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Archive for the ‘Whole Muscle’ 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.

Dry Cured Ham Report

11.29.11

Pulled this piece of dry cured pork from the cellar this morning as it was feeling decently firm after 1 month of hanging, still showing a bit of give. Kicking myself for not weighing these so I could measure by % weight loss – I’ve purchased some tags that neatly fit on my cellar hooks to label my charcuterie now, so weights will go on there in the future. Wrote about cure day here. Wrote about mold-innoculation day here. Some thoughts:

I’m thinking this could have stayed in the cure longer pre-hanging. It could stand a bit more salt. It’s extremely delicate in flavour, super-clean overall – almost so much so that I was wanting a lick of smoke or something else in there to pick it up a bit. The texture’s fine, albeit a little uneven – you can see the harder dry edges vs the softer interior. I’m guessing a few days in the fridge would help even that gradient out. I noticed too that when cut, the piece showed air pockets within the muscle. Rather counterintuitive as you’d think the muscle would firm up uniformly, but makes the case for me for why these pieces are normally tied tight. The collagen casing worked fine – clung to the meat well, allowed things to dry well [another counterintuitive item - wrap something tight in order to dry it..], and was easy to peel back pre-slicing.

I think my P. Nalgionvense mold struggled in the cold environment that is my winter cellar – a mere 6C at the moment. I’m guessing if it were up around 10C or higher, the mold would have had a better time. I’ve recently cut a 4″ vent hole through my cellar wall into the adjacent room to hopefully be able to warm it up a bit in the winter, and add some ventilation in general. I haven’t found it’s impacted my humidity or temp greatly which was a bit of a surprise, as on the warm side you can feel the cold air drawing through: evidence that it is indeed exchanging air.

I’ve hung this piece back in the cellar to dry up just a bit more, and it’s time to go take out another piece to try. I’m going to be going on a rather extensive run of experiments over the next while, as there’s a very good chance our local culinary school will be building a first-of-its-kind-in-Canada charcuterie program in the near future, which I’ll be involved in. The more projects and learning and I can cram into the next few months before the first intake of students, the better. In fact, I’ve got a very inexpensive side of local pig arriving here in the next few days to play around with, and I’m looking forward to seeing where that leads.

Playing with Mold & Dry Cure Update

11.05.11

I started the cure on these ham cuts here. They were cut from the rear side of the ham, and post cure I decided that rather than stuff it into a bladder as is traditional with Italian Fiocco, I’d cut it in half and stuff it into some 61mm protein-lined clear casing I had on hand for making saucisson sec. They both fit into a single 24″ casing, which I cut into two pieces. I seemed to recall someone online mentioning soaking the casings pre-stuffing, and I can attest to it making stuffing far easier. Tied the casings with kitchen string, wishing I had splurged on a pair of pliers to put wire clips on the ends.

They were hung overnight in the cellar at 8.3C and 50% RH, which is both too cold and too dry. The humidity’s on its way up though, as I’ve reintroduced the bucket of water with wick for the winter. The hanging meats will also help bring it up. Last winter it was up in the 70% range.

This morning, I got to play with Penicillium Nalgionvense for the first time. Frustratingly, it’s yet another charcuterie product that is locally unavailable, so I had to buy it from the US. I’ve had a concerning lack of healthy white molds in my cellar over the past few months, so I’m reintroducing some desirable molds to see how it works out. The photo below shows how much [1/8 tsp in a ramekin of tepid water] I used, let it soak overnight, then applied it in the morning in a fashion similar to basting meats in a fry pan with the cooking fat. Spooned it on, coating the whole thing a couple times over. I’m extremely curious to see how long it takes to bloom and do it’s thing. I’ll post an update on the mold development and finished product over the coming weeks.