“Quick disclaimer,” says butcher Brent Young in front of a stack of signature blue and yellow Spam cans. “Do not try this at home!”
Ben Turley and Brent Young, of Brooklyn’s the Meat Hook, take on a new experiment in this episode of Prime Time: making their own Spam. But, as they explain, “canning is incredibly dangerous, and the USDA takes it incredibly seriously.” So leave this one to the meat experts, and simply enjoy their process.
They open a can of Spam to start with a taste and texture test, and check out a list of the ingredients. They believe using pork shoulder and pieces of ham can get them close to the taste and texture of the original. They grind cubes of each along with ice, to help the meat bind, to get their mixture. Next, they add salt, sugar, pink curing salt, and sodium tripolyphosphate. Each of these ingredients serves an important purpose, whether it’s to help bind the meat, flavor it, to prevent rancidity, or to keep out botulism spores.
Next comes the canning. Ben and Brent fill five ounce, self-seal cans, with their meat mixture. They bring out a pressure canner (not a pressure cooker, which would be dangerous to use since there is no temperature gage, as Brent clarifies), and add their cans, along with boiling water, to the base. They seal it up and turn on the pressure, and explain that when the canner reads 240-250 PSI, the bacteria that creates botulism will die. They leave the meat in the canner for 60 minutes.
Once the cans have cooled, they open them up to see the results. The two versions look similar to each other, but when they fry them up to compare and contrast, it seems as though the original Spam caramelized much better. “I feel like there’s more sugar in theirs” concludes Brent. “I think we went the long way round to create a breakfast sausage,” says Brent after giving their version a taste. “We’re still nowhere near the salt,” adds Ben. The two give themselves a B to B minus letter grade for their experiment.
“I have to say, I have a whole new appreciation for what Spam is,” says Brent. “This is a really cool thing we created, but it definitely doesn’t compare to Spam.” Ben’s ultimate takeaway: “Spam is Spam, and everything else is something else.”