KevinTV

Archive for the ‘Pork’ Category

Why I Need an Annual ‘Charcuterie Day’

11.25.13

Charcuterie Day - Sausage and Bacon It’s becoming increasingly clear to me that an annual ‘Charcuterie Day‘ marathon immediately following the annual ‘Pig Day‘ is in my future for a long, long time. Here’s why.

Bacon.

Beyond bacon [reason alone], I’m not concerned with the possibility of trichinosis in my extremely high quality bush-raised-and-handled-by-me pork and skipping right past freezing and into to curing and dry curing. Purists prefer this approach to frozen meats. I’m happy to have it an outcome of pragmatism. Having spent a few hours breaking down the pig, I have fresh in the brain a host of ideas for the delicious possibilities in front of me, and can save myself the following steps: bagging, butcher paper wrapping, hauling to freezer, energy required for freezing, taking it out to defrost, throwing out of packaging, handling of post-freeze sloppy wet meat [fresh is nicer to work with]. I also avoid the possibility of neglecting a cut deep in my freezer, and the worry of having to inventory it to figure out whether that is the case or not.

So I spent a relaxed 8 hour day putting it all up. Both entire sides of the pig went into various forms of bacon – some plain, some spiced with chili, white pepper [deep gratitude to John at Oyama Sausage for the hook-up], and fennel before getting hot smoked. No more ‘when are you going to make bacon again?’ from the family for this guy. It’s done. I also put up the 2 pig faces into guanciale, and a kilo or so of back fat into lardo. In this year’s case, I’d just shot a deer a week prior, so taking fresh deer trim and making 15lbs or so of best-I’ve-ever-made sausage with fresh pig belly seemed sensible. Salted a whole back leg for its long fate of air drying.

I acknowledge that it’s super handy to have cold storage that is my cellar setup to handle the volume of meats so that they’re not consuming my entire fridge. If that was required though, it’d be worth the bother. A big change for me is that I to finally caved on my ‘no energy input‘ purism about my wine/cider/charcuterie cellar and actually put a heater and humidifier in there to create the conditions necessary for dry curing. I’m going to say though [read: justify to myself] that the energy my humidifier and heater consume are a saw-off for the freezer energy, time, and packaging I won’t use for the dry cured items. So while I used to have a 2-3 month natural window [Jun-Aug] of optimal temp and humidity in my 6x6x8′ dry curing chamber, I’ll now have it rolling year round.  Gearing it up is a bit challenging as substantially all of what others have done and shared online relates to the constraints of a repurposed fridge. Still trying to figure out the best way to tweak out my space. A happy problem.

A reason NOT to do a ‘Charcuterie Day’ immediately post ‘Pig day’? It’s a busy time of year typically, and there are many another food thing to tend to. I’m over that one. Or perhaps you don’t have your own ‘Pig Day‘ to follow up. That, my friends, unless you have a religious/cultural justification, needs to be rectified.

Charcuterie Day - Venison Sausage

1867 – Oyama Sausage Co. [Ep 62]

06.25.13

Many a romp through France got me very dearly attached to saucisson sec. The count of Albertan charcutiers in business back then, and still, added up to a disheartening zero. There was, however, hope. Every visit to the west coast meant pilgrimage to Oyama’s stall at the Granville Island Market to get a fix. I’ve adored their rillettes, confits, terrines, sausages, dry cured meats, you name it. And this whole damn time I wondered how they got it all so right. Then I met John.

It was really, really hard not to make a reference in this post to Yoda or Mecca somewhere, and will likely be scorned for capitalizing both those words in the same sentence. John’s at the top of his game, and goes right to the top of the list of coolest people I’ve ever met in the world of food. Folks think they know their shit. They don’t. John does. A mini-series of videos wouldn’t be sufficient. It was a humbling visit.

Episode 57 – Sunrise Farm

10.25.12

A couple decades ago, some forward thinking individual(s) decided to put on a holistic management course within the agriculture community, and whoever you are/were, I thank you. The output of that re-think of industrialized ag can be seen in the successes and influence of Ron Hamilton (Ep. 4), Peter Lundgard (Ep. 47), and featured in this one [and long overdue at that], Don Ruzicka of Sunrise Farm.

I find myself lacking the adequate supply of positive adjectives to adequately describe Don and his approach to sharing his experience in the world of food production – but I’ll try a few: he’s passionate, gentle, kind, generous, and vastly underrated in terms of his profile in the broader food community. The foods folks like this produce should be the brands that matter in the food industry – in this case not just because of animal handling practices, but because of philosophy and approach to land stewardship in general. We’re partly on the way down that road of producer becoming rock star in Alberta, but I think there’s some consumer flushing out to do of what’s good marketing, and where best practices are being reinvented – a motivator for me personally to keep visiting farms and asking questions with a camera rolling. Don’s the real deal.

Episode 56 – Pig Day

10.17.12

Pig Day. This was my 5th annual pig day – the one day a year we spend putting up all the pork we’ll eat for the entire year. If we run out, one waits until the next pig arrives. This site is long enough in the tooth to have documented the 1st annual Pig Day. I’m sure it will document many more.

This one was particularly memorable. Twitter made me aware of rock-star-in-hiding Elyse Chatterton, a Master Butcher from the UK with some serious meat cutting skills. A half bottle of wine made me brave enough to invite her. After that, a number of invitations went out to friends, and we all of a sudden had a crew of 12 and 10 sides of Tamworth for 2012′s Pig Day – including the farmers that raised the pigs. A full day of sharing, cutting beautiful pork, hard work, eating, drinking, with the air wafting with wood smoke and conversation. Not sure there’s more one can ask for.

The video features Elyse talking through how she’s accustomed to breaking down a pork, UK-style, and Shannon Ruzicka speaking to how the pigs are raised. And yes there was some roast tying race action. And yes, she won with ease.

Episode 50 – Pork Butchery Workshop V1.0

09.09.12

Jeff Senger of Sangudo Custom Meats

If only 2002 Kevin knew this was coming in 2012. 10 years ago I lived in a condo, fondling my tattered copy of ‘Charcuterie’, longing for an opportunity to get my hands on a whole hog to do even just a few of the myriad of possible delicious preparations pork offered – many of which you can do at home but money can’t otherwise buy. But I had no space to do it. I had nobody to show me the way. I’d never met a pork farmer who I could ask to hook me up. In the spring of 2008, I had moved into our current home, and the previous winters’ pent up porcine desires meant its garage was pre-destined to witness many a pig butchering. 4 years on, many sides and porkventures later, and after a few pints of beer with Jeff Senger tossing around the idea, here we are putting on a pig butchery workshop. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m no master at breaking down a side – but mastery was not the objective here. Instead my hope was to give folks that were in a position I recall all too well a crack at breaking the ice. To give them a shot at seeing pig go from live on the hoof to wrapped and packed in the freezer, largely by their own hand. Pig Butchery 101, down and dirty.

Huge thanks to Jeff Senger and Allan Suddaby for putting their heart into it and sharing their expertise throughout the day. An equally huge thanks to those who came, who took the leap. I think it was a day all involved will remember for a long, long time. And yes, we’re talking about maybe doing more. Maybe even a beef butchery workshop. Maybe.

Episode 49 – Rge Rd 135

08.22.12

Last year’s Rge Rd 135 farm-to-table epic at Nature’s Green Acres [Episode 19] is still engraved into the minds of everyone that had the pleasure of being involved, making me more than slightly trepdatious at the prospect of trying to duplicate, nevermind top that farm-to-table extravaganza. But as far as I see it, they pulled it off.

Maybe I’m biased. It was a menu heavy on grass fed free-range meats, fresh garden veg and a splash of wild foods, all cooked on fire. I’m into that kind of thing. It also was the true maiden voyage of the 2nd cob oven build of the year, the first being mine. Add a lucky card-draw on the weather [again], a crew that busted their butts to make it happen, a few bottles of wine, a farm tour, and a few beautiful dishes for a large crew of happy guests – what’s not to like? The cob oven performed fabulously, I’ll add. It was a joy to watch it shed the last of its moisture from the build, get insanely hot, and cook some beautiful food. I wish I’d shot a video about the build, but was soaked to squishy-socks-in-my-shoes-stage and muddy as all heck.

This event is a labour of love, and for that I adore it.

Cob Oven Bacon

06.03.12

Writing about bacon. Again. Just when I thought there wasn’t anything additional to add to the conversation I have with myself here, there was something else to add. A simple conclusion: wood ovens are fantastic smokers. Different than a commercially manufactured smoker that generally involves automation, an element, and some wood chips, it still requires some finagaling in the way of fire management, making it an enjoyable creative process. Not only does it contain smoke as intensely as you’d like, it’s also well suited to creating smoke, as it’s easy to shut down its O2 supply such that it can’t ‘catch’ flame, and instead smoulders and smokes prolifically. I still maintain that an external fire source is critical to successful smoking, so I had a fire in an old baking pan off to the side to fuel the oven with heat when it started to cool off too much to hot smoke, or generate smoke at all for that matter. As usual, the wood of choice in my yard is apple wood, this time supplied by a friend at Operation Fruit Rescue Edmonton. A future project of mine: many of the hundreds of trees OFRE has signed up for fruit rescue need some serious pruning + a local meat shop is interested in smoking their meats with said wood = cool.

So after years with a bbq conversion setup, and a year with a dry-stack brick setup, I am now pleased to be staring down a future of smoking in the new cob oven. A friend recently asked me if the honeymoon phase is over with the oven. Nope.

Episode 37 – Bacon

03.21.12

I’ve been writing about bacon for years now. As in, 6-7 years. I’ve made it umpteen times, yet there are always little refinements here and there to make in the process. You’d think I’d have run out of things to say about it too by now. Nope.

I feel like this episode should be rated ‘N’ for containing the evil ‘Nitrates’. But for all you nitrate haters, consider this: “the permissible amount of nitrate in comminuted meat products [sausages], is 1718 mg/kg.” The amounts of nitrates naturally inherent in vegetables are then quoted, again in mg/kg: “spinach, 1631. beetroot, 1211. lettuces, 1051. cabbages, 338. potatoes, 155…” The list goes on. I’m quoting the book ‘Meat Smoking and Smokehouse Design’ by respected charcuterie authors S., A., & R. Marianski. The authors then go on: “If one ate 1/4 lb smoked sausage, the ingoing nitrate would be 430ppm. That would probably account for less nitrates than a dinner served with potatoes and spinach.” 

That’s right. That box-store bagged spinach [which has a nasty history of carrying deadly pathogens, I'll add], cooked into a nice lasagna, would very likely have far more nitrates in it than a healthy portion of bacon. There are many things to fear in the food world, but let moderate use of nitrates not be one of them. And lastly, let me say it for the record: bacon without nitrates is not bacon, it’s pork belly. If you’re smoking pork belly without nitrates to get a ‘pretend bacon’ or ‘nitrate-free bacon’, you’re missing the point that nitrates are present to avoid you having a intimate encounter with ‘Mr. Botulism’.

Gratuitous Pork-on-Rotisserie Action

12.30.11

I couldn’t help myself. A large piece of pork shoulder came out of the freezer, and all I could think was ‘rotisserie‘, shortly followed by ‘I want to shoot that‘. I figure one thing better than watching the fireplace channel is watching a fire AND a chunk of pork shoulder turning away on a spit. It will also serve as a reminder that I do not rotisserie nearly enough, not even close. I fell in love with rotisserie’d pork and chicken long ago in Belgium, and partook in both when I was there again in September. They know rotisserie. Combine that with good beer, and it’s one of the many reasons I keeping going back to Belgium. Every time I pull the spit out I kick myself for it having been so long. Perhaps that should be my new year’s resolution for 2012: more rotisserie, lots more.

The shoulder was started in a lidded earthenware crock, in the oven with some carrot, onion, sage, and apple wine – 180C for 2-3 hours. The idea here was to let it break down in the oven, and to finish it on the fire. Worked a charm. I will most certainly be doing the same again. And the days I’m not setting up the rotisserie, I can now sit back and watch.

I recommend watching the vid below with a beer in hand.

Dry Cured Pig Face, Complete.

12.27.11

When we butchered pigs back in mid-October, one pig face was allocated to dry curing [details here], and today it came down from its hook in the cellar – 2 months later. I’ve successfully cured a number of jowls, and was keen to see how this one turned out as it lacked the slashes we’ve had from processor-butchered jowls, and I had also left cheek muscle, and other muscles in the preparation – you can see the dark cheek meat on the left. The simple conclusion is that it’s darned lovely, period.

I’ve admitted before that I’ll take a well made bacon over guanciale, generally speaking, but I’m certainly starting to see the appeal to this piece of charcuterie. The dry curing gives it some complexity and intellect that bacon can lack – bacon’s strength is pure hedonism, it’s not so much about the brains. The dry curing brings some mystery to the table – some light funk and earthiness. Some drama.

What to do with it? Lunch was fried lardons of dry cured pig face, onion, and tomato sauce – classic pasta all’Amatriciana, really. So tasty. I get why this dish is a classic – the dry cured pork has a chance to show its character. Of all dry curing, this one seems like a good bet if you’re thinking of trying your hand at it. Seems consistently successful and presents few challenges if any. Except maybe, for finding yourself a pig head in the first place.