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.


  1. (insert applause emoticon)
    However, in my experience the pork skin has been cooked for much longer so that it almost gelatinous and then ground chilled. 25% pork jowl may be a bit ambitious since it is so fatty, might be better off curing it for guanciale.

    What wouldn't be a bad idea would be to stuff them in 32-35 casings and simmer the cotechino in the lentils with water and let all that jelly
    goodness thicken the stuff up.

    I made New Year's day Boudin Blanc with pureed red lentils cooked in veal tallow and onions instead of bread. Good stuff.

  2. Wow Scott. I was under the impression you had been at this more than just a year. Nice work on all the things you've attempted/completed! Nice pairing of the sausage and lentils. One of my favorite dishes eaten in france was a saussice de toulouse with Puy lentils.

  3. Oste: I, too, was concerned that 25% jowl was a bit much. But, based on the finished product, I can't say it was an issue. The skin was prepared as instructed by Paul Bertolli. I'll definitely try cooking it much longer next time.

    Charcutier: Thanks....interesting blog.

  4. Scott, as a big fan of gelatinous meat, your pictures and description are making me wish I had a source for pig skin! None of the slaughter houses around here has a scalder, so they just skin the pigs and throw it away!

  5. I'm sure I could wrangle some up for you. Maybe even some wooly Mangalitsa!

  6. Scott, i think Oste meant cooking the cotechino longer, not pre-boiling longer. You want the skin to convert to gelatin inside your sausage, not before griding!
    Looks awesome!!

    Have you tried Mangalitsa pork?

  7. Thanks, Jason. I will be going to Mosefund either next week or the week after. I've been clamoring to get my hands on some of that.

  8. @ JasonMolinari.
    I suggest simmering the skin longer as I don't think 40 minutes is enough to get it tender. I braise skin-on pork belly for 2-3 hours and when roasting it there is still enough gelatin to stun a Rabbi. I chill the skin overnight and grind it with the meat, though in proportions closer to 1/3 skin/meat.

  9. Oste: i boiled my skin this year only 8 minutes, and it was soft enough to grind...