Thursday, December 30, 2010

Cotechino Milanese

Yes, new year's is Cotechino time. To recap my journey into this meat insanity, this is the actual sausage that launched me. Several years ago, I received both the meat grinder and sausage stuffer attachments for the kitchen aid stand mixer as a Christmas gift. Several days later, I was looking high and low for Cotechino. I googled it and found a recipe for it. Only problem was, it was a recipe to actually MAKE it. The old light bulb went on and thought, "I can make that, I have the grinder AND the stuffer." and I went and bought the book in which the recipe was contained. So, cotechino was the first sausage of any kind I ever produced. It was not produced well, however, in fact, it was terrible. I was unaware there was such a thing as a cardboard sausage. Oh well, my first sausage.......mulligan. Last year, with a little more experience under my belt, I made Jason's Cotechino, and it was terrific. Well, this year, I got a real treat. I have been corresponding with my cousin in Milan. He told me he was able to procure a recipe from an old norcino and was nice enough to give it to me(really the only reason he got it was because I asked him to). Oh, and don't ask me any stupid questions, like, "Can I have the formula?"......not happening........forget it! Here they are. I used a combination of jowl, some shoulder, and raw skin. Had a bit of trouble getting the raw skin through the grinder. Even a commercial grinder didn't really want to play. My first effort to grind it just thrashed it up quite a bit, so, I had to go up in die size just to get it through. When it came time to spice it, I had a little surprise waiting for me. Typically, cinnamon is used in almost all cotechini. Surprise! Wifey decided to toss out my cinnamon and not tell me, sooooo bush league. Slightly irritated, I went with coriander, clove, ginger, allspice and mace, along with salt, black pepper and white pepper and some pink salt. Thankfully, the formula only called for various spices that differ from, "norcino a norcino," so, I can pull the old Norcino license card. They were stuffed in beef middles. Decided to get even more authentic and use some hemp twine, they look even better, cotton's out! I'll let you know how they taste when they are eaten on Saturday along with some obligatory lentils.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Salsiccia di Calabria

Salasiccia di Calabria is a DOP salame from Calabria. This is one I had eaten while in Calabria in between chasing and consuming 'nduja. In typical Calabrese fashion, it is laden with hot pepper that leaves quite an impact.......perfect. Having ample hot pepper powder and flakes from Calabria, seemed like a home run. I have also re-committed myself to austerity. No more random, silly ingredients and trying to reinvent the wheel. I think I should do a couple simple salame and do them well. This definitely qualifies as austere......Pork butt, backfat, salt, hot pepper powder, crushed red pepper flakes, cure and F-lc starter, that's it. All the literature I have read about this particular salame reads that it is cased in a small hog casing. I think next time I would opt for a hog casing a bit larger than this, which is your run of the mill sausage casing. I fermented for about 72 hours and hung them to dry. After about 3 weeks, I weighed them. They had the requisite weight loss, yet still seemed soft, which is very strange for these size casings. So, at 45%, I pulled one down. Still just a touch soft for my liking. Puzzled, I went to review my notes. I noticed I wrote f-lc, but not distilled water. I usually write distilled water as I write out the formula, so as not to forget to use it. That tiny little omission, combined with soft salame lead me to believe I used tap water to mix my starter, which most of you who do this at home will know, I murdered my starter. I had 4 of them, so, I ate 1 and vacu-sealed 3. The one I ate had wonderful flavor, super hot and tasty. A week after I vacu-sealed the other 3, I removed 2 to be served on my Christmas Eve salumi platter. When I peeled back the casing and cut into it, I was amazed. I had read about others employing this as a means of equilibrating moisture throughout the salame, but, I was under the impression it was more for case hardened items. The texture was perfect all the way through. Just how I like it. Needless to say, I was quite happy with this result. Point of this story is don't kill your starter. Keep reading, several more ready or almost ready, including salame di Mugnano made just yesterday with hog middles, AKA crespone.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Speck Projects

I finally committed myself to attempting a leg speck project. This was always a salume high on my list, but happen to be a bit ignorant in the butchering department. I should say incompetent and/or not confident as opposed to ignorant. I know what it is, just don't know how the hell to harvest it. Well, my oft-mentioned salumeria owning friend bought a couple hams on which to practice. After staring at an already completed speck from Alto Adige, he got to it. That would be the speck on top. The following week, I guess he got the bug again, he called to tell me he had yet another even larger speck, which is the big boy on the bottom. Little speck was cured with rosemary, fennel and juniper. After I cured little speck, I wanted to kick myself for being stupid. When I was in Ortisei, I went into a small supermarket. There was a rack of cookbooks. I flipped through the Italian cookbooks(Italian or German were the choices). One of the books had a chapter dedicated to speck. There was an entire page with a step by step speck walk through. I completely forgot about the book until after I put little speck in to cure. Lucky for me there was big speck. This was cured with garlic, juniper, bay, anise, fennel and caraway. They were both cured for 3 weeks. At that point, they were rinsed and left out for a couple hours to develop a nice pellicle before getting hit with a boatload of cold smoke. I gave the pro-q cold smoker a good workout, smoked every day for almost 3 weeks(only 2 of which were for the speck). I used some mixed harwood dust along with some ground up juniper berries. The juniper berries were a suggestion of Kristoph Wiesner passed along to me via Heath Putnam of Wooly Pigs. I had to settle on the berries after my desperate search for the actual juniper wood didn't pan out. But, I will state that the berries definitely worked. The smoke released by the berries were pungent, exactly what I was going for. 50 hours each of cold smoke and they were hung in the chamber. Look for me to crack these open some time around March-April.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Coppa di Cinghiale

AKA Wild boar coppa. This was an unplanned item. Initially, I was summoned by my friend at his salumeria to retrieve a couple wild boar shoulders to make salame di cinghiale. When I arrived, I found these shoulders to be perfectly cylindrical. So after brief deliberation, another experiment was hatched, we decided to make 2 coppe. I'd never seen it before and I was interested. I returned home and everything fell apart.....literally. Well, that's a slight overstatement, only 50% fell apart. What I mean is, I removed the netting around the first shoulder and it fell apart. Very poorly butchered, looks like maybe the first time this individual butchered anything of ANY kind. But, no biggie, I would give it a shot regardless, cure it and tie it tightly prior to casing should do the trick. The second shoulder was a dream. The picture above is, in fact, the latter. Coppa #1 was cured with juniper, rosemary and fennel seeds. Coppa #2 was cured with hot pepper powder, crushed red pepper flakes and fennel seeds. Man, now that I'm typing it out, and looking back in my notes, I think I have a small obsession with fennel seeds. They were both cured for 2 weeks. Due to their stoutness, I had to use a couple 100mm collagen casings to case them. I hung these right before I left for Italy on 9/15. I figured I would return and they would be perfect. Live and learn they say. I didn't pull these until about 10 days ago. Took 2 months for them to achieve the requisite 30% weight loss, and they're both still soft, a bit softer than I care for, but, 2 months is plenty. I brought them to the salumeria of record for tasting and they both passed muster. Coppa #1 is awesome. The crushed red pepper flakes made the difference in heat. I usually only add the hot pepper powder and that mellows with time. The flakes, however, did not. I made this to emulate the wretched "hot gab-a-gool" of anglicized Italian and "Sopranos" infamy. Well, I'm sure that more than one track suit clad gentleman would enjoy this and be completely ignorant to the fact that it is cinghiale. Coppa #2 is delightful as well. The transcendent flavor here is rosemary. But, I am as big a rosemary freak as I am fennel. Case in point, during our stay in Chianti, there was a large rosemary hedge right outside our apartment. Every time I passed by the hedge, I made sure I rubbed some part of my body on it, thus filling my car with rosemary perfume. I'm serious, EVERY time. Anyway, this coppa was very good as confirmed by my friend. This was the coppa that had to be tied up prior to being cased. As I cut through the end of it, it looked just fine. However, I cut into a little more to mete out my friend's portion and it was then that you could see the air pockets created by the poor butchering. Good thing is, no internal mold. Success all the way around, and everyone was happy. I will probably shoot out a bunch of new posts in rapid fire succession. I have 11 new projects since I've returned from Italy(inspired?), including 2 big speck projects(one cold smoking outside as I write), 2 lonzini(one cold smoked), a bresaola, Salame Toscano, and Salsiccia di Calabria. Just yesterday, I took a ride up to Mosefund Farm to visit Michael Clampffer who was nice enough to invite me to observe Kristoph Wiesner conducting the Mangalitsa class. He also gave me a bunch of meat to play with. So, I now have another Mangalitsa Lardo and guanciale curing. Today, with the scraps I made 10lbs. of 'nduja(which seems a bit extravagant with this pork) and 5lbs. of salame felino. Been a bit busy, it seems.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Mosefund Pancetta tasting

These are the other 3 quarters of the whole side of pig I acquired from Michael from Mosefund Farm back in August. The other quarter became that lovely slab of bacon about which I posted on August 23rd. From top to bottom are Pancetta tesa, Pancetta Calabrese and Pancetta affumicata(bauchspeck or speck belly). The Pancetta tesa on top was cured with juniper, thyme and bay. I didn't do anything out of the ordinary with it. Due to it's size, I left in to cure for about 12 days. It was removed, rinsed and hung to dry. The Pancetta Calabrese was cured with fennel seeds and hot pepper powder. What I did differently with this was in the rinsing process. This is a DOP item, so all the literature about it points to the fact that it is cured simply with peperoncino powder. I used a little Norcino license and added some fennel seeds. After the curing process, it was rinsed with water and red wine vinegar. It is then recovered with peperoncino powder. It is then dried for a minimum of 30 days. The pancetta affumicata was cured with juniper, thyme, bay and caraway seeds. Why the caraway? I was shooting for flavors typical of the Alto Adige, South Tyrol, in particular, and even more specifically Val Gardena. My wife visited Ortisei in the Val Gardena last year. She returned with a small cookbook from the area. Caraway was by far the most pervasive aromatic used in the cuisine. From bread to meat, it is used in just about everything. Knowing that I was to visit this very place a month after I made it, I wanted to return and try my own pancetta affumicata to see how it measured up. See my previous post for the whole dissertation on the speck vs. pancetta affumicata thing. I cured this for the same amount of time as the others, 12 days. After the curing process, I left this out at room temperature for 2 hours to develop a nice pellicle prior to cold smoking. This thing got about 25 hours of cold smoke on it over the course of 5 days. I used a mixture of apple and cherry woods. In the Dolomites they use juniper wood for the cold smoking, which I've been in the process of tracking down for months to no avail. The cold smoke was applied using a nifty little gadget called the pro-q cold smoke generator. It is an inexpensive, invaluable tool made in the UK for those without room for a gigantic Bradley smoker or something of that ilk. First time I used it, I forgot to remove the candle and came out to find the thing on fire, so, keep that in mind.......remove the candle! All three of these items were left to dry for about 60 days. As I had written previously in the bacon post, these were all cured in vacu-sealed bags, with inconclusive results, other than no leaks and no headaches from wifey giving me the business about said leaks. With regard to taste on these, this meat makes you look like a superstar. All you really have to do is not screw it up. It's very forgiving as you can make a ton of mistakes and will STILL taste good. The Calabrese has a terrific heat, of which I'm a huge fan. The affumicata is delightfully smoky, but, not overwhelmingly so, with hints of caraway and bay. I think I came pretty close on taste judging against what I ate while in the Dolomites. The smoke on theirs is so much more aromatic, I really need to find that juniper wood. The tesa is delicious as well, I use it as my "working" pancetta, for use in sautes, soups, etc. After working with this belly, I don't think I would go back to curing belly found in Asian or Latin markets, I feel like that would just be pissing in the wind. If you have the opportunity to use this meat, I recommend you give it a go.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Recap of my 3 week Salumi tour in Italy

Sorry for the lag in posts. Got married in September, then went eating my way through Italy for 3 weeks(started with a 3 crazy days in Munich for Oktoberfest). So, I'll get right to it. Took the train from Munich into Bolzano in the Alto Adige. Rented a car and went to the Val Gardena. We stayed in Ortisei for 3 days, which is absolutely stunning place and a must see for anyone travelling in Northern Italy. As far as salumi goes, this is probably the most diverse region in the country. I spent about 3 hours in 2 different salumerie, asking questions and buying almost everything. Really, really cool stuff. This first picture was from a restaurant called Tubladel. This was speck, kaminwurzen and cold smoked venison bresaola. First, a small lesson on speck and the Alto Adige. Alto Adige was part of Austria until after WW1 in 1919. They still hold strong their cultural heritage to Germany/Austria. In fact, German is the official language. So, while speck in Italy refers to the cold smoked outer shell of a pig's leg, in German, speck refers to bacon. There tends to be a little confusion about what's what. For example, I picked up something called cuore di speck, which was cured, cold smoked pork tenderloin. This is part of the reason I spent a couple hours in various salumerie. What I came to realize is that almost everything is cold smoked here. Pretty much all of which smoked with juniper wood. The next day, we took the cable car to hike the Swiss Alps(Dolomites). Since I'm unable to describe in words what it looks like, I'll put up a picture. After hiking for awhile, we came across a small cabin serving lunch. Again, I got some more salumi. Speck and Kaminwurzen this time. That purple stuff on the plate is a mostarda unique to the Alto Adige. It is small cranberries and horseradish. This is fabulous stuff. I was so blown away, I bought a bunch of jars home with me and contacted the company to try and import it myself. On the way back down, we stopped at a salumeria in the little town. I spoke to a very nice and accomodating female norcina. She was patient enough to walk me through almost all of the different salumi produced in the region. I found horse salami, camoscio(which is a chamois) bresaola, capriolo(which is a small deer I'm told) bresaola, cured pork tongue, carne salata(salted, uncured beef), pancetta affumicata, cold smoked pork tenderloin and, of course, kaminwurzen and speck.

From there, we drove to Tuscany. Chianti, to be more specific. Took a road trip to Siena, which is obligatory in my world due to my wife having lived there for 6 months. Found a really nice little salumeria. What I found is that although they do have the renowned Cinta Senese pig, a good portion of the salumi is made with cinghiale(wild boar). I believe they are everywhere, as I saw one trotting on the side of the road one night. This is probably my favorite as far as salame goes. Really big fan. The larger salame in the picture was made with Barolo wine. While still in Tuscany and relatively close to Panzano, we made a stop at Antica Macelleria Cecchini to see Dario. I learned when I arrived that he was married 2 days prior...........too bad. Made our way to Florence anyway. Bumped into another nice Norcineria, where I found some Ciauscolo. I know it's native to Marche and Umbria, but, since I wasn't going to either place, I jumped on it. Especially after the shopkeeper informed me that they DO make it in Tuscany as well, and theirs was the best ;). I also discovered Sopprassata Toscana, which is basically gigantic head cheese.

From Tuscany we travelled to Positano. While before I left Tuscany, I was all geared up to hit Antica Pizzeria Port'Alba in Naples(allegedly the oldest pizzeria in the world), possibly visit my grandmother's hometown of Casserta and maybe even see Pompeii. Plans changed. Those of you who have driven will understand. Once I got to the outskirts of Naples and onto the Amalfi drive, I tried to introduce road rage to Italy. Suffice to say, once I parked the car at our hotel in Positano, I made the executive decision to not move the car until absolutely necessary. I wasn't terribly disappointed, as I don't feel I missed much. Salumi wise, Campania doesn't have the resume of Alto Adige or Tuscany or Calabria. But, I did manage to get some decent Salami Napoli.

Speaking of Calabria, that was the next stop. All I could think about was hunting down 'nduja. I originally planned to stop in Spilinga. But, since my family is located in Santa Cristina and Reggio, we decided to stay in Scilla, as per a recommendation by Rosetta Costantino, the author of the soon to be released cookboook "My Calabria." Scilla is a really charming little fishing village on the Tyrrhenian Sea. Tough luck finding a salumeria here. No worries, I was also told that you could pretty much find 'nduja on any street corner. I was able to get in touch with some cousins whom I'd never met and they were able to steer me in the right direction for 'nduja. I bought this one from a butcher in Gioia Tauro. I'm pleased to report my own tastes pretty similar and is HOTTER. Aside from Alto Adige, I think Calabria maybe the next prolific region for salumi. Other than 'nduja, I found 5 different salumi with DOP status: Capocollo di Calabria, Pancetta di Calabria, Salsiccia di Calabria and Soppressata di Calabria. I tasted all except the pancetta. One thing they all had in common..............peperoncino, of course.

Hopped on the ferry over to Sicily to spend 3 days in Taormina. We stopped at Mount Etna on the way. Based on the fact that we did an inordinate amount of running around with various day trips and sooooo much driving. We decided that we would shut it down for a couple days. Again, with Taormina being on the sea, I was more interested in eating fresh fish than in finding a salumeria.

Dropped off the rental car in Catania and jumped on a flight to Rome for 2 days. Got out the Guanciale tractor beam. Locked it in at a super nice Norcineria in Campo dei Fiori. You can see the fat cheeks hanging in the middle of the picture. I spent 2 days in Rome eating Guanciale in any way you could imagine........carbonara, gricia, amatriciana. Also found the biggest mortadella I've ever seen. 2 days in Rome and time to go home. I can say that I really learned a lot. I found the salumieri much friendlier and willing to share information than I had been led to believe. So, in a nutshell, there is my 3 week salumi chase.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

N'duja tasting

Finally! I was able to bring one all the way to completion done correctly. This is my 4th effort. The prior 3 have been documented here. But, I'll save you the time of tracking them down and give you a quick rundown. My first attempt was terrible. The fat proportion was akin to that of a regular salame, that alone, I believe, was enough to harden it enough to render it unspreadable. It was stuffed in an artificial casing, which did NOT shrink at the same rate as the meat. This caused giant mold covered gaps in the salame. So, on to #2. Again, the fat content was low, higher than the first one, yet still too low. This was stuffed in beef middles and at least they behaved properly. It tasted pretty good, but, was not spreadable. #3 was very promising, I revised the meat recipe and decided to use strictly jowl meat. The hot pepper component was 30%(combination of Calabrese peperoncino paste and powder). Stuffed it in a beef bung, which looked and worked very nicely. Where I screwed the pooch was fermenting. I put a light in the fermentation chamber. It got too hot and what I was left with was a big red water balloon. I opened that one up a couple months ago. I've been using it ever since in various cooked dishes with fantastic results. I'll move on to the latest. This was executed exactly the same as the 3rd. It was fermented for 5 days @ 70 degrees. I left it to dry for 5 months. Where I deviated from the traditional preparation is in the smoking. I didn't have cold smoking capability from the outset. I could have smoked it on the Big Green Egg, but, that could only be held at roughly 100 degrees. Bearing in mind that I destroyed the 3rd N'duja with temperatures on 90 degrees, I decided to wait on the smoking. I was unable to cold smoke all summer as it was an unusually warm summer. However, there was a week when it rained for 4 straight days and the temperature never climbed above 80 degrees. Luckily for me, I was ready to cold smoke a speck belly at the same time. So, even though it had already been dried, I decided to cold smoke it for roughly 22 hours. Surprisingly, the smoke did actually impact the flavor of the meat. Only thing I would change about it is the grind. I only ran it once through the large die of the KA grinder. I think a second run through would be perfect. There are just a couple of larger pieces that are slightly challenging. Overall, a very succesful project. On a similar note, I will be IN Calabria in October, I plan on spending a day in Spillinga asking questions and taking notes and pictures so I can really get this thing dialed in.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Mother of all Bacon

So, if the raw belly was "silly," then this bacon slab is just "Sick." These lovely slabs of deliciousness were treated with the utmost respect. Obviously, this is not pork belly you pick up in an Asian or Latin market. These are special, and deserve to be treated as such. This particular piece was cured with fresh ginger, sage and garlic to go with salt, pepper and sugar with a little cure #1. This has become my "go to" cure for bacon. As I know it works, I really didn't want to experiment with this piece of meat(refer to previously stated reasons). It was cured for 10 days. Usually I do a week, but, given the extra girth of this thing I gave it 3 extra days. For the first time, I decided to cure in vacuum sealed bags. I can't really be 100% as to whether or not this actually made a difference, but, at the very least, I didn't get in trouble for leaking bags in the refrigerator. Win-win. I removed it and rinsed it. It was dried off and set in front of a fan to develop a pellicle for an hour. While that was going on I had to get the hot smoke situation sorted out. Now, typically when I buy the $1.99/lb pork belly from a meat market/butcher, etc. (which have been absolutely awful, skinny and lean recently) I don't hold it in too high regard. I get out my $30 smoker, start a fire and throw some soaked wood chips on it. Smoke for 2-2.5 hours and remove it. Always works just fine. This time, however, I was NOT willing to disrespect this meat, as it wasn't $1.99/lb either :) . I set up my Big Green Egg. After quite a bit of tinkering, I was able to hold the temperature at 200 degrees. Only then did I introduce the soaked apple wood chips along with some apple wood dust. I babysat this sucker for 3 hours. A temperature probe was inserted after about an hour. Total smoke time was between 45 minutes and an hour. Total time on the fire was roughly 2.5 hours, maybe closer to 2 hours and 45 minutes. Took it off, waited 10 minutes and skinned it. Couldn't wait, I had to cut a piece off and try it. This meat really behaves differently than any meat I've ever eaten. I can't decide if the fat explodes or melts in your mouth, or both........explodes then melts. Either way, I can't say I've experienced it before. The worst part about using this meat is I don't think I'll waste my time with any other meat, seems useless. As for the rest of the belly, I made a Pancetta Tesa cured with thyme and juniper. Also, a Pancetta Calabrese cured with hot pepper powder and fennel seeds. Finally, a nice piece of Speck which was cured with caraway seeds, bay, juniper and thyme. The Speck will be cold smoked for a total of 20 hours, 4 hours for 5 days. N'duja also to be removed shortly.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010


Silly in reference to this pork belly I procured yesterday from Michael Clampffer of Mosefund Farms. This is an 18lb. whole belly of a Mangalitsa pig. Looks more like the belly of a brontosaurus. Like a Fred Flinstone pork belly, almost comical, cartoonish even. I plan on breaking this into 4 sections of roughly 4.5lbs each. One pancetta, one bacon, one speck and I'm undecided on what to do with the 4th piece. Perhaps I'll do 2 different pancette....tese, of course. I don't think arrotolata is even a possibility due to the size of this thing. Anyway, sorry for the short post. I thought this was noteworthy based on the ridiculousness of it. More on this in a week or so.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Best Bresaola yet

I know I've posted about Bresaola a couple times already. I realize it's not really sexy anymore. However, I found it noteworthy solely based on the result. This is as close to perfection I think that I could get. Looking at the individual thinly cut slices, you can see the slight marbling in the beef. You can also see on the outside that there is absolutely no case hardening and it's overall lovely rosy tint. This is a salumi I make over and over for one simple reason............I like to eat it, and so does everyone else, it's a real crowd pleaser. For entertaining purposes, I slice a bunch like you see in the picture, pile a bunch of pickled artichokes in the middle and drizzle with a really good olive oil. As far as taste, this one is dynamite. What's peculiar about this particular bresaola is that I forgot about it. I put it in to cure, which was sage, rosemary and juniper, along with salt, sugar, pepper and cure #2, of course. Put it in a Ziploc and into the refrigerator. I usually do 14-15 days on bresaole. Well, this one got lost in the shuffle and spent 21 days in the cure. I thought it would be a bit salty, or overwhelmed by juniper. Wrong. I think the juniper may have somehow mellowed, because there is only a slight, pleasant hint of it. The salt content was fine, not salty at all. I think 21 days will be be the new curing time for all bresaole I make. Very pleased with this one as you can tell. I'll be even happier to make it disappear.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Venison Salame..........Once again

It's been quite some time, over a year, to be exact, since I've made venison salame. Shame, too, because it really is fantastic and pretty damned easy to make. But, honestly, I haven't made any due to the fact that I haven't been given any venison. I'm told it's been a slow deer hunting season. I find this a bit of a conundrum as I can't keep deer from eating the plants in backyard. Who knows. Finally, my cousin brought me 3 lbs. of freshly butchered venison. This was super lean, crimson red BLOOD red. I like to keep something this special really simple. I don't muddle it with too many ingredients, just salt, hot pepper powder and fresh garlic. That's it.
I ran this meat right through the grinder. It was butchered so thoroughly that there was NO fat and no connective tissue. I added 30% pork fat(jowl in this case). I used 3% salt, a pretty hefty 1.5% hot pepper powder, a couple fresh garlic cloves along with the obligatory cure #2(.25%) and lactic starter(.09%). Stuffed them in some beef middles where they will ferment for an undetermined amount of time. I've been going back and forth on the fermentation time and temperature and still haven't nailed anything down yet. I think I'll try 48 hours @ 80 degrees this go around. They should be ready in 4-5 weeks when the results will be posted.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Mangalitsa Guanciale

Here is that enormous Mangalitsa jowl that's been sitting in my curing chamber for several months. Just looking at the pictures you can tell this was a pretty special pig, or you can just assume he had a huge face ! I feel like the superlatives are redundant at a certain point, so, I won't gush. I always have "working" guanciale on hand, so, this was just a luxury. Also, when I saw the size of it, I knew it would be next to impossible for me to leave without it. I'm fairly confident I can make this guanciale disappear. Like I wrote, I always have "working" guanciale with which to cook. So, last week I needed some guanciale crisped and rendered for a recipe. The allure of using this stuff became overwhelming. I know it's heresy, but, I cut some up and cooked it. I keep looking through a thesaurus for synonyms for absurd or ridiculous and the like, but, I think I'd rather just describe how it tastes. Imagine that there was crispy pork flavored candy....................because there is! Seriously, if I were blindfolded, that's what I would have thought it was. Sweet, salty, porky candy. This stuff will definitely spoil me, I'm afraid. I am, as I have previously described, a guancialophile. I don't know how I'll be able to go back to "regular" guanciale after this. If you have the means to procure it, I highly recommend it.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Mangalitsa Lardo is ready

Here is the gigantic piece of Lardo that's been sitting in my chamber for 3 months. This stuff is just silly. Look at that lovely rose colored hue running right through the middle of it. I was concerned that it wouldn't be cured, I only left it to cure for 3 weeks. I also dried it as I would any other salumi, bearing in mind I don't have the unique marble coffin used in Tuscany for just this application. But, I am relieved to announce it is just fine. In fact, more than fine. It's terrific. I think God put these piggies on earth specifically to cure, I can't imagine they serve a better purpose than this. As I wrote prior regarding the coppa and how it melts in your mouth, the Lardo is even more unctuous, if that's possible. I sliced some paper thin to put on bruschetta. I toasted the bread and while it was still warm added the lardo. It was drizzled with top notch olive oil and cracked pepper. By the time I got to it, the lardo had begun to melt into the bread..............sick. There is one small caveat with this stuff. But, this goes for all salumi. I sliced a little with a knife that was a bit thicker than the with the machine and I didn't care for the mouth feel, it was a bit challenging. Again, this is true of all salumi. Sliced thinly on bruschetta, I made a whole lot disappear. Another small bit of advice when playing with Lardo. Prior to slicing, remove it from the chamber and either into the refrigerator for a couple hours or into the freezer for a couple minutes. This will make it much easier to slice. Otherwise, it will get really soft and be a pain in the neck to slice correctly. As you can see by the picture, it was starting to sweat a little. Doesn't take long, maybe 5 minutes. Mangalitsa guanciale is up next.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Mangalitsa Coppa Tasting

This is some fabulous stuff! I now understand what all the fuss is about. This was cured with the hot pepper powder and fennel seeds. It hung for roughly 6 weeks. I cut it down right at 30% weight loss. In this case, I think the 30% was perfect. The fennel seed and hot pepper powder really seemed to mellow and faded into the background as the pork was really able to stand out. What really makes this stuff ridiculous is it's unctuousness. Sliced paper thin, it actually melts on your tongue. This coppa was perhaps a bit too salty, but, that's hardly a complaint. Overall, I really couldn't be happier with this effort. Really, really great stuff.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Salame tasting

This is the most recent salame. I just pulled it down yesterday. By looking at it, I can honestly say, this is the best looking salame I've made, technique wise. You can see there aren't any holes in the forcemeat at all...........perfectly solid. The fat definition is great(in my opinion anyway, you're welcome to disagree), absolutely ZERO smearing. As for the tasting, it has a really nice black pepper heat to it. The anise is certainly present, but doesn't interfere. The garlic provides a pleasant backdrop, while the vermouth while mellow to begin with, has really fallen to the point where it's just an intriguing last taste. I think vermouth in salame is a great idea. I know that there are some who complain that raw wine leaves an unpleasant taste and choose to cook it down to rid it of this. What I think I've found with the vermouth is that you can use raw wine and it won't interfere with the flavor, yet still provide the gentle acidity for which you're looking. Overall, this is a REALLY good salame. With only 4 ingredients(aniseeds, garlic, black pepper, vermouth), I really couldn't ask for a better tasting(or looking) salame. The Mangalitsa salumi are ready and will be posted about this week.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

New Salame

It's been quite a while since I made a salame. I mean a salame that didn't contain enough hot pepper to sear your lips. So, I felt like making a regular old salame. But, I didn't feel like making something I've already made. That in mind, I opted for something just slightly unusual, sounded good in my head, anyway. This would be a salame with aniseed, garlic, black pepper and vermouth. Made the usual way, of course. Here's what it looked like:
1863 grams lean pork butt
615 grams pork backfat
86.7 grams salt(3.5%)
24.7 grams black pepper(1%)
19.8 grams aniseeds(.8%)
6.2 grams cure #2(.25%)
11.9 grams dextrose(.48%)
2.2 grams F-RM-52 starter culture(.09%)
3 large cloves garlic
1 cup dry vermouth
All the dry ingredients were combined into a mini chopper and beat up. I added a healthy tablespoon of whole black peppercorns at the end, for appearance's sake. This, incidentally, was my first effort using F-RM-52 starter culture. I think my F-LC has run it's course as I've mentioned in previous posts. These salami were stuffed into beef middles. So, nothing real exciting, but, at least it's something new to look at! Oh, the picture is deceiving, sorry. I hung them in the chamber just to take the pic. They will ferment at 70 degrees for 48-72 hours after being sprayed with M-EK-4 mold spray. Hopefully we'll be ready to cut them down in a month, just as I'm pulling my N'duje.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Mangalitsa part 2...Lardo

This is the gigantic piece of Mangalitsa Lardo that's been curing for 3 weeks. I've never cured anything for this long. Then again, I've never had anything this thick to cure before. As a gauge to it's thickness, I inserted a toothpick(far right). You can see the thickness is actually as thick as the toothpick. You can also see that is not even the thickest part of the Lardo! I hope that the 3 week cure was enough, but, it did feel pretty well cured. The cure consisted of juniper, rosemary and bay, along with salt, pepper, sugar and cure #2. All that's left now is to let it sit there for 2 months. I'm looking forward to this one. This may be my best work yet.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Mangalitsa Salumi part 1

Removed the guanciale and the coppa to be hung today. The guanciale was cured with salt, sugar, black pepper, thyme and juniper. I did about 12 days in the cure, I think it was probably ready at 10 days as it was quite stiff. You can see the size of this gorilla, I hung it in front of two other normal sized guanciali. So, in actuality, this is Mangalitsa guancialone. This will probably dry for the better part of 2 months.

This is the coppa. I cured this with my old standby I use for almost everything. I use it to make fresh sausage, for dry rubs, marinades and more. This is a combination of hot pepper powder Products, along with fennel seeds , salt and cure #2. I use them in the following ratio: 3.5% salt, 1.75% pepper powder, .88% fennel seed, .25% cure #2. I stuffed it in a 90mm collagen casing. Based on how long my Berkshire coppa took to cure, I'm guessing this should take roughly 6 weeks. Part 2 will be the Lardo. This thing is SOOO big, I'm going to let it cure for another couple days. Wait and see.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Back on the horse

Here's proof that it doesn't always go the way you want. After making that N'duja with which I was so happy, I committed N'dujacide. Having skipped a starter, I figured I would ferment at a little higher temperature than usual. So, I thought 90 was a good number, I'd fermented other salami at this temperature and it's been fine. Well, I have never made a salami from all jowl meat. I'm not 100% sure, but I'll go out on a limb and say jowl melts at around 90. I woke up and found the temperature in the oven to be 93 degrees. I removed the N'duja from it's container in the oven to find it a sack full of red liquid. After conferring with Larbo, we concluded it was indeed a bag full of hot melted lard and was toast. I hit it with the pricker and got most of the liquid out. I will hang and dry as normal, hopefully I can at least use it in pasta and pizza. So, I bought a couple more pounds of jowl and went right back at it. Same exact thing........3.5lbs. of jowl meat, 1 lb. hot pepper paste half pound of hot pepper powder Products, 3.5% salt and .25% cure #2.......that's it. Ferment for a couple days, cold smoke for a couple days(just got my cold smoke generator), and dry for a couple months. This is being gently fermented at 70 degrees.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Mosefund farms Mangalitsa

Had the opportunity this past Sunday to visit Michael Clampffer at Mosefund Farm for a tour of the facilities. After a series of swings and misses, we were finally able to nail it down. Here are the babies. They are held here for some time and subsequently moved to the pen with the larger fellows. This pig on the right is one of the babies that looks to have been born a sheep. He also thought my hand smelled like food, until he tasted it! Didn't stop him from gnawing on it anyway. Here are the bigger guys, napping between meals. They are penned off adjacent to the babies. More of the bigger boys, looking like seals on a San Francisco pier. Here is a picture of what might be the coolest feature(for the pigs)in the facility. The pigs are free to roam the surrounding hills. They are all fenced in and allowed to meander and eat, as Michael told me, whatever isn't nailed down. From there we went inside, where the largest pigs are held. They are fed just wheat, barley and acorns until they are slaughtered. I took a bunch of pictures, however, due to the dust kicked up from the ensuing melee created when Michael tossed a bucket of acorns into the pen, none of them are viable. Michael also showed me his curing chamber. I confess I am quite envious as he has an entire walk in closet full of lovely smelling prosciutti. Ok, so, time for business. Where's my meat? Went to the barn to pull some out of the freezer. When he removed some, I laughed out loud. Absolutely ridiculous stuff. This is stuff you hear about or read about, like Lardo di Colonnata. This looked even better. I got a big piece of shoulder, from which I'll remove a coppa and cure the roughly 2-3" of backfat for lardo. It is still semi-frozen in the picture, I hope you can make out the thickness of the backfat......absurd! I also grabbed a jowl for guanciale, as I find I am a guancialophile. Way too good and huuuuuge to pass on. For a size comparison, I cleaned it up and layed an already cured jowl next to it. This jowl weighs about 1.5lbs. So, you can see it's not like any jowl I've ever seen. I'll post more as I cure these within the next couple days. Thanks Michael for a really cool and interesting experience., and thanks for the delicious lardo!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

La N'Duja Terza

This is my third effort at this now hot as a pistol(literally and figuratively) salame. I think this may be my best effort yet. It was also my quickest. I knocked this out from start to finish in 2 hours. A bunch of research, a couple of emails to Calabrese people, both in this country and in Italy, and I was able to formulate a recipe. I opted not to use any offal. I've never used any, so, that's a variable I was more comfortable leaving out of the equation. I read recipes that included almost everything from the pig you could imagine. One recipe, I believe to be loosely translated to English, simply read "pig face." I'll assume they meant jowl. Others calling for everything in and around the head and face, even skin, which I don't think I'd seen before. Well, Larbo and I discussed it a little bit. He told me his best texture came from using straight belly. That sounded like the best option. But, what sounded even better was the "pig face" option. If belly was good, jowl must be better. It IS softer, more unctuous and fattier. I've seen it used in many recipes. That was what I decided on. This will be the easiest salame to explain in terms of ingredients and ratios. 5lbs. is the max I can do in one batch with the Kitchen Aid mixer. So, always looking to one up Larbo, I went with 30% total weight in peppers. I'll give the ratios in pounds, don't even have to mess with grams for this one. 3.5lbs. jowl, 1lb. hot pepper paste, .5lbs. peperoncino powder. That's it. Well, not quite, I forgot 3.5% salt, .25% cure #2 and about .5% dextrose. I stuffed it in a 4.5" beef bung. This was my first effort using beef bung. I have heard things about their odor. Well, I must have a good batch, as they had no odor to speak of. I rinsed and soaked for about 30 minutes. Stuffed pretty easily and quickly. Trussed it up quickly, here it is. Looks pretty damn good, I think. I'll ferment it for a couple days, while I wait for my cold smoker to arrive. Cold smoke it for about 3-4 hours a day for a week or so. I would love to smoke it with olive branches, for some reason, I'm thinking that's hard to come by. Anyone reading who has olive branches, I'd love to barter for some. For any readers out there who make their own salame, yet have not tried N'duja, you have no excuse! I carry all the pepper products in the store. :)

Monday, February 1, 2010


Terribly sorry for lack of posting. Been trying to get this store up and running. Proper website should be ready to go in a week or two, so I can get rid of the cheeeeezy ebay storefront. I've shipped out a bunch of hot pepper products. So, there better be a bunch of new N'duja posts. Got Larbo to create a monstrosity of a hybrid N'duja/mortadella, or N'dujadella. Which is delicious, BTW. I was supposed to head up to Mosefund farm to get my hands on some Mangalitsa yesterday. But, that fell through, so, we have tentatively rescheduled for this weekend. I have spent the last 2 weeks emailing and calling every importer/distributor/exporter in this country and Italy. Apparently, the wheels move somewhat slowly in Italy. I have been discussing deals for almost 2 weeks. Deals that for the most part could have been finalized in about 2 hours. But, as I was told, people in Italy don't check email like Americans. Which is probably a good thing, I get my email right to my phone, which can be annoying. Anyway, on the agenda..............I have a shipment coming from Milano. This will have Garganelli combs, gnocchi boards, sausage prickers, Mezzaluna knives and ravioli stamps. So, some interesting tools and gadgets. The mezzalune are made by inox bonomi, these are special to me because this is the exact model(I think)that I inherited from my grandmother. It is well over 60 years old and still in use. I have coming by the end of this week(hopefully) some fig vincotto, hot pepper vincotto, pane carasau(flatbread from Sardegna), malloreddus, mullet bottarga(dried roe), wild fennel pollen and some capers from Pantelleria. I am waiting on word from a company in Sardegna about some other pretty obscure ingredients including tuna bottarga and wild Sadinian cardoons under oil. Keep checking back, and if you want something you don't see , please post a comment here or drop an email. When everything gets up and running smoothly I will start carrying more common items like olive oil.(mostly DOP stuff, like Lago di Garda). My third N'duja attempt should be posted this week. This one to be 70% jowl and 30% hot pepper. YIKES!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Good News

N'duja can now be made by all! After a brief conversation with the Italian importers, Coluccio's, from whom I buy , I was given a green light to carry their products online. They have a great line of imported Italian food products. Almost everything you can think of. I need to know what readers would be most interested in me carrying. I can get just about anything you can think of, from saba and vin cotto to farro perlato and lentils from Castellucio. All types of oils, vinegars, olives, tuna in oil, pasta, coffee, spices and confections. Right now, I have a standing order for hot pepper paste, hot pepper powder(for N'duja, of course) and wild mountain fennel seed and probably some whole dried oregano(little bushes), dried rosemary branches and dried parsley. I won't have it until Friday, so, I have 2 days to come up with any products that would be in demand. Bear with me early on, as this is a fledgeling operation. Anyone who would like to order any of these three products, please drop me an email through the profile link on this page. I am in the process of quickly throwing together an ebay storefront to get started. Please make suggestions in the comment section. Forgot to add, I can get estratto(sicilian sun dried tomato paste), and wild fennel pollen(pricey).

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Cotechino time!

This is traditional Italian New year's fare. Typical from Emilia-Romagna, specifically Modena. This sausage is a bit of an enigma, well, in this country anyway. I was never able to find it consistently. One salumeria had it one year, then, not the next. Another was out of stock when I was looking there. Long story short, last year was when I first received the grinder attachment for the Kitchen Aid stand mixer. I performed an internet search for Cotechino in an effort to see if I could get some mail ordered by New year's. The search also turned up a recipe from a book on how to make it at home. The light bulb went on. It has been on ever since and spiraled out of control into what you're reading right now. Anyway, this was the first sausage I ever made. It was just last year and it was atrocious. I had no idea what I was doing, but at least they looked ok. So, with a year under my belt, I was confident I could pull it off. Over at Jason Molinari's blog, a Cotechino discussion was started with Al Verona. Al suggested the use of jowls as opposed to backfat. For my ratios I went 50% pork shoulder, 25% pig skin, 25% jowls. For spices, I used cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, coriander, and a touch of hot pepper, along with black pepper and cure #1. The ratios of these spices are all relatively small, all were based on Paul Bertolli's cotechino. I did, however, use a touch more cinnamon than what his calls for.

The meat and fat were ground through the course die. The pig skin, boiled for 40 minutes, was ground through the fine die. I did not do a second grinding through the course die, as I've seen suggested. I don't think my jowl was cold enough and feared it would start to smear. It already was looking pretty soft. They were stuffed in beef middles and hung in my curing chamber. I took 2 down and cooked them yesterday. I'm afraid I have to add that there was one huge, glaring error in making this sausage. I forgot to add SALT! This bothered me for two days. But, I wasn't about to cut them down and start over again. I figured I would aggressively salt the poaching liquid and season each slice as it was still really hot and would absorb a good bit of salt. I poached them in barely boiling, or "smiling" water for about 2 hours. They were then left in the water for another 20-30 minutes. I prepared a nice bed of marinated lentils for the slices of cotechino to rest upon. I got lucky, I sliced the cotechino and salted each slice on both sides. I've only had a handful of cotechini, so, I don't have a wide frame of reference. But, from what I've had, this was better than the others. The lack of salt wasn't an issue. It tasted very good, perhaps a bit, just a bit, heavy on the cinnamon. Other than that, I thought they tasted and looked just like they should.