Sunday, 20 May 2012

Spicy Lonzino

(The casing of the Leviathan)

Before I take the plunge and cure a full-on pork leg (which is always the dream), I thought I'd try something a bit less demanding. The charcuterie equivalent of the shallow end if you will. Lonzino – cured pork loin – seemed like the perfect choice. So I had a go and it worked well, it was porky and junipery, slightly salty, and extremely delicious. I wanted to make some more. As luck would have it, I was in Waitrose at the weekend and I picked up a two kilogram pork loin on offer for half price. Challenge accepted!

I thought I'd aim for a slightly spicy lonzino this time. Not 'makes grown men cry and destroys all life within a 2-mile radius' spicy, but something with a little bit of fire in its belly. A Google search turned up a few recipes, the authors of which all concluded, "it's not really as spicy as I wanted". Most of these recipes involved rolling the loin in chili powder or cayenne before casing in a beef cap. In his blog, Jason at Cured Meats suggested adding the chilli powder to the cure to infuse some heat, in addition to coating before hanging. That sounded like it was worth a try. As I don't have a smoker yet (though Adam over at The Sausage Jockey has found a good bit of kit), I also thought I'd add some smoked paprika to add an extra dimension. Here is the recipe I came up with (the ingredients are given as a percentage weight of the pork loin).

Spicy Lonzino

Ingredient Weight (%)
Pork loin
Cure #2
Black pepper
Smoked paprika (hot)
Cayenne pepper

All the ingredients were mixed together and pressed onto the loin to cover it. The coated loin and any cure that didn't stick were put into a zip-lock bag, sealed, and put into the fridge to cure for 10 days. Every other day I flipped the bag over to allow the extracted liquid to move around and massaged the cure through the bag.

After 10 days I removed the loin from the bag. I washed the majority of the cure off, dried it off with paper towels and set on a rack to dry for 2–3 hours. I also took my beef cap out and cut it to about 4" longer than the loin. The cap was then rinsed to remove the salt, and left it to soak in a bowl of water while the pork was drying.

Timmy wasn't too keen on
his new football socks 

When the pork was dry I dredged it all over with cayenne pepper so that it was completely covered. I then added some chili flakes for good measure (about 2 teaspoons). Next came the hardest part: stuffing a 2.5 kg pork loin into the beef cap. The beef cap is shown on the right. They're pretty stretchy, but even so, it was a mighty struggle. I took some photos during the process, but they honestly look like scenes from a slasher movie. Keep at it, you'll get there eventually. I think it took me a good 10–15 min before victory was mine.
The cased Leviathan

The last thing to do was to tie the loin up. Both ends were tied off with bubble knots, and the loin tied along its length, as you would with a roast. This has to be done as tightly as you can. The final step was to prick any air bubbles in the casing with a sterilised needle (heat a needle until red hot; it should sizzle the first time you poke it into the meat). The loin was then hung at room temperature for 36 hours. The casing begins to dry and shrinks tightly around the meat; you can see than the casing has turned translucent. The loin was then weighed and hung in the curing chamber. It should be ready when it's lost around 30% of its starting weight.

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