Thursday, 9 May 2013

So long old friend

I've been reading the excellent The Art Of Making Fermented Sausages by Marianski and Marianski that I got for Christmas. The book is a real tour de force - covering every aspect of fermented sausage production from the science behind the process, bacterial cultures, and chemical changes occurring in the sausage, to meat selection, how to rig up drying equipment and store the finished product - all in clear, concise language. It made me think of my wine cooler curing chamber and how it really needs some improvement if I'm ever going to make decent fermented sausages safely.

So, I've done a bit of soul searching and finally admitted that it isn't working out with the wine cooler (it's not you - it's me etc; although it really is you). The Peltier system just can't cope with the humidity required: the plate and fan ice up, stopping the cooling altogether. This in turn causes the temperature to rise and the RH to drop. In short the system just isn't stable; this should have been obvious given that some dehumidifiers work by using a Peltier-cooled plate to remove moisture from the air. Disconnecting or slowing the fan doesn't work (the fan is also causing case hardening of the sausages).

We hardly knew ye

I've decided to take the plunge and make a chamber from scratch using a proper fridge (not a wine cooler). Temperature and humidity will be monitored and controlled to create the stable conditions required for curing. I'm currently gathering the equipment and hope to post on my new build in the next few weeks.

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Chorizo plans

I've just got back from 2 weeks working out in the South China Sea. During my time at sea we had chicken and rice for every meal, and I mean every meal. Consequently one of the first things I did once I got back onshore (apart from stuffing my face with cheeseburgers) was to decide that I'd get some proper charcuterie on the go once I was home. In particular I'd like to have another crack at some fermented sausage: namely chorizo.

I'm going to gather recipes/ingredients and make some plans. Watch this space.

Update: The chorizo plans have been shelved while I commission my new curing chamber. Sadly, with work commitments, this probably won't be until autumn

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Maple Bacon with Chilli and Black Pepper

To celebrate moving into the new house I decided to initially stick to something simple and make some back bacon. I spotted a recipe for honey-cured bacon with chilli and black pepper on the sausagemaking forum  (so all credit to JerBear) but tweaked the recipe slightly, substituting maple syrup for honey and including less salt (read the discussion following the recipe; I use Phil Young's online cure calculator here). I used the standard equilibrium dry curing method, where you stuff all the ingredients in a ziplock bag along with the meat and give it a good shake/massage.

This little piggy went to market...
The loin was cured for just over a week, massaging and turning every day. After that I took it out, washed it off and left it in the fridge overnight to form a pellicle. Before putting it in the smoker I sprinkled the meat surface with freshly ground black pepper and chilli flakes. I pressed them onto the meat surface rather than rubbing them in. The bacon was cold smoked for 12 hours over maple.

The slicer of Champions gets a work out

I couldn't resist and had to fry some up there and then for a bacon sandwich.

Sunday morning sandwich, still in dressing gown...

On a side note I always add sodium ascorbate (the sodium salt of vitamin C) to my bacon cure. This is in order to inhibit the formation of nitrosamines  carcinogenic compounds formed under certain conditions by the reaction of nitrite with protein; such as the high temperatures involved in frying (nitrite reacts with secondary amine groups i.e. proline residues; but that's enough of that science fans). Now I know this isn't strictly necessarily and that in the UK we have no rule on adding ascorbate to bacon (nor is there one forbidding its use); we're also free to use nitrate in our bacon cures. On balance my personal opinion that ascorbate addition is worth it.

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Happy New Year

Happy New Year everyone. I'm afraid I won't be updating the blog for a while, well, a month or so  I'm due to go away with work this weekend for two weeks, then move house the week I get back. My time for the next month will be spent packing, working, moving, unpacking and decorating.

To keep me entertained until I get back I've got this (it was a Christmas present):

Luckily our new house will have quite a bit of space so I'm already planning the man cave, complete with meat products. I might try my hand at a chorizo or saucisson sec to celebrate the new house...

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Duck and Armagnac Rillettes

A few weeks ago I posted about some confit duck that I'd made. I said then that the plan was to make them into rillettes. Well, I've got this week off work so it's the ideal time. I'd told Sandra at work my latest plan and she bought me in a present: a jar of rillettes de canard that she's got while on holiday in France. So I've now got something to aim for.

That's French for 'potted duck'

As some of the rillettes will be given away for Christmas I bought some small jars to make them look like I'd made a bit of an effort.  Before I started I washed the jars in hot soapy water and put them in the oven at 120 to sterilise them. The lid were covered in boiling water from the kettle.

Duck and Armagnac Rillette Recipe

  • The meat from 6 confit duck legs (see here for my confit adventure);
  • 2 tablespoons of the confit fat
  • The reserved confit stock (I used 2-3 tablespoons)
  • Armagnac (or any other spirit)
  • Pepper

I used a kilner jar to store my confit duck, so the first thing was to get the duck out of the solid fat. I just warmed the jar a little bit to soften the fat. It was a bit of a messy affair. And by a bit I mean 'a lot', and I 'a lot' I mean it went everywhere. So I'd suggest using gloves. Really. Use gloves (it also makes you feel like you're in an episode of CSI, or satisfies your inner latex fetish, whatever). 

From the left: melted fat, armagnac, duck stock and meat
  1. Strip the meat off the bones and place in a sturdy bowl. Grab a wooden spoon and pound the bejesus out of it to form a coarse paste.
  2. If using, taste the reserved stock (to gauge for salty it is), add a small amount to the meat and beat it in until it's combined. Keep tasting and adding more until it's just salty enough. I added around 2-3 tablespoons.
  3. Re-render the fat and put it through a sieve (this removes any rogue skin, meat or bits of bone that you might have missed). Add 2 tablespoons of fat to the meat and beat it to combine; at this stage it will start to take on a paler colour and look more like pate.
  4. Add 2 tablespoons of Armagnac and a good grind of pepper and give everything a good mix.
  5. Add more Armagnac and pepper to taste. Hint: don't take a big swig of Armagnac before you do the tasting (as I did), it means you won't be able to taste the Armagnac. But you will start to enjoy making rillettes much more 
  6. Add to your sterilised jars and seal with fat.

Making the rillettes isn't that difficult, it just requires a little bit of time and elbow grease. Covered with fat and kept in the fridge they should last a little while, though they're so tasty they probably be gone faster than a plate of cookies at a weight watchers meeting.

Take rillette, apply to face