Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christmas salami/salumi

The title infers some sort of special salame. I assure you there is no such thing. I had to cater an affair for Christmas eve. So, I was instructed by the "boss" to have a salame ready for Christmas. This should have been ready in time. Usually, I pull my salami at about 45%. This measured in at 41%. It felt a touch soft for me, but, it was crunchtime. For this salame, a finocchiona, I used the same ratios and same ingredients I use for my dry rub. 3.5% salt, 1.75% hot Calabrian pepper powder, .8% "wild mountains" fennel seed. This was my first attempt at using natural casings(besides N'duja). due to it's slight softness and color, there was an abhorrent comparison to pepperoni. In DE-fense of the OFF-ender. It does resemble the deplorable American pizzeria topping. It tastes great. Good heat, and a pleasant fennel backdrop. I can't wait until it hardens a bit more. One thing I noticed using large beef middles as opposed to collagen casings. With the collagen, the forcemeat always seems to have gaps in it. What I mean is, when sliced thinly, it has holes in it. Now, there has never been any mold issues with any of these gaps or holes in the forcemeat. It's just a slight imperfection affecting it's appearance. Well, first glance at this salame in the beef middle, and not a single gap in any of the forcemeat. If anything, I can say these were under stuffed, in anything. Needless to say, I may have stuffed my last salame in collagen. Anyone else had similar issues?
As for the Christmas "salumi." As I mentioned above, I was responsible for catering a soiree for roughly 30 people. As if that weren't enough, I was given instructions, again, by the "boss," to make some "interesting" meat to hang in the fridge. The quotes are used to illustrate an interesting point. This is the same lady who wanted to throw me out of the house for the unsightly second full size refrigerator in "her" kitchen. Apparently, it was now a conversation piece. I had just become a freak show. Don't think for one second I'm bothered by the implication............I filled it, gladly. But, on such short notice, my options were limited. As you can see in the pictures, nothing new or out of the ordinary. Luckily, I had a bresaola curing for 2 weeks, so, that was ready in time to hang. Pretty straightforward. Cured for 2 weeks, hung in a 90mm collagen casing. You also see the 2 jowls provided by my local butcher. Salt, sugar, pepper and thyme. Finally, you see the pancetta arrotolata. While walking past the same meat display I've walked past nearly 3 times a week for the past 2 years at a local gourmet store, I was struck by a glowing white beacon. That of a beautiful piece of pork belly. Half became ginger and sage bacon, the other half was rolled into arrotolata. Bear in mind, I almost exclusively go tesa these days. Particularly because it makes no difference taste wise. It also tears the shit out of my hands trying to tie it so goddamn tightly. However, The "boss" suggested that it would make for a better presentation. Arrotolata it would become. How convenient. There you have it..........the Christmas salumi freak show.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

N'duja sneak peek

I pulled one down last week, but, mowed through it before I was able to snap off a picture. So, without further ado, here it is. Yes, it IS as hot as it looks. It may be just a touch firmer than I would like. I didn't use a starter culture, but I did use cure #2. I went with .25% as the default percentage for #2. Perhaps next time I'll use a touch less. It's only been hanging for about 3 months. I say only because, traditionally it is dried for about a year. It tastes wonderfully. I upped Larbo's ante, over at This Little Piggy: N'duja and pushed to 25% total weight in pepper(both paste and dried), and it sure feels like it. I takes a couple seconds to ignite, but when it does, it doesn't disappoint. The funny thing about this salame is the more you eat the hotter it gets, while at the same time it tastes better and better. By the time I got through just a half of a small chub, I was red faced and trying not to breath through my mouth, as the air hitting the inside of my mouth was excruciating. May seem like a fool's call me foolish. I' ve never had an authentic N'duja, but, these ingredients are as authentic as they come, and I have to imagine that tastewise, it's pretty close.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Salame Pepato result

This thing took forever to dry. Hung this up on September 3. Only took it down last week. This long delay is what led me to believe my starter had gone bad. Alas, it has not. While still a touch soft in the middle, it is delicious and perfectly fine. Has anyone else come across this issue? I'd call it a problem, but, with the salame being fine, it could only be described as an unexpected delay. A delay worth waiting for, I might add. I was finally able to get a salame with the heat I've been looking for. It is not overwhelming either, as you may think. I used four different types or pepper for this guy. The Calabrian dried chile powder, crushed red pepper flakes, black pepper and white pepper. I think it made a difference, because you can really taste the different heats, as they occur in different parts of your palate. One of them does resound a bit and stick around for awhile. I suspect it is the Calabrian dried powder, as this usually hits late. Another fine salame destined for the holiday table.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Finished Coppa

There really isn't much to say about this that you can't tell from the picture. Yes, this is my first Coppa. But, I don't think I could have done any better. I pulled it down on 11/7. It was hung on 8/21, so, a bit longer than anticipated to dry out. I pulled it at 35% loss. It was perfect all the way through. No case hardening whatsoever. As far as taste, the same goes, fantastic. I think most of it has to do with the quality of the meat. If you read the Coppa post back in August, you'll see where I mentioned this is Berkshire pork, butchered for me as I watched. Sliced super thinly on a slicer, it literally melted in my mouth. Salty, soft, unctuous and porky. I can say without hesitation this is the best tasting salumi I've made to date. Only thing I'm bummed about is that I've already eaten half of it. This is to be repeated as soon as possible. I have to give credit and say thanks to Tom the butcher for such a wonderful piece of meat. You can find him at:

Friday, October 16, 2009

N'duja neurosis

Yep, time to give N'duja another go. Again, I went pretty straightforward. I had enough trouble last time with plain old meat and fat, never mind throwing in offal. Well, Larbo beat me to the punch this time, using ingredients I planned on using. (Please someone tell me how to make those nice little links, instead of these bush league links I keep posting.)
So, I ground up some pork shoulder along with some backfat through the course die. Then back through the fine die. One thing I have to mention, and I have to give credit where credit is due. I saw Chris Cosentino on "Chefs vs. City," making fresh sausage. He advocated the use of thin "strips" of the raw meat, as it will sort of thread through the grinder. I figured if a guy who pays his rent with salame does it that way, I have to at least give it a shot. I'll be god damned, worked wonderfully. For the strips that weren't overly frozen, I didn't even need the plunger. Once they grabbed in the grinder, they got dragged right through.............perfect.
1658 grams pork shoulder
414 grams backfat
62 grams kosher salt(3%)
5.2 grams cure #2(.25%)
4 grams dextrose
310 grams hot pepper paste
207 grams Calabrian dried hot chili powder
Not one to leave well enough alone, I had to do something different than Larbo, otherwise it would have been the exact same salame. I went above and beyond his big chili numbers. The 25% number is good benchmark for N'duja from what I've read. I went with 15% of the Calabrian hot pepper paste and 10% of the Calabrian dried chili powder. While measuring out the powder, I really did think it was overkill, but, whatever, that was my first instinct, so, 10% it was. I mixed it in the mixing bowl of the kitchen aid, it was little full, so some got spit out. A little aside regarding the paste, that shit stains, and stains, counter tops, utensils, etc. I took out a little piece to saute up. No sooner did that thing hit the pan and I was coughing my ass off. I was a little apprehensive to taste it. But, my fears were allayed when I bit into it. Don't get me wrong, it's friggin hot, but delicious. I'll take better pictures once it's been fermented, which I'm thinking on the order of 3 days.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Fresh lot of goodies

Pulled all these goodies out yesterday. On top is the speck belly, below which is the tesa, and finally guanciale. Right next to it is the salame pepato. You can see by the color of the speck belly, that is really doesn't look all that much like bacon. And, while it IS belly, it doesn't really taste all that much like bacon(strong smokiness aside). It is super rich and porky. One distinct difference. Now, I'll be the first to admit my knives need to be sharpened. But, they're not dull. I had a devil of a time trying to slice through this. The slicer, however, made short work of it, so, no biggie. It is very complex, and deeply smoky. The juniper really came through, as it was used both in the cure and for smoking. I should mention that this is not speck as you would find in the Alto Adige, seeing as how I only dried it for 8 weeks as opposed to the traditional 22. But, I can only go on what I've had in the past. This is in the right ballpark, regarding it's deep smokiness and color. This was certainly a worthwhile venture and definitely deserves another shot. As I've written, speck(correct me if I'm wrong) seems to be a preparation as opposed to just smoked prosciutto. I've seen it as loin and belly as well. I have a nice 5lb. piece of loin in the refrigerator as we speak, so, I have a feeling that'll be next.
The tesa and guanciale are the results of the post from August 11. Yes, I did leave them in for quite awhile past what I would normally. Based on the fact that this pork was more expensive and of a much higher quality than what I usually use, I wanted to optimize it's potential. They both were cured very conservatively, and it payed off. The guanciale is superb. Sweet and delicious, with a hint of juniper and a nice bite of thyme. The tesa, which I believe is Berkshire was treated as austerely, with salt, pepper, sugar, thyme. Playing it safe sometimes pays off. This is just plain old, tasty, unsmoked bacon.
The salame vexes me somewhat. I didn't do anything different outside it's flavoring ingredients. I left it to hang for an awful long time 6 weeks. Well, a long time for such a small casing(43mm). Weird that it is still a touch soft inside, I ate some and rehung it(that was yesterday, I'm still here). That's what's so odd. It shows it drying on the scale. I believe I dried it 50% loss, yet it remained soft. Like I write above, I did nothing different. Which leads me to believe the starter may be at fault. It is certainly cured, smells fine, tastes GREAT, just a bit soft. The other 43mm as well as the 60mm are still hanging. As far as the taste, I may have told you, it's GREAT! I finally packed enough pepper for it to hot enough for my liking. The Calabrian dried chilli powder really did it's job. As a side note, I just got my beef middles in the mail yesterday, paving the way for my next N'duja attempt, should be tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Look what I found!

Found this box of loveliness sitting at my front door. True to his word, Larbo made good on his promise. He asked me to ship some products which are difficult to find in most places. I had obliged. In return, I was to receive as payment an array of cured meats. You can see the HUGE vacuum sheet of pancetta(too much!). Along with a sample of his cocoa bacon, a nice generous package of pepper bacon. He also sent me some fresh mortadella(I must admit, I mowed through it in 2 days), as well as some pate'. He also included some BBQ pork shoulder fat and juices for exploratory purposes.
I destroyed that pepper bacon, I ate it every which way you could imagine. Even included it in a short rib braise. It is the best LOOKING bacon I've seen. Doesn't taste too bad either. ;) The cocoa bacon was surprising in that it had a hint of pleasant sweetness in the background that interfered with neither the smoke nor that rich, pork flavor. The mortadella is absolutely RIDICULOUS! Awesome, Larbo. I ate it by itself, cut it right out of the package. I've not yet gotten to the pate', as I'd like to include it in a hamburger patty as described by Larbo. As far as the pancetta, well, honestly, I enjoy looking at it too much to actually break open it's packaging. I may use it to wrap around a pork loin roast tonight! Larbo, I'm open for trade any time you like. As far as I'm concerned, you got robbed!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Pastrami follow-up

Sorry for the long delay in posting this. This is the pastrami, post steam. You can see how juicy it was. This was a home run. At first, I was hesitant to steam it at all. It tasted wonderfully frsh off the smoker. However, it was a bit tough and not easy to chew prior to steaming. The bath really mellowed out it's flavor perfectly and made it wonderfully tender, especially for sandwiches. This was quite a treat, it was devoured within a day. Highly recommended.

Friday, September 18, 2009


To those of you that read here, this is probably somewhat of a surprise. Yup, I ventured outside the box. I can't explain why either. I walked by the butcher at the supermarket as they were breaking down these briskets. They were brought out and looked pretty good, actually. So, I got a bug up my ass to make pastrami. Threw it in a brine based loosely on Ruhlman's. 3 days later, she was smoking. Now, I'm not real good at this smoking thing, other than hot smoking the bacon(which anyone can do). I smoked it on the Big Green Egg, which, by itself can present temperature control issues. I read Ruhlman says hot smoke at around 180 degrees. I was shooting for 200. I soaked a whole bunch of hickory to get the fire really good and smoky, and it was. Threw it on right at about 200 degrees.........perfect. However. I removed my T-bone(on the other grill) and went inside to eat, seeing that my temerature was fine, and there was ample smoke. Upon completion of my steak, I returned outside to find the Egg fired up to over 350 degrees. OOPS. Anyway, tinkered with it for the better part of an hour. Only able to get it down to 275, didn't want to play with it too much. Two hours into the process, I decided to probe it. Ruhlman says hot smoke to 150 degrees internal temprature. I figured 2 hours to be roughly halfway. Well, the probe told another story. I poked that poor hunk of meat in about 10 places to confirm I read correctly. My lowest reading was 175 degrees.......What the hell? I removed it and brought it in. The picture is what it looked like 10 minutes out of the smoke. I'm not sure if two hours is the right amount of time, as Ruhlman doesn't offer up any time estimates. But, two hours was enough time tonight to smoke a wonderfully flavored, perfectly cooked pastrami. It looks ok as well. I only just managed to drag myself away from it. But, not before I shoveled about half a pound down my throat. I'm blown away by how delicious this is. I hope I can recreate my comedy of errors to produce another one of these. Seeing as I'm not eating this until tomorrow, I'll steam it then. So, next time you see nice slabs of brisket freshly cut, beware the bug that got up MY ass, or just make pastrami! Oh, also, please excuse my deplorable photography. I bought a new camera, breaking it in. Not that my photos taken prior were anything to write home about.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Wood-fired beauty.....................right back at ya, Larbo!

This is what 725 degrees looks like. Larbo may have his Robot Coupe, but I still have the capability to wood fire a Pizza Napoletana at 700+ degrees. You can keep your food processor, I'll take perfect pizza. This really is as good as food can be. Perfectly charred, yet still chewy crust. San Marzano passato with hand made fresh mozzarella. Freshly grated Pecorino Romano. New basil torn by hand. Can't beat it. God bless the Big Green Egg.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Eye candy

Just pulled about 2 hours ago. Not much to report, just 2 more well cured creations. The bresaola has the faintest hint of clove, just enough that's it's pleasurable, not off putting. The Tyrolean cured lonzino is very good as well. Nothing too overwhelming in the flavor profile there. I'm not much of a braggart, but, tough to argue that these are anything but well done, they look and smell perfect. They are delicious as well, just had a bunch of each drizzled with some fruity extra virgin olive oil and shaved parmigiano-reggiano.

Saturday, September 5, 2009


I am a self professed pizza snob. However, I find most of what is made commercially to be abhorrent. Half-baked crust, topped with rubber mozzarella(no relation to the real thing). Lifeless, flavorless, tomato sauce combined with cardboard, saw dusty dry oregano. If you're really lucky, you can get pizza from a chain, where the dough is more closely related to Twinkies than pizza. Disgusting. These bastardized recreations bare no resemblance to the original creation. There are only a handful of places I will eat pizza out. All of those establishments feature some sort of brick oven, either coal or wood fired. Lombardi's and Arturo's in Manhattan make the list. For me, though, the best is Totonno's in Coney Island. They feature a coal fired oven that is over 100 years old. Perfectly charred crust, fresh mozzarella, and crushed tomatoes.............perfect. So, I've resorted to making my own, almost exclusively. I know, looking at the picture, you're saying "that's not Pizza Napoletana," and you're right. I happened to stumble across this recipe at Serious Eats. It looked so wonderful, I had to give it a shot. You can see it here:, I wish I knew how to abbreviate links. Anyway, it's a little labor intensive for those who prefer ease of use, but, well worth it. I followed the instructions for the dough, but, went my on way as far as topping. I used fresh mozzarella(grated), Pecorino Romano, San Marzano passato and finished it with wild Sicilian dried oregano. Any other pizza fanatics out there should certainly give this a spin. I'm sure glad I did........3 separate occasions.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Salami Pepati

After finishing the last of my sopressate, I discovered I was all out of salami. I liked it so much, I decided to go back to the well. However, as I mentioned in that post, it really never developed the heat I like. With further alterations to be made to THAT recipe, I could no longer call it the same thing. So, let it be called salame pepato! I used 4 different kinds of pepper for these. I went from .4% dried Calabrian chili powder all the way to 1%. I raised black pepper from .4% up to .5%. White pepper .2%, and finally crushed red pepper flakes from.1% to.2%. Obviously, I'm hoping to turn the heat up on these. I also threw in some garlic and red wine. I used bactoferm F-LC as my starter. They are currently fermenting at a touch under 70 degrees, where they will stay for 48-60 hours, depending on how they appear. The big one is a 70mm collagen, the 2 smaller are 43mm collagen. They have been sprayed with M-EK-4 mold spray as well.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Coppa and speck belly

I suppose the Big Green Egg does perform as advertised. I was able to cold smoke this belly over the course of 3 days. It wasn't traditional cold smoke, mind you. I was only able to hold it at 100 degrees +/- 5 degrees. So, I smoked it for 4 hours a day for 3 consecutive days. The results of which can be seen in the picture. I used apple wood, also threw in some juniper berries wrapped in aluminum foil. The addition of the juniper berries really created some super fragrant smoke. I was pleasantly surprised how well it worked. I cut off a piece of the outside as you may have noticed, just to have a gander at how it worked and looked. Looks good, I think. Smells great as well. Off to the curing chamber for a couple months. I don't think I'm going

to wait the 22 weeks to have at this.

On to the coppa. For whatever reason, I forgot this thing was in to cure. So, I only left myself 24 hours to ferment and spray it. Regardless, a 10 day cure and it felt plenty cured. Stuffed it into a 100mm collagen casing. Sprayed with the obligatory M-EK-4 spray(which, I've seen has been renamed 600 mold or salami mould or some other nonsense) and set to ferment for 24 hours. I'm excited for this one as it is my first whole muscle coppa, and it looks very nice. FYI, you can see my tesa hanging right next to it.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

One big(and green)reason to case whole muscles

I don't know if you can see it, but, right in the middle of the picture, there is a good spot of green mold on my bresaola. THIS is exactly why I case my whole muscles and spray them with M-EK-4 spray. I'm baffled how this happened. I hung it less than an inch from my perfectly molded lonzino. My refrigerator is pretty well innoculated with good mold, having sprayed everything with good mold spray. Needless to say, this is the last time I omit spraying the mold spray. Nor will I ever hang naked muscles. I removed the bresaola and cut all the twine off. Then doused it with vinegar/water solution and rehung. I did all this 2 days ago, seems no worse for wear today. Also, as mentioned in my last post regarding this item, Hank is on the hook for 1 whole eye round! :)

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Hanger on

Finally got this last big, juicy sucker in to cure. Not sure if you can make out from this picture what is in the cure. I blasted this old boy with lots of rosemary, the zest of 1 lemon, 3 big cloves of garlic, and an inordinate amount of chili pepper flakes, along with salt and sugar. I'm looking to get some real flavor out of this one. I gave the cure mix a taste. Deliciously sweet and plenty hot, with that lovely rosemary undertone. I hope this comes through in the finished product. I know it seems I may have over seasoned this, but, being that this was given to me, no strings attached, I'm really going for some personality aside from salty, porky goodness.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Coppa and a cure-a-thon

Well, I was finally able to procure a coppa. Finding one of these has been quite enigmatic. Scores of butchers and several arguments later, I got one. Thanks to Tom from Marlow and Daughters in Williamsburg, I found the link at Larbo's blog,, thanks to him as well. I work nearby the store and will now be a frequent visitor. Tom was nice enough to actually break the coppa down in front of me and explain as he went. The meat looks and smells fantastic. It is pictured in the top shot, well marbled and lovely. I got sucked in and had to buy a jowl while I was there, which is pictured two below the coppa. As I passed by the display case, a fat, juicy hunk of belly caught my eye, so I grabbed that as well, which would be the second picture. The final picture is of another nice hunk of belly given to me by a friend.

On to the curing. Especially with the meat purchased from Marlow and Daughters, I wanted to maintain some austerity. I want the taste of this pork to shine. I decided to go simply with salt, sugar, black pepper, juniper and garlic, with cure #2. With this nearly 2lb. jowl, simple guanciale is called for. I've made 4 or 5 of these already and have run the gamut as far as curing ingredients. However, I think my first attempt was my tastiest. That was salt,
black pepper, thyme and curing salt. Again,
hoping that the jowl is of such high quality, it won't need much seasoning. I towed the line when it was time to cure the belly. Initially, this go around with the belly, I wanted to speck a piece, or, at least give it a shot. This is NOT the piece of belly I'm willing to experiment on. This has tesa written all over it. Very straightforward, went salt, black pepper, cure #1 and thyme. That's it. I shifted gears when it came to belly piece #2. I cut it into 2 separate pieces. With the first piece, I went back to the bacon well. The sage, ginger, garlic variety seems to be quite popular. More so than any of the other renditions I've made. With that done, I took another trip to South Tyrol. This last piece is the piece I'm going to try and speck out. Went with caraway seed, juniper and bay leaf along with salt, black pepper and cure #2. All the belly pieces and jowl will cure for 1 week. I'm still unsure about how successfully I will be able to cold smoke the speck on the Big Green Egg. Worst case scenario, South Tyrol bacon. Also, not pictured is another semi frozen jowl given to me by yet another butcher. I'm tossing around the idea of jowl bacon and/or jowl speck. Let's hear ideas.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Next Bresaola

I cured this bresaola with South Tyrol in mind again. It was cured with fresh rosemary, juniper, fresh garlic, a scant bit of cinnamon and even smaller amount of clove. Where I thought I came up with something unique, it seemed eerily familiar. Then I checked and discovered it is exactly Jason's cure(minus the thyme.) Anyway, no biggie. Cured this old boy for 12 days. Cased in a 90mm collagen casing. What I did this time, out of deference to Hank(Hunter Angler Gardner Cook), was neither spray it with M-EK-4 mold spray nor ferment it. As you can see from the picture, it was hung next to the lonzino described in my last post that has become wonderfully moldy. As Hank says, if it wants to get mold on it, it will. If this doesn't work out, I guess Hank's on the hook for a whole eye round. ;)

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Lonzino al'Alto Adige

Suspend disbelief, please, I know I'm closer to California than Alto Adige. I cured this with caraway seeds, juniper berries, and anise seeds(salt, black pepper, sugar, and cure #2 as well). After poring over as many references as I could find, I used spices that seemed recurrent to many of the recipes found in the Sudtirol cuisine. Looking at Len Poli's site, I see he calls for Alpine herbs, which consists of hyssop, melissa(lemon balm), marjoram, and sage. Since I have neither melissa nor hyssop, I went with the more readily available, more frquently mentioned spices. This lonzino is pictured less than 24 hours after it was hung following a near 48 hour fermentation period. It was stuffed in a 90mm collagen casing. I promise as soon as I burn through these collagen casings I'll shift over to the more authentic, natural casings. I'd really like to be able to "speck" this lonzino. However, I have no way of cold smoking. Also, even if I did have the means to cold smoke, I don't have any juniper wood, nor do I have any way of obtaining any. If anyone has any ideas on either, I'm all ears.

Friday, July 24, 2009

finished sopressata

Here is the finished product from my post in June. I think I'm getting better. This one looks very nice. The reason I say I'm getting better is people who were intitially a bit skiddish of the whole operation were downing this by the handful. I must say, tastewise, this is exactly what it's supposed to taste like. Just salty and porky and delicious. Ate a bunch of it paired with some Fiore Sardo cheese. Perfect. I made this with a bunch of dried hot pepper powder in it. Still not that rosy red color. It IS hot, but, I could take even a bit hotter. Guess I'll give it another go.

Friday, July 17, 2009

My new endeavor/obsession

My fiance just returned from several weeks in Italy. Among the places she visited was Sudtirol, or South Tyrol in the Alto Adige region. Now, I was aware that there are various geographical influences throughout the country. Whether it be an African influence in Sicily, or Slavic in Friulli, or Swiss in the Piedmont, etc. What I didn't know, until I researched prior to her departure, is HOW dominant the German influence is in this particular region. I know it was annexed in 1918, but still remains very German. Why is this so fascinating is I have a German name and have blonde hair and blue eyes. Yet, as I've written in the past, I spent a good deal of time in my youth with my immigrant southern Italian grandparents. I even learned to speak the language. Delving into the cuisine of the Sudtirol, I made a huge discovery. This is a cuisine of BACON! My fiance brought home a tiny little cookbook, called "Tyrolean Specialties." In it, I would say 80% of the savory recipes call for bacon, or some type of cured pork product. Amazing. Speck, speck and more speck. This picture of a mountain of speck was taken during a "speckfest." They call everything speck, I guess, and smoke everything. Speck bacon, speck ham, speck loin, and a smoked sausage called
Kamminwurzen(see 3rd picture below). Canederli, or Tyrolean gnocchi, or bread dumplings made with stale bread. Lots of crauti(sauerkraut), the use of caraway and rye bread. I figured that this is a way for me to leave my comfort zone, while still staying inside my little box(geographically, at least). Being that resources about this region and cuisine are extremely limited, I hope that there can be some outside contributions. Also, failed to mention initially. I cured(or attempted) my first meat of this style. I cured a pork loin for lonzino. It was cured with caraway, juniper and anise seed.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Poor man's prosciutto follow up

I'd kind of given up on this poor bastard. I left in my chamber for months. I dipped it in the vinegar solution several times, as it had picked up some exterior mold. Every time I removed, it didn't seem to be making any progress. Being that it wasn't such a huge hunk of meat, I was confused. I removed everything from the chamber when I went on vacation. I couldn't leave anything due to me blowing my second humidifier in 6 months. Without a meatsitter changing the hanging wet rag every other day, everything would be rubbish. It sat in a regular refrigerator for a week, where I paid it no mind, actually mad at it for not curing :). Came home from vacation and put some things back in the chamber. I came to the ham and opened it. I finally said screw it, I'm going to cut into it. WOW, it looks perfect. I cut some up and chunked it to be fried up. I couldn't be happier, it's great. Suffice to say, I'm no longer cross with it! It is my opinion that if any of you who read this have any intention on making a prosciutto, I highly recomment starting with this. It doesn't even take one third of the time it would for a normal proscitto, and the taste is definitely a representative example of the vaunted cured meat. This revelation has led me down a new path. I am about to embark on a new endeavor.

Bacon results

Sorry for my little break in posting. Went on vacation for the better part of two weeks. Anyway, here are the bacons. From left there is the sage, ginger garlic, then the cocoa bacon, and on the left is the rosemary, fennel seed, honey bacon. The sage ginger bacon is a homerun. The cocoa bacon tastes like plain old bacon, the cocoa seems to have been overwhelmed by the smoke. You can kind of smell the cocoa a little, but there is really no taste of it. Still, it's bacon, and it's good. The rosemary, fennel bacon is delicious. The honey adds the perfect hint of sweetness. I really am a little disappointed in the cocoa bacon. I thought at least I would get a backdrop of chocolate. Any suggestions for future chocolate bacon cures are welcome.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Look at my big sausage!

Another summer holiday=more sausage. Needless to say, there are 2 different sausages here. The one on the outside is an apricot, rosemary, garlic, vermouth sausage. On the inside, we have a hot pepper, anise seed sausage. I know you are thinking the apricot sausage may seem a little challenging. I cannot take credit for the idea entirely. While watching "Gourmet's Diary of a Foodie," a segment was filmed at Salumeria Biellese, which I have frequented on more than one occasion. Anyway, at the end of the segment a fresh sausage was being eaten, it was apricot, garlic and brandy sausage, sounded good to me. So, I put my own spin on this odd sausage. However, it sure doesn't taste odd, it's friggin good, dare I say great. Perfect salty, sweet, with a slight rosemary taste in the background. The other sausage is very good as well, not overwhelminhly hot, although it's color would have you believe differently. Once again, back to the well of using that same dried Calabrian chilli powder, to the tune of 1.3%! One thing I am having trouble with, even with the use of pink salt, is gray sausage. It turns gray almost instantly, even as it's being stuffed. I used more pink salt this time around, about .2%, still gray. Has anyone else had this problem? It seems I have this issue every time I make fresh sausage. Doesn't affect the flavor, at least.

More beefy deliciousness

Just pulled this out on Friday. This is the bresaola from the May post. As you can tell it is pretty well done. Tastes great, texture if very good as well. As stated in the title of this post, just beefy goodness. Simple.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Bacon madness

First off, I'd like to preface this entire post by saying it is the product of too much free time and an overactive imagination. Yesterday, I procured another entire pork belly, ribs attached. With the ribs removed, I figure this to weigh 8 lbs. give or take. So, I'm looking at doing 4 different 2lb. slabs. One will be a tesa, leaving 3 rashers of bacon. I plan on curing the tesa with the same flavor profile as my porcini salame, which is dried porcini powder, fresh and dried sage and garlic. Now, on to the bacon. I will do one of the sage, ginger, garlic bacon(basically, Ruhlman's breakfast sausage made into a bacon cure). For the second, I may go rosemary, fennel seed, hot pepper, honey, lemon zest. As for the last, this is where I think I've gotten a little weird. I was thinking of orange zest, brown sugar, hot pepper, mint and..............unsweetened cocoa powder? Bear with me. It seems to be fashionable lately to pair chocolate and chillis. I also have seen plenty of bacon and chocolate combinations. So, I figured it might work. And, let's be honest, it's bacon, would it really taste bad? I'd like some input prior to actually starting. Ideas, thoughts, opinions? Let's hear 'em. Sorry for the poor picture. Thought I'd take a quick snap of the curing bacons/pancetta. Top left is cocoa, bottom left rosemary, fennel, honey. Top right is sage, ginger, bottom right is the pancetta.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

N'Duja Disaster!

I saw this one coming for weeks. I noticed it was drying strangely. I inspected it and found that there were empty spots, big gaps. Almost like it dried in sections and pulled apart from the rest, this was in 2 different spots on the n'duja. I pushed it down just to compact it back together. It was definitely too late. As you can see by the picture, it is certainly not spreadable, it is dry and crumbly. It also had some mold on the inside, between the meat and casing. I think 2 things were at play here. #1. The use of the starter culture combined with the dextrose was a mistake, obviously, it dried out too much. #2. Collagen casing- I say this beacause the casing did not properly adhere to the salame, not allowing it to dry well, and is what caused the internal mold. Weird that the starter culture dried it out too much, but, the mixture started out too wet for the artificial casing to adhere. That's an easy fix, next time, no starter culture/dextrose, and the beef middles are in the mail. OK, all this N'duja bashing tastes damn good. As I removed it and cut it open, I found myself gnawing on a handful of crumbs. The salt content is perfect. The pepper paste is very pleasant and hot. Next time I think it could even be hotter. The perfect vehicle to throw in some of the Calabrian dried chilli powder. Back to square one.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

My new toy

Nope, not even a dad. For anyone who doesn't know what this's a Big Green Egg. I won't go into too much detail, however, suffice to say, there has been a lot of hyperbole regarding this item. So, either I have been taken for a sucker, or it's dynamite. I tend to lean toward the latter. It's supposed to sear to temperatures at or about 700 degrees, perfect for steak or pizza. But, it also grills indirectly, and is a smoker as well. That being the case, instead of purchasing separate smokers, and kettles, etc., I decided to purchase just one item, as I have very little room to operate. I'm hoping the learning curve isn't too steep. I fired it up a little while ago. Getting it started gave me a little fit, but, once she got fired up, she went. Got it up to 600 degrees, and threw on a pork chop. Came out pretty good, actually. Anyone with any experience, I'd love some tips.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Double Heresy!

Funny, how when I think outside the box, it's really just an exercise in pigeonholing me right into my own. What the hell does that mean? Well, I love this season. I love to cook on an open flame. So, after watching one too many "Diners, Drive-ins and Dives," I wanted to get in on some southern style barbecue. One problem, there is a deplorable, abhorrent ingredient in barbecue sauce.................KETCHUP. I loathe it. I call it the crutch of the undeveloped palate. I don't think I use it on anything. The moment I slather it on anything, all I taste is ketchup. But, I like the idea of a finishing sauce. This is where the heresy comes in. What I did today, offended 2 groups of people. I offended Italians AND BBQ-ans :). I made an Italian dry rub and developed an Italian barbecue sauce.(As if such a thing does or even could exist) That explains me thinking outside the box. What I did was think outside someone else's box, so I could feel more comfortable inside my tiny, safe, little Italian box. Anyway, I made a dry rub of Sicilian sea salt, Calabrian dried hot pepper powder and fennel seeds. To this, I added some fresh sage, and lemon zest with a little fresh garlic, with olive oil and lemon juice. Beat it up in the Cuisinart, and poured it on. I tossed the lemon in the cavity and trussed it up, let it sit for 2 hours. In the meantime, I developed the sauce. Started by sauteing red onion, added garlic. I added some double concentrate Italian tomato paste. I let that caramelize for a little while, then added red wine vinegar. I reduced that down, then added the secret ingredient. I used the roasted hot pepper paste with which I made the N'duja. Into it I added some anise seeds, honey, lemon zest, sage leaves, and bay leaves. Cooked it down for a half hour or so. This thing was super hot, in my opinion it needed more sweet. Either way, it was still super tasty, and right up my alley, as far as flavor profile is concerned. In the end, as you can see by the picture, it was successful. If making something this good to eat is called heresy, I'll be a heretic any day of the week. Gonna try some heretical baby backs tomorrow!

Monday, June 15, 2009


My interpretation of such. Boneless pork poin which was butterflied(by yours truly), subsequently pounded out, rolled and tied. I'm aware of the cultish following this meat preparation has in Italy. So, by no means, do I state that his is an actual porchetta. However, I DID spit roast it, so, I will claim it was made in the STYLE of porchetta. Regadless, I sauteed my own guanciale, red onion, fennel, and some garlic. Added some fennel seed, pecorino, eggs and fresh bread crumbs. I spread the stuffing over the butterflied loin, rolled it up and tied 'er up tightly. Threw it on the spit for just a bit under an hour(removed about 148 degrees). Absolutely fantastic. I'll definitely try this on a fattier cut of meat soon, like the butt recommended in the Zuni cafe cookbook(I've read nothing but rave reviews). I've prepared this in the past and there's always been leftovers. I can attest there is not a better cold cut ever produced that can rival a slice of this on a roll or fresh, crusty bread................It was not to be this time around. Sucks.
Something else occurred to me. I am the sole cook in my household, and I do so 4-5 times a week, yet all my posts are salumi related. If there is any interest in me posting plain old cooking posts, chime in, I'd be glad to throw up some more posts!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Salumi Removal

Removed the 2 salami and the lonzino today. The salami were ready last week. The lonzino just today.
The 2 salami are the two featured in the second chance salami post. The one pictured in the middle is the oregano, blood orange zest, cardamom. On the right is the porcini, sage salame. They were removed at a touch over 43% weight loss(maybe 43.3%). They both look great. The porcini salame is the one that gave me a textural issue last time around. I think I may have forgot to add dextrose, preventing it from binding correctly. This time around the texture is right, with both, I should add. As far as flavor, the porcini salame really is outstanding. This opinion is shared by everyone who's tried it. I highly suggest anyone who makes their own to try this. The oregano salame is really good as well, but, eating it after the porcini salame does it no justice. It is certainly a good salame, worthy of reproducing.
This lonzino is the lonzino pictured on top in the lonzino carousel post. Cured with fresh oregano, lemon zest and hot pepper. It was removed at 40% weight loss, which usually would seem a little high for a lonzino, but, it was perfect. Great texture, good flavor. I thought it might be a little challenging or odd with the lemon zest, but, it is surprisingly mild. Porky and delicious. Successful all the way around.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Venison Salame Redux

Went to the butcher the other day to buy some jowls and some butts. I gave him some of the venison salame I made several months ago. He gushed about how good it was. He then proceeded to give me a semi-frozen chunk of venison and asked me if I wouldn't mind making more. "Sure", I said. So, with absolutely no intention on making any more salame for awhile, the semi-frozen venison told me differently. This is exactly the same ratios as the last one I posted and I hope it turns out as tasty. I'm waiting to see if I'm going to have a similar issue as last time with the casings.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Sopressate di Calabria

Well, in the style of Calabria, at least. This has always been my favorite salame. However, all the recipes I have found to this point have been uninspired. So, I decided to try my own. This is based on several recipes(Poli, Ruhlman, Bertolli, Kutas) I went with a high percentage of dried hot pepper powder from Calabria(about .5%) also added .1% crushed red pepper, along with some black pepper, white pepper, fresh garlic and white wine with a splash of vermouth. Cure #2 and F-LC starter were used as well. What I can't figure out is why with all that pepper powder, I can't get that nice red color. I sprayed them with some M-EK-4 mold. They will ferment at about 70 degrees for roughly 48 hours. They were stuffed in 60mm collagen casings.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Another Bresaola

Lest anyone think I just pump out meat haphazardly, most of this meat is spoken for. After so many visits to both my local butcher and salumeria, I have established good relationships with both. This eye round was bestowed upon me by the proprietor of said salumeria. Always asking what I would be doing with so much meat, I explained. Having tasted some of my products, he has given me this eye round and the lonzino previously cured. Anyway, this was cured with the exact cure as the last. It was cured for 2 weeks and cased in another 90mm collagen. It will be hung to dry on Saturday.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Finally.......the SAUSAGE debauchery

Just realized recently that there is a sausage debauchery sans sausage. So, in honor of the upcoming holiday that is typically synonymous with grilling......we have sausage! Nothing really exciting. This sausage is 80% lean pork butt, 20% back fat. Flavored with Pecorino Romano, fresh parsley, crushed coriander seeds and black pepper, some fresh garlic, salt and white wine. My first opportunity to work with casings from Butcher/Packer. While they are expensive, you can actually feel the quality being so much better than the rubbish purchased in the grocery store. Still managed to pop a link. Fried up a small piece, great flavor. Gonna grill me up a boatload this weekend.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Bacons #2 & 3 with a pancetta

The pancetta was cured with juniper, bay, thyme, nutmeg along with salt, sugar and cure #2. Cured for a week, rolled tightly, tied even more tightly and will hang for about 4 weeks. The bacon on top was cured with molasses, real maple syrup and black pepper with salt and cure #1. Cured for a week and smoked for nearly 3 hours. The last bacon was cured with sage, ginger, garlic, pepper, cure #1, salt and sugar. This bacon was smoked just under 2 hours, due it being a whole lot thinner than the other. I took the skin off this piece as I initially planned to roll it for a pancetta, but it was a poor piece to try and roll, so, bacon it would become. I had a little easier time on the smoke this go around. I wrapped some heavily soaked hickory in aluminum foil. This really got the smoke going well and kept the temperature at bay. Nothing left to smoke in my refrigerator. Really like to smoke a speck, I do have that piece of boneless ham hanging in my chamber, any thoughts?

Saturday, May 16, 2009

4 way Bacon

Bought a smoker last week. Purchased exclusively to make bacon, a I've had several requests to make some. But, life outside my little Italian box is verrrrry frightening. I've never smoked anything before, so, I went for an economical version in the case that I just had no patience for it, or I just plain old sucked at it. Anyway, the picture is bacon #1. It is a loose interpretation of Alton Brown's hot pepper brine. I added pink salt and extra hot pepper. It brined for 4 days, instead of the recommended 3. As for the smoking.......I think I need a little more experience, unless this sub $30 smoker is just a bit hard to get down. The smoke would stop every 20-30 minutes when the wood chunks would ignite. I would douse them with water to get the smoke going again, this was the dance for over 2 hours, running out every 10 minutes, to either add more wet wood or douse with water. There has to be an easier way. So, this slab was smoked to waaaaay over 150 degrees, closer to 170. I left the smoker for 15 minutes, when I returned there was no smoke, but flames shooting out the sides. I removed it, cooled it overnight and sliced and ate some this morning. It is still delicious, so, no harm, no foul. Looks like I need more work in the smoking department, good thing I have 2 more bacon slabs to smoke(the 4th way is a pancetta). A little guidance would be appreciated.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

N'Duja fever.....................

............I got it. After all the hubbub created by 2 other bloggers(both listed here),, and, I got myself obsessed with making one. This salame is closer to my heart than others, my mother's parents were immigrants from Calabria, a small village called Santa Cristina. I spent a lot of time with them growing up and seem to remember a spicy salame being consumed on certain occasions. Is this, could this be N'Duja? I have no idea. It's very unlikely and there's no way to verify since neither are with any longer. But, it sounds much more romantic this way, so, I'll say it was. The most difficult part was trying to track down the proper ingredients. I was pleasantly surprised to find a 900g can of concentrato di pepperoncino made with peppers from Calabria and Basilicata at my favorite Italian grocer/importer in Brooklyn...........SOLD. I cracked that can open today and tried a tad on my's blisteringly hot. So, with that I started looking through some recipes. I decided to roast up a couple red peppers on the grill as well. Here is what I went with:
1000G pork butt
560G pork belly
440G back fat
650G concentrato di pepperoncino
200G roasted red pepper paste
42.8G salt
7.1G cure #2
2.5G bactoferm f-lc
2.5G dextrose
The entire contents were stuffed into a 90mm collagen casing. I believe I will ferment this for a week @ about 70-75 degrees. It will hang for an indefinite amount of time, most likely 2 months.
BTW, I fried a little up to try, and it is unreal. Never tasted anything like this, very unique.