time, these “old” features are what a lot of environments are stuck with, and what a lot of people would benefit from learning about. So it’s a shame that conferences can’t dedicate just a little more time to topics that may not be new or flashy, but would likely make a big impact.

*These days, when I say “every version” I mean SQL Server 2005 or later

Sep 062017
 

by @WidowPage

Thank you so much for sticking with me but this is when the bacon gets really good!   I got this recipe from here.

Let’s start with a gratuitous pork belly photo.

It’s a nice piece of belly. It’s earned a bourbon cure. Use the following ingredients:

  • 1 cup of bourbon, divided
  • 1/2 cup Kosher salt
  • 2 tsp curing salt
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 Tbsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp garlic powder


Now the recipe calls for brushing the bourbon on the pork belly before combining it with the dry ingredients.  I don’t do that.  I pour ALL THE BOURBON into a ziplock bag, add the dry ingredients and put in the belly.  Like this:

 

Pro tip:  Double bag it or else you will end up with cure dripping all over your fridge.  It will make your fridge smell good, but it is messy.

Put the belly into your fridge for 7-10 days, flipping once a day.

Sep 042017
 

Thank you so much for sticking with me and following along on this process.  I’m really enjoying this project and I would especially like to thank Bob for allowing me to use his blog.

So let’s cure this piggy’s belly! I’ve cut it up into smaller pieces so we can try a couple of different cures.  I’m using a recipe out of Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn’s Charcuterie.  I love this book and even if you aren’t even going to cure meat, it’s great reading.  I also recommend their Whiskey-Glazed Smoked Chicken and their Smoked Scallops.  I’ve also made their chorizo and someday I will try their Canadian Bacon recipe.


As I posted yesterday, the first ingredient in any cure is the pink salt or Prague powder.  But then you get to add ingredients on top of that depending on the flavors you like.  Ruhlman’s recipe calls for the following ingredients per 5 lbs of pork belly:

  • 1/4 cup Kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons curing salt #1
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup

A word about the maple syrup.  The Crown maple syrup was on sale at the grocery store and I’m a sucker for bourbon barrel-aged products.  I don’t drink bourbon, but I love the flavor.  And this stuff is nectar.  If you get a chance to snag a bottle, do it. It’s not that much more expensive than ordinary maple syrup (which already costs a fortune).

My pork belly weights about 7 1/2 pounds so I adjusted accordingly.

These pork bellies came with the skin still attached.  You can slice it off now, but  I’ve found its easier to cut it off after it is cooked.

Mix all the ingredients and then slather on the belly.  Rub it in so it comes into contact with as much the surface as possible.

Then the belly goes into a plastic bag for the next week to 10 days.  I stock up on the 2-gallon plastic bags when they go on sale and use painter’s tape for notes.  Since I’ll be doing 4 more cures, it helps distinguish the different recipes once they go into my fridge.  Tomorrow, I’ll show you a recipe for pepper bacon.

Sep 022017
 

by @WidowPage

Before I show you the curing process, we need to talk about salt and how it turns pork belly into bacon.  Curing doesn’t happen without salt.  If you look back into the history of bacon, humans all over the world were packing pork belly into salt to preserve the meat.  The Chinese and Europeans started curing meat as early as 1500 BC.  According to the Pork Board of America, Hernando de Soto’s herd of 13 pigs sparked early conflicts with Native Americans who developed a fondness for the taste of pork.  His herd eventually grew to 700 hogs, not including those that were eaten or ran away to breed and become ancestors of today’s feral hogs in the Southeast.

While I don’t know the exact process de Soto’s contemporaries used to cure bacon, they had to have used salt.  Today, everyone uses pink salt or Prague Powder or Curing Salt #1.  Some might confuse it with Himalayan salt.  Don’t do that.  These are 2 different substances.

Both could be called pink salt, but only use curing salt for bacon.

Most Himalayan salt comes from Pakistan which means it should really be called Pakistan salt, but that doesn’t quite have the mystery or cache of Himalayan salt.  Thanks marketing team!  It is purer than table salt, but it is the impurities that give it its pink color.  Some people claim it has special health benefits, but I just find it tasty on baked red potatoes.

Curing salt was trademarked back in 1925 as Prague Powder by Karl Max Seiffert.  He turned around and sold his patent to Griffith Laboratories in 1934.  Here’s the super cool thing about this…I am not from Chicago but I lived here for more than 20 years and love Chicago’s history.  Griffith Laboratories was started in Chicago in the 1900s by a father and son who assumed ownership of a pharmacy.  The son backed out of attending agricultural school at U of Illinois and went Northwestern to study pharmacology.  Once he graduated, he and his father changed their company direction to “bring science to the food industry”.  They initially focused on bread and baking, but in 1934, they bought Seiffert’s patent and began distributing it across the country.  Griffith Labs still exists today as Griffith Foods and their global headquarters are in Alsip, Illinois.  You can buy Prague Power directly from them OR order it off Amazon.

Curing Salt #1

My curing salt came from Williams Sonoma.  When you buy curing salt for bacon, make sure you get Curing Salt #1.  Curing Salt #2 is meant for cuts of meat that cure for longer periods of time.  Think pastrami or ham.

Curing salt is also known as pink salt.  Manufacturers dye it this color to distinguish it from table salt.  Curing salt should NOT be consumed or used like table salt.  It contains 6.25% sodium nitrite which is what prevents the growth of botulism or the other icky things that grow in meat over time.  We will apply this salt to the pork bellies but will rinse it off once it does its job.  Do not use curing salt for any other purpose.

Tired of salt?  Fret not. Tomorrow’s post will be all about combining curing salt with other seasonings and getting on with the bacon process.  Lots of cool pictures and much fun.

Sep 012017
 

by @WidowPage

Yesterday as I muddled through a data reconciliation, my oldest daughter texted me “Your meat is here”.  My daughters aren’t really that interested in my bacon curing projects but they knew I had been waiting for 100 lbs of pork belly to arrive on my front porch.  My youngest even obliged me with a picture.  I couldn’t get home for another 3 hours and there was no way the girls would be able to carry that much weight into the house.  All I could do it count the minutes until I could get home and dig into the boxes.

I’ve worked for Morningstar for almost 11 years.  During that time, I’ve learned so much about markets, trading and economics.  Morningstar was founded in Chicago which, at one time, boasted of being the hog butcher to the world.  Frozen pork bellies were traded as a commodity on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange under the symbol PB (electronic symbol GPB) starting in 1961. There’s more info about commodity trading here.

 

3 of the pork bellies

If you are interested in following pork commodity information, Urner Barry Pork tweets a lot of market information under the handle of @UBpork.  Did you know there were $17.554 million of pork bellies in cold storage in July?  That sounds like a lot to me but this number signals an industry-wide shortage.  Urner Barry has the details which, even for a hobby baconista, are really fascinating.  They also cover egg, seafood and beef market trends.

Once I got home, I broke into the boxes and hauled the 4 frozen bellies into the houses individually.  Factory farm-raised hog bellies run around 18 lbs.  These bellies, raised on smaller farms with a little more care, ranged from 20-30 lbs apiece.  This was the biggest one (pictured to the right…underneath it is my 6-burner stovetop…just for reference) after I cut it up .  Once it was sliced into 4 pieces, the smallest piece weighed 7.3 lbs.

1 pork belly cut into 4 pieces

When these 4 pieces thaw, the next step is to apply a cure and let them sit for a week to 10 days.  I cut the belly up because over the next four posts, I am going to show you how to prep the following:

  • Maple-Cured Bacon
  • Red Wine-Cured Bacon (throwing in an experiment with port wine on this one)
  • Bourbon & Brown Sugar Bacon
  • Black Pepper Bacon

Stay with me folks.  If you like bacon, I hope these next few posts will convince you to start making your own.