Monday, 25 June 2012

Pancetta and Lonzino

Bacon hanging in the smoker
The smoking was a success! The pancetta smoked for just shy of 24 hours in a mixture of cherry and oak, roughly 50:50. I was slightly concerned that the neighbours would wonder what the hell was going on on my balcony; luckily the smoker doesn't produce that much smoke at all. I had a bit of trouble getting it lit initially, but once it was going it ran without a hitch.

I wrapped it in clingfilm and let it rest in the fridge for 2 days before I tried it. It smelled very smoky - almost like a speck or air-dried schinken (betraying my German ancestry there). So what does it taste like? Pretty good! The smoke flavour is strong, but not overly so. I might reduce the smoking time to two burns of the ProQ rather than three; but it's pretty good as it is. I'll definitely have to experiment with different times and different woods. I'm going to make some 'English' loin bacon this week, I've got some oak and hickory to try out.

Obligatory 'arty' shot

Like I said in a previous post I've just got back after being away with work for a couple of weeks. During that time the small lonzino I had hanging reached the magic weight loss of 30%. Sadly I wasn't arround to take it out. When I eventually got back it was pushing 35-40% weight loss. I didn't have high hopes as a couple of weeks before I'd noticed the top had dried much faster than the bottom. If anything it was too dry, very solid to the touch. Maybe I should start rotating them end over end every week. Does the moisture inside sink to the bottom under gravity I wonder? Or, more likely, is the fan at the top of my cabinet just drying the top of the meat faster? Whatever it might be I put the lonzino in a bag and put it into the fridge in the hope that the moisture would somehow re-distribute itself. Then I promptly forgot about it. 

The money shot

I re-discovered the lonzino this weekend whilst sorting through the fridge for something to snack on. I saw it huddled at the back like it was trying to escape my notice. On closer inspection one end was slightly dry, but cutting through the middle it's beautiful: not too salty, with a slight taste of juniper and hint of bay. Nom.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Smoking in progress

The pancetta came out of the cure yesterday. I washed it off and left it to dry overnight in the fridge to develop a pellicle. It's cold smoking now in a mixture of oak and cherry. I'm going to give it a total of 24 hours in 8-10 hour stints. Fingers crossed!

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Cold smoker setup

Sorry, I've been away with work for a couple of weeks so haven't had an opportunity to update the blog.

In the few days that I've been back I've begun to cobble together a cold smoker setup. For Christmas I received a copy of Keith Erlandson's book, "Home Smoking and Curing" and I've been meaning to try my hand at it for a while. After seeing the ProQ cold smoker on the Sausage Jockey's blog I knew I had to give it a try; at only £30 it's a bargain.

I bought a galvanised dustbin incinerator from Aldi (£20), a temperature probe from Amazon (£10), and a smoking basket and bacon holder (£15 each) from Hot Smoked. I'm planning to buy some steel rods to pass through the body of the incinerator to support the basket. I fashioned a lid for the incinerator out of a galvanised plant pot (£1 from Homebase) and drilled a couple of holes in it to let smoke escape. I think that's pretty much it. The smoker came with some oak dust; I also bought some extra oak, and some cherry dust to experiment with.

The Doctor couldn't help thinking that the
Deleks had let themselves go
I did a test smoke to coat the inside of the incinerator (as detailed in "Home Smoking and Curing"). After being lit the ProQ smoker smoked away for 10-12 hours quite happily. You can barely notice the smoke being produced. I didn't monitor the temperature but, as the ProQ can be used in a cardboard box, and it was a cold day (~15 degrees C), I'm sure it stayed under the 22-25 C temperature limit. The next thing to do will be to actually smoke some food. I've got some pancetta curing in the fridge and am thinking of making some fermented sausage - both of which would be suitable candidates.

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.

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Say hello to my little friend!

Imagine my surprise when a large package arrived on my desk today. What could it be? A gift from a well wisher? That box of a certain female celebrity's undergarments that I'd seen advertised on the internet? Perhaps that Nigerian prince had decided to send my the money in cash after I kindly furnished him with my bank details? No, it was far more exciting than all of the above - my new food slicer had arrived! I'd decided to buy a proper one after almost hacking off a finger slicing my home-made bacon. That, and to overcome my endemic laziness.

Behold the Slicer of Champions with Ham Blade
As soon as I got home I unpacked it and set it up in the kitchen. After plugging it in I stood back to admire it. A sunbeam actually shone through the window and illuminated the counter top. I also thought I heard some heavenly singing, as if from far away. It was then that I discovered two of the greatest words of the English language written onto a smaller package: 'Ham Blade'. We'll move on now before someone brings up the alternative name of 'Pork Sword'.

"It's only wafer thin"

I set the slicer to 1mm and tried it out on some of my lonzino. I have to say that it works amazingly well. The lonzino tasted pretty good before, but slicing it thinly takes it to a whole new level. It's much more melt-in-the-mouth; it almost dissolves away. Clearly, buying a meat slicer was a Good Thing.

The window to success...

I then spent a happy half hour finding other foods that could be sliced before the novelty wore off. Best. Half hour. Ever.