Then we decided to make a bacon that would reflect some Caribbean flavors and crushed several cloves of garlic and habanero chiles and added lime juice, molasses and other spices, as well as a healthy dose of dark rum.
I'd always used wood chips for smoking, but Purifoy prefers to use chunks because they burn longer. I've never trusted myself with a chain saw, so I got the logs split at a lumberyard and then spent a morning chopping it into 3- and 4-inch pieces at a colleague's backyard, alternating between swinging an ax and fishing the chunks out of his bushes.
I turned the pork bellies, which were curing in bags in the fridge, every night. The day before we were scheduled to meet, I rinsed them off and let them dry.
We loaded several wood chunks, including a few pieces of my dead tree, into my smoker, along with a thermometer to make sure that it didn't get above 200 degrees.
The chunks, especially the larger ones that rested directly on the smoker's electric coils, seemed like a fire hazard to me. Sure enough, the backyard was filled with smoke a few minutes later and flames licked around the sides of the lid, turning the smoker black. The thermometer read a whopping 325 degrees.
"Stand back," Purifoy said, dousing the flames with water from the garden hose until the temperature fell.
We had visions of the pork bellies turning to jerky in the mini-inferno, but were relieved when we took out the bacon 31/2 hours later. The outside was almost chocolate brown, but the meat inside was pink and there was plenty of glistening fat. Best of all, the avocado flavor was obvious in all of the bacon.
People came over to try our experiment, helping us slice the bacon and bake it in the oven. Some said they couldn't detect any avocado wood. And those who did disagreed on exactly what it tasted like, with one person saying he thought the bacon had a nutty quality while another claimed he detected tannins.
The next day, I planted a new avocado sapling in the front yard and promised to take better care of it.
But while I was lightly watering my newest plant, I noticed that the leaves on our persimmon tree were looking kinda brown …