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!