Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Toulouse sausage?

With Halloween approaching, we should probably turn our attention to something of serious concern: the return of the undead. Now, if movies and computer games have taught us anything (and they have), it's that if the undead appear the problem can be solved by hiding out in a shopping mall and stockpiling firearms. However, that's a typically American response to the problem. I think Simon Pegg and Nick Frost had it right - just go to the pub and enjoy a pint.

We'll meet here in the event of an undead apocalypse

What has this got to do with charcuterie? Nothing really, other than a slightly tenuous link that Halloween is approaching and tradition dictates that some of the undead, and your loved ones, can be repelled by garlic. Unless of course, we're talking about Twilight vampires - in which case I'd be tempted to reach for that shotgun...

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Schinken

I've been a bit busy with work so haven't updated in a while. I thought I'd bring you all up to speed with how things are going (or how's they've finished in fact). I cured the pork leg according to the instructions linked in the previous post. I wasn't sure about leaving it for rest for one month  when making lonzino it goes straight from cure to hanging after being washed. I'm assuming the resting contributes to the flavour (although if it'd going to hang for 6-12 months, does an extra month 'resting' at 4°C make a difference?). If someone knows why it should rest please let me know!

There was a bit of nitrate burn on the leg (lower right on the picture below)  this is something I've read about but never actually seen: it comes from leaving the meat in the extracted curing liquor for too long. I'll definitely make sure any meat is now raised off the base slightly in future to prevent it sitting in its own juices.

It burns! I'm melting etc

Now, I'm no butcher, but it seemed to me that the leg (as received from the supermarket) naturally divided itself into three. I portioned the leg up appropriately, weighed the pieces, then put them in the fridge to develop a pellicle ahead of smoking. The pieces were cold smoked over beech for four runs, each around 10-12 hours (using the ProQ generator and left to hang in the smoker in between runs). I then hung them up in the curing chamber to dry.

The Three Muskateers. Porthos has let himself go a bit.
The smaller pieces were ready in a couple of weeks. The outside is a little dry in places (easily cut off and removed), but the inside has dried nicely. It has a good, strong smoky flavour and is delicious on pizza, on some good bread bread, or simply scoffed on its own.

Tasty stuff
All this actually happened a few weeks ago, so technically I'm from the future. Now the larger piece has also reached the correct weight loss. I haven't cut it open yet, but as soon as I do I'll give you another update.  

Monday, 1 October 2012

I'm making air dried ham

Well, that's the plan. My curing chamber stands empty, devoid of meaty treats. I've read posts/articles on the internet where the authors proclaim fermented sausages to be the pinnacle of the art of charcuterie. This is probably true  but I would argue that producing a decent air-dried ham is up there too. Sure, grinding up raw meat, fat and spices; stuffing it all into casings; hanging the sausages up for weeks at various temperatures/humidities; and ending up with decent fermented sausages is challenging. Hanging up a cured pig leg smeared with lard on the other hand, less so. The challenge with ham comes in keeping it under stable conditions for the months/years required for it to cure and age properly.


The whole thing that started me experimenting with curing meat was the thought of making some proper air-dried ham. Buying a whole pig leg is a bit of an investment, particularly when I'm still having trouble with case hardening with some things. I was in the supermarket the other day and de-boned pork leg roasts were on offer, so I thought "What the hell, let's do it!". In my head that "let's do it!" was in the voice of Family Guy's Joe Swanson.


I'm loosely basing my effort on the recipe here. I say loosely because I'm aiming for a German-style cured smoked ham – a black forest schinken (a recipe for which can be found here). The problem with the second recipe is that, living in a flat, I don't have anywhere to put a container holding 12 L of brine for 2 weeks at 4°C (the fridge is a no go). Therefore, I'm going to mash both recipes together and see what emerges; kind of like a toddler let loose on a shiny new pack of Plasticine.

"Look, I've made a ham"