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.