Saturday, December 24, 2011

Cured Egg Yolks

I have been playing around with the idea of curing an egg yolk for a while.  I have tried many different ways and have found the one I like the best.  Many of you may be asking yourself, why is this guy curing an egg yolk, and what in the hell is he going to do with it when its done.... Simple because I can and I am going to eat it!!  For those of you that don't know me that well, I have recently quit my Big Boy job to pursue my dream of doing Charcuterie and working in a Restaurant full time.  This has been a passion of mine for a long time, and thanks to my friends Andy Ticer and Michael Hudman from AMIK for sparking my passion.  Anyway onto the topic at hand, the wonderful world of the Egg!!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Beer vs Wine dinner at AMIK

Recently at AMIK (Andrew Michaels Italian kitchen) we hosted a Beer vs Wine dinner.  It was five courses of amazing food, each paired with a wine and a beer.  The guests all voted on each course to which pairing they like the most.  I really wanted to take pictures of each course, and explain each one, but this did not go as planned.  This was the first opportunity for my new little company to make its debut.  I supplied the appetizers during the cocktail hour before the event.  It was very successful.  There was pretty much nothing left, and Burning River meats has some new fans.  Here is a couple pics of the menus.

Sorry for the Break.

I have been super busy as of late with my big boy job and with my little Charcuterie company so I have not been able to post anything.  I have a lot of things in the pipeline to get up here.  Plus I am starting a new blog. as well.  Thing have been going great.  I have been Staging in a friends kitchen and learning more about the commercial kitchen.  I had a great spread at a local charity event, had the opportunity to cook for John T. Edge   director of the Southern Foodways Alliance.  And have done much more.  I will get pics up soon, and some sell sheets up so you can order some of my sausages and assorted Charcuterie.  Thanks for checking back and I look forward to posting more soon!!  Just since I have been away, don't forget.  Source local, and Love Your Meat!!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Pickled Vegetables

I don't only play with meat.  I love the acid, and the vinegar flavor of anything pickled when eating charcuterie.  It breaks up the fattiness of a terrine, goes great with any salumi.  This is one of my favorites here.  The crispness of the Cauliflower, and the sweetness from the fresh carrots are great.  And the little zip from the peppers.  I make mine a little different, I use a mixture of Champagne vinegar and distilled white vinegar.  The Champagne gives more sweetness and depth of flavor, where the distilled white vinegar gives you the punch of acidity.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Tasso Ham Recipe.

This salty and spicy pork treat has its roots in Creole cuisine.  Creole cuisine is really a style of cooking that blends  many cultures flavors together.  Including French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Greek, Asian, as well as the taste of the South.  No wonder why there is so much going on with this meat.  Tasso Ham is not meant to be eaten on its own, it is more of an ingredient.  As well it is a meat poser, being that it is not even a ham at all.  If you look back to my previous post on Primals, you will see that the ham comes from the rear leg of the pig, when tasso is made with the shoulder, or butt, which is on the front of the animal.  Here is a boned out shoulder.
I was proud of this one.  I have been practicing my butchery skills a lot recently and was able to get this blade out in a couple minutes and was able to maintain the integrity of the shoulder.  Not to shabby I must say!!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Best Salsa Recipe around!!

I know that is a big statement.  There are so many types of salsa.  Fresh salsa, cooked salsa, fruity salsa.... where does it end.  It's like a little Mexican bubba gump.  I am a huge fan of any type of salsa.  This one here I started making a few years ago and have perfected.  It is a very rustic type of Salsa Rojas, a cooked Aztec style salsa.  There maybe some ingredients that you don't thing should be in salsa, but suspend disbelief this stuff is really good.  Big part of this is getting the ingredients as fresh as possible.  I went to the Winchester Farmers market, here in Memphis.
This place is great.  They have produce, and items from all over the world.  Specializing in Mexican, and Asians.  There fish is so damn fresh it is swimming.  I recommend going to this place on Tuesdays and Thursdays that is when they get their fresh fish and produce.  Sundays are freaking nuts at this place.  Onto the salsa.  First thing I do is get all my ingredients together.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Meat Cookies ...(aka. Sausage balls)

Okay, Okay, I know that this is about the most pedestrian and trailer park thing, but it is one of my favorite things.  My family has been making a version of these for years for the holiday parties.  Whenever the guys get together you have to be sure that I am making massive amounts of these Meat cookies.  I am sure you are asking yourself right now.. Self why does the chubby guy writing a blog call these meat cookies.  Lucky for you I have an answer....It was a cold winters night, the winds were strong and the cold was biting, I was dressed as a lumber jack and she...... Sorry started getting side tracked.  Andyway, back in the day, the guys would get together for a weekend of Halo, beer, the smelly jar(don't ask) and some macho bonding.  I made back then what I called sausage balls, and my Buddie Trent said, Damn those are some good meat cookies, and well not being very inventive on our own, it stuck.  And we have turned this not only into a tradition, but also a challenge.  These have been made a hundred different ways, but this is the tried and true!!  And before I go any farther I am going to let you know that I used store bought sausage for this dish.........I know, I know, the guy who is always talking about sourcing local and making everything from scratch used Bob Evans sausage. Bite me, I was out of pork and had this in the freezer, and when a fat man has a craving, watch your fingers.  So I got rolling.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Saucisson D'Alsace-Lorraine

Sounds pretty fancy, right.  As you may know by now I love all things sausage.  I could be the Bubba Gump of the sausage world.  Everything needs a little pork in it.  And one thing I have never made was a Fresh French Sausage.  And hey from what I hear the french kinda know what they are talking about when it comes to food.  Just saying.  So I stumbled across this recipe in Charcuterie and french pork cookery I knew I Had to give it a shot. The first step is to make a small batch of Quatre Espices, also known as Pate Spice, do not waste your money and purchase this pre made, very simple, and you most likely already have all of the components at home.
  • 30g black peppercorns ground
  • 8g freshly grated nutmeg
  • 6g ground cinnamon
  • 6g freshly ground cloves
Simple as that.  This is a great spice to have on hand for any French, or Middle eastern cooking.  Time to get my Mis En Place going.

Spanish Chorizo

The first time I had a really good authentic Spanish Chorizo was when I was in Valencia Spain.  It was cut up small and sauteed as the base of a Paella, the national dish of Spain.  The flavors in this dish are amazing, and me being the food geek that I am, have to make as many of the components of a dish.  Only downside is that it will take weeks to get everything ready, to put the dish together.  There is a great blog out there, that I have mentioned before called Wrightfood, he has great how to recipes, not only Charcuterie by the way.  When I saw his post on Spanish Chorizo, I had to give it a go, and put my twist on it, of course.  You will have to excuse the lack of prep pictures in this post.  The first step to making a good sausage is your ingredients.  I got the pork from Newman Farms, and the Piment D'Espelette, here on amazon.  The Piment is the key to this salumi.  Very rich, smokey, and delicious.  See the Mis en Place below.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

'Nduja, at last!!

This is the salumi that started it all for me.  Sure I have been making some fresh sausages for a long time. But this mystical salumi made of fire is what really got into my Charcuterie obsession and more.  I spent some time in Italy years ago when I was in the Marine Corps, and I always remembered this insanely spicy, spreadable, and amazing sausage I used to get before I got on the train.  Turns out it is 'Nduja. I met some guys who have really helped me along in my charcuterie endeavors.  Andy and Michael from AMIK if you read my blog at all you know who I am talking about.  Mike and I were sitting around on the back patio one night having a couple cocktails and started talking about how great it would be to find someone local to make salumi and especially 'Nduja.  I said, Hell I can do that, and started my research.  Up to this point I have been making some of the easier things, Guanciale, Peperone, Soppresseta, etc... All amazing, then I decided to tackle 'Nduja.  With some help from Scott, from The Sausage Debauchery  who has an entire online store dedicated to his pursuit of Calabrian products.  I got the ball rolling.  Okay onto the 'Nduja, pronounced (in-Doo-Yah) This salumi is made from the fattier parts of a pig, the Belly and the Jowl, as well as thirty... Don't be afraid I said thirty percent is hot peppers.  The fat content of this salumi is 40-50% making it a spreadable salumi.  The meat and fat are ground, seasoned with salt, peppe rossa, hot peperonciono powder and then worked into a fiery paste.  Check out the amount of peppers in the picture below.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Papa's French Dressing

My family has always been all about food.  My grandfather Edward Ptacek Sr. was a huge influence with me and my culinary devotion.  He is the one that got my mom going and in turn me from her.  He cooked for a huge family, and put his heart and soul into it.  I was at the store with my cousin the other day and we were craving some of Papa's dressing.  This is nothing fancy, but I have adjusted it a little from his original.  Every time I taste it I get taken back to the house on Marshfield, sitting at the table, making sure my elbows did not touch the table and sharing a meal with my grandparents.  He would pull this dressing out of the fridge in a huge mason jar that had garlic cloves suspended in it....  Sorry I started drooling.  Anyway here you are.

Pickled Peppers

I went to the Memphis Farmers market this weekend and picked up a bunch of great meats and produce.  I got some pork from Newman farms, some beef from Neola farms, and a bunch of vegetables from assorted stands.  I got some great looking peppers from one of them.  They looked just like the cover of one of my new cookbooks, My Calabria.

Friday, August 19, 2011


This recipe is adapted from charcuterie by Ruhlman and Polcyn.  Have you ever had a good peperone?  Don't worry my spell check is working.  I am not talking about the Italian American version of pepperoni, that has been bastardized by the big food makers here in this country.  I grew up loving pepperoni pizza, then I went to Italy and got some and was blown away.  It was not that fatty, mixed meat, mildly spicy salumi that I knew from childhood.  This was robust, meaty, and ridonculously delicious.  This is traditionally made from beef, but here we have added chicken, turkey and other pieces parts to get the cost down.  I think you will be surprised by the ingredients, or lack of them.  The lips and assholes have been left out and only high quality ingredients are left.  This is a pic of what I am talking about.

Salumi al Finocchietto

I have ventured farther into my Charcuterie obsession and have moved on to a more challenging aspect of the craft.  Fermented Sausages and Salumis.  As you all know, I Love Pork, and all that it encompasses.  And what a better way to showcase some great pork, than to intensify its flavor by curing, fermenting, and drying it.  The beginning to this and quite a few other salumi recipes are going to come from this 19lb, shoulder I got from Mark, from Newman Farms .  I am going to use everything on this beast!!
Before being shaved, skinned, and broken down.  Below is the outcome.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

To my friends in the UK

I have been getting a lot of hits on my blog from those of you in the UK, (United Kingdom for you yanks).  I am always curious to learn different cultures of cooking.  What would any of you recommend that I try.  Have a good recipe for black pudding, or Haggis I could try.  I would love to open some local people to that delicious rustic food!!  Keep checking back!!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Fermentation Chamber for Salumi

I have been getting pretty deep into this Charcuterie thing.  The next big step is making some fermented salumis.  This is not as easy as it may sound.  I have been leaning a lot on some of my friends in the Charcuterie world, Jason from Cured meats, Matt from Wrightfood(an amazing photographer as well) and Scott over at Sausage Debauchery.  The advise they have given me plus all of the reading has led to this point.  The journey in to fermented salumi's. 

I have made the cure chamber, now I needed to make the prequel for this.  I took a lot of advice from Jason to make the Fermentation chamber. When making any type of "Fermented" sausages, a bacterial culture is added to the meat to inoculate it with good bacteria.  The mold you see on some salumis is a good thing.  This also helps give your fermented sausage an amazing flavor, in addition to keeping the bad bacteria away. The times and humidity that you need is dependent on the starter culture used.  Be sure to check, as some only need to ferment for 24 hrs and other 48-72 hrs. I started out buy ordering all the pieces parts I would need.  Then got to work.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Pig Trotter Terrine, August Charcutepalooza Challenge!!

I have recently joined the group Charcutepalooza.  A bunch of amazing people, are dedicated to learning the art of Charcuterie using Michael Ruhlman's book Charcuterie.  If you have not purchased this book, GET IT NOW... In fact, buy one for yourself and one as a gift for someone else.  This is not your typical cook book, more like an easy and fun to read text book that gets you back to the roots of Charcuterie.  Everything from curing meats, making condiments, and how to smoke all types of meats.  No I did not get an endorsement from Mr. Ruhlman. 

So when I find out that the August challenge was Binding. I got excited.  Participants were challenged to either do: The apprentice Challenge: Make a Liver Terrine or a Fish/Seafood Mousseline, or go for the Charcutiere Challenge: Make Headcheese, feet, or Trotter Terrine. Since I lack the storage space for an entire pigs head, I went with the Trotters.  I gave a call over to my buddy Mark, at Newman Farms Heritage Berkshire Pork .  And as soon as I mentioned trotters, he gave me the traditional Mark line "I have a deal for you"!!  I went there to only get a couple trotters and Mark used his Jedi mind tricks on me, I left with twelve trotters, eight pounds of pork belly, and five pounds of pig livers. He's good.  Okay back to the task at hand.  If you look back to my previous post, Primals The trotter is the pig foot area.  Look at diagram below.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Bacon Powder!!

That's right folks you read the title correct, I made bacon powder.  I am not just a one trick pony, I am into all areas of the culinary world.  Charcuterie just happens to me more of a passion.  So when I heard there was a restaurant making Pomme Frites(fancy word for French Fries) with bacon powder.  I had to try this.  And this is not a fake, synthetic, bacon "flavor" like you get in the sci fi creations of bacon salt and baconnaise.  If you are a fan of those products you can make this and be the pride of the Trailer park.

The first step was to render down some bacon to get the amount of fat needed.  If you wanted to render down bacon, why not go all in and do it with some Mangalista bacon, from Moosefund.  The most unctuous and fatty bacon on the planet.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

English Bangers and Mash

A few years ago I had the pleasure of working with a gentleman that came from Scotland, I guess you really could not call him a gentleman but he is a great guy.  He turned me on to some good old British cooking.  Things Like the Bangers and Mash, Nips and Tatties, and Haggis.  Truth be told, I really like all of them.  They are all very filling comfort food.  So today, I had some pork shoulder left over, and had a hankering for some Bangers.  The term Bangers comes from WWII days when the sausages had a higher water content due to rationing, so the sausages would pop and explode in the pan when cooking.  This is a savory sausage with a sweet undertone and mildly spiced.  I served mine with a reduction of balsamic vinegar with caramelized onions.  Delicious.  Onto the sausages.  Very simple to make.
  • 2 1/2Lb 1149g Pork shoulder, trimmed and cut into strips
  • 1Lb 453g Pork Fat, I used pork jowl cut into strips
  • 1 1/2C 173g dry bread crumbs
  • 1 1/4C 10floz Chicken stock Chilled
  • 4tsp Banger seasoning( see below)
  • 9ft Medium hog casings, rinsed and soaked for 30 min

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Smoked Polish Kielbasa, and Pierogies.

Ever have one of those days when you miss home, you just miss your roots?  Even though I move a lot I spent the majority of my life living in the area of Cleveland Ohio.  I know, I know I have heard all of the jokes about Cleveland, and sure our river did catch on fire,....Twice.  But to me, there is really no better place.  The people of Cleveland are Real down to earth people, and they all have two things in common, we love our sports!!  And we love our food.!!  The Cleveland suburbs are a huge variety of different cultures and demographics.  I remember going to the West Side market as a child. (Really, click the link)

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Pancetta Arrotolata, hits the cure chamber Today!!

Hopefully you all remember my recent post, The Day of the Belly.  If you have not seen it, there is something wrong with you, click on the link and catch up!!  So after much anticipation, and belly rubbing (not mine pervs, the pancetta. Taking the belly out of the fridge every other day, redistributing the cure mixture, and flipping the belly, this is called overhauling) The Pancetta is ready to get rolled and hit the chamber.  There are two main kinds of Pancetta, Tessa, and Arrotolata.  Tessa is flat and looks like regular bacon that is not smoked.  Arrotolata is rolled very tightly, tied and dried for about two to three months.  I pulled the belly out and rinsed it well to get most of the cure mixture off.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Belly Turns to bacon with a little smoke!!

I am sure you all have seen my recent Day of the Belly post, this is the continuation.  I have recently purchased an electric smoker....  I know for those of you who know me well how could I be using an electric smoker?  Does this make me less of a man, not to be tending my own fire and grunting throughout the day.  Well I live in an apartment, and hell it is so much easier.  I smoked a shoulder the other day, all I had to do was rub my meet (hehehe) and toss it in the smoker, set my temp and time and walk away.  WOW much easier.  I do have to admit I miss my big old offset smoker.  I love that type of cooking.  As soon as I get out of an apartment I will be the meat Viking once again.  On to the meat(that's what she said).  I used a beautiful piece of Newman farms belly for this.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

It's a Pig Jowl Thing!

Two more jowls are hitting the cure chamber today.  You may remember them from my first blog on Guanciale.  I made a couple of important promises to myself and my friends when I started my Charcuterie endeavor.  #1, if I ever have a doubt that the project would be safe or not, I will toss it and start over (Trust me this is harder than it sounds when you think of the money and time invested), and #2, is to use only the Highest quality, sustainable ingredients.  I prefer to get my veggies from farmers markets and my meats to be of the Heritage variety.  There are really two big breeds of Heritage pork right now, the Berkshire and the Mangalitsa.  I use the Berkshire, not only because it's freaking amazing, but I know a really good farmer that is known across the country, and he is local, so there.  That being said I got two beautiful jowls a couple of weeks ago and prepared them in two completely different ways.  One was more traditional with very fresh herbs and garlic, and the next I did in a southern Italian, Calabrian style, spicy and smokey.  Lets talk more traditional first.  I got some amazing herbs from my buddies that have an amazing restaurant here in Memphis.  If you are ever near stop by!!! Andrew Michaels Italian Kitchen.  Here we go.

Friday, July 8, 2011

The Day Of the Pork Belly.......

Today I decided to tackle the Pork Belly that I got from Newman Farms at the Memphis farmers market.  I am all about using local ingredients.  I want to support my local farms for a few reasons.  Number one, the food tastes better, and number two, I know where my food is coming from.  The difference in taste and quality is second to none.  So here is the belly that Mark sold me.
That is one piece of delicious porky goodness. If you look back to the primals post I did you can see where the belly comes from.  It is not only the belly but the side of the hog.  You can see where the spareribs were once attached to this cut of meat.

My Calabrian Christmas!!!

Today I got a package from a person I have been following for a while.  He has the same passion for Charcuterie as I have and has paved the way in this country to discover one of southern Italy's best and most underrated foods.  N'duja....I know what you are thinking. What the Hell is N'duja, it is a smokey, fiery, porky, spreadable sausage that will blow the top of your head off, and it is on my top five of flavor profiles I think everyone needs to have on a weekly basis.  My buddy Michael Hudman from AndrewMichaels Italian Kitchen here in Memphis and I are going to tackle this beast soon and bring the light of Calabria to Memphis. I know I sound like a nut ball, but when I post the makings of this spreadable beast, and you make it at home you will want to send me your life savings.... Its that good.  Really you don't have to send me money.... Unless you really want to that is....  This is what Scott from Sausage Debauchery sent to me today.  You have to check out his store and his blog.  His blog is Ridonkulous.  Looking at his cure chamber is like me stepping thru the wardrobe into Narnia for me.  Not to say I love his meat, but his technique is amazing.... Damn that does not sound right. But He has inspired me.
Here is everything I got today.  Marinella Sweet Pepper Powder, Marinella Hot Pepper Powder from Calabria, Coluccio's brand sweet pepper paste from Calabria, Coluccio's brand hot pepper paste from Calabria, and some Adriatic Sea Salt from Puglia.  How can you expect to season the perfect Calabrian sausage without salt from that region.  Seriously folks, check out the website Sausage He ships quickly and the prices are great.  I look forward to being his best customer!! Thanks Scott!!!!

Check back soon for the Hudman/Winters Calabrian sausage extravaganza...NoHomo of course. Well maybe a little.

The Basic Cure!

The basic cure in Charcuterie by Michael Ruhlman not only a fellow Clevelander but also as some refer to the Grandfather of the new Charcuterie movement.  This cure is in most of the meat curing recipes in the book.  I made the Dextrose version as I think it mixes better and the sweetness is not as profound as granulated sugar.  So here we go.
This recipe consists of:

450 g Kosher salt (one pound)
425 g Dextrose (13 0z)
75 g Pink salt #1 (3oz)

Mix all of these ingredients thoroughly and store in an airtight container until needed.  You will notice in most of my recipes that I use metric measurements instead of Cups, tablespoons, pounds etc... it is because these are more accurate and consistent for curing meats. The sizes of particles in a tablespoon will vary, but the weight content will not.  So if in any of my posts you see dry cure this is what it is. Get ready for some belly!!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Lomo Embuchado (take one)

Lomo is the Spanish word for loin, I used a quality Pork loin for this recipe.  Forgive me for the lack of prep pictures here, I deleted them on accident.  I will make sure this does not happen next time.  So on to what you will need.
  • 5lbs (2268 grams) Pork loin
  • 60 grams Turbinado Sugar
  • 9 grams Pink Salt
  • 9 grams Black Tellicherry peppercorns Toasted
  • 9 grams Fennel seed Toasted
  • 9 grams Coriander seed Toasted
  • 45 grams Kosher salt
  • 9 grams Spanish Paprika, sweet
  • 10 grams Garlic chopped (approx. 3 cloves)
  • 3 grams Thyme leaves
  • 3 grams Cayenne pepper
Toast the peppercorns, fennel seed, and coriander until fragrant.  Put in a spice mill and pulverize.  Mix the sugar, salt, the toasted spices, pink salt,  paprika, garlic, thyme cayenne, and coat all sides of the pork loin evenly, not forgetting about the ends, reserving a third of the spice mixture for a second cure application.  Put pork loin in a nonreactive container, I use my Food Saver and seal on the low, moist setting.  Refrigerate for 7 days.  After 7 days, apply the reserved spice mixture and refrigerate for another 7 days.  Rinse the pork and Tie with butchers twine.  Put into cure chamber at 57-60 degrees F, and 70-75% RH for approximately 45 days.  By this time your meet should be firm to the touch and smell sweet.  If your meat has developed any white mold, you can wipe with a clean towel dipped in a white vinegar and distilled water solution.

Guanciale! (Updated 8/13)

The word Guanciale just rolls off the tongue.  The first time I had this I was like "looks like bad fatty bacon".  Then I tasted the Porcine goodness that is Guanciale.  My world had changed forever.  If you are one of the few people that like bacon. You will want to cast a pork jowl in bronze, put it in front of your house and say this is why the pig was created... OK I may be a little over board, but this is how passionate I am about this piggy part.  If your look back to our Primal cuts you can see where the jowl is from.


Monday, July 4, 2011

Primals!! (Updated)

I feel like I did not get as in depth when I first posted this. I have recently aquired a copy of Primal Cuts by Marissa Guggiana, if you love your meat buy this awesome book!! See below for the update beauty we call the Pig, or as Webster's Thesaurus states: boar, cob roller, hog, piggy, piglet, porker, porky, shoat, sow, swine

As I begin my blogging endeavor, I have to talk about the beast that means the most to me and the cuts that it entails.  That being the pig.  I grew up on a farm with my family in Denmark, Ohio.  Don't worry no one else knows where that is it either.  We had horses, chickens, a mean ass rooster, some cows and a bull, a couple goats, rabbits and pigs.  My mom grew very attached to her pigs and in true Mary Ellen(my wonderful mother) fashion, she trained them.  These pigs loved my mom, they did what she asked, she trained them to go up to the cars that came to our farm and would snort at them, they would come running whenever she left the house, and would follow here wherever she went.  Pretty cute.  Only down side is that she named them.  I remember Pork and Beans and others, feeding them and petting them, then all of a sudden they were gone.  When I would ask what happened to them, I would get "Don't worry about them....want more bacon?"  Of course I wanted more bacon.  This could be where my obsession started, only to sit in waiting until I was 35 and have discovered the wonderful world of salty, porky, treats. I had an opportunity that I held for granted as a child, we were a semi self sustaining farm..... I would love that right now.  I remember my mom giving my sister and I each a small salt shaker and sending us to the garden for a snack.  The fresh tomatoes, beans, and other vegetables were amazing.  I am slipping away into another time right now and losing focus. Now for the business at hand.

Dried Salted and smoked Pig's Liver.

I know what you are thinking.... Not only is it Pig's liver, but you are going smoke it, then dry it?  Are you nuts.  I would have to say.... Maybe.  I have jumped in with all feet when it comes to Charcuterie as well as Offal.  It seems like we as a society have forgotten where we came from.  We have gotten so used to going to the store and finding our meat miraculously in a plastic and Styrofoam container.  I am done with that.  We need to get back to our roots, and have our food the way we were meant to have it.  It is a lot of damn work but guess what.  It is Delicious, and hearty and makes you feel good when you eat it.  The difference between getting a pork chop at Kroger, and getting a Heritage one can not be put into words.  Sounds like a good idea for a post, have the old Pepsi challenge with pork..  Note to self.  Any way I am getting side tracked.  I went to my friends restaurant the other day and he surprised me with some amazing pasta with grated Bottarga (click the word if you do not know what it is, then find it and put it in your belly, it is great) He and I started talking and he mentioned this salted pig liver thing, and doing something similar with it.  It turns out I just so happened to have a copy of Fergus Henderson's The Whole beast at home with a recipe.  And here we go.

Heirloom Red onions.

I was at the Botanical gardens farmers market the other day and picked up some Heirloom red onions.  Along with a ton of other stuff. I have never tried these before, so why not.
They were very sweet and aromatic.  I took one pound of them and decided to pickle them.  I used Rice wine vinegar as well as a little white. 
I used Turbinado sugar as well as some honey powder to balance the salt, some fresh bay leaves, crushed red pepper,cloves, mustard seed. 

They turned out great!!  I had some homemade liverwurst that I had with some of the onions and spicy arugula.  These will be amazing on the fish tacos I plan to make this week.

My visit to Newman Farms.

Have you ever been somewhere that truly inspires you?  I was invited to spend a day with Mark and Rita Newman of Newman Farms Heritage Berkshire pork.  From the first moment I stepped out of my car I felt like family. They live on an amazing piece of property and raise their hogs the old fashioned way.  Everything is done as humane as possible,and guess what, the pigs are happy!!
So it all began with a trip to Myrtle Missouri.  About a three hour drive from Memphis TN.  I was invited to attend with my cousin who is the sous chef at Chez Philippe in the Peabody Hotel by Michael Hudman of Andrew Michael's Italian Kitchen.  They were doing most of the cooking for this event. There were Chefs and Foodies from around the country as well.  Everyone wanted to see why the pork sold here was so amazing.  And trust me, you have not eaten pork until you have had some Heritage Berkshire Pork!!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Making the Cure chamber!! (Updated.)

This was the first post I had done on my blog and I rushed thru it.  I have had many requests to get more detailed and show where you can get the pieces parts to make your own cure chamber.  Let me say this first, I got all of the ideas for my project here from people around the virtual world!  Jason over at Cured Meats  and Matt over at Wrightfood.  These guys paved the way for me, and I have relied on their advise as well.  So here we go. 

In order to cure meat you have to be able to control three conditions, Temperature, Humidity, and Air flow.  We will dive into each condition separately and see what we can do at home to control this.

Temperature- This must be very well controlled.  Above 60F bacteria tends to grow to fast. (yes bacteria is needed in making fermented sausages they are a good thing).  We want to keep the temperature between 50F and 60F.  If you get to cold and below 50F the curing process will be to slow meaning that it will take much longer for proper water loss.  Some people will be lucky enough to be able to use the corner of the basement for charcuterie, with me living in Memphis I defiantly need to have a cooler area.

Humidity-  The majority of curing is done between 70% RH(relative humidity) and 75% RH.  Below the 70% mark and you run the risk of case hardening, where the outside of your meats or salumis dry out way to fast, leaving moisture trapped inside the meat and tending to spoil and make people not feel so good.  If the humidity is to High your meat will not dry out and you run the risk of funky molds.  White mold good, colorful mold bad. 

When an item first hits your cure chamber you will see that the humidity will rise due to the meat having a higher water content.  Most people will have to ad moisture to the air instead of removing it, a cool mist humidifier is perfect for this.

Air flow-  A little airflow is critical here.  If you do not have airflow the dank air in the cure chamber will not be moving around and helping the surface moisture dissipate.  It will also prevent the bad molds from forming, the green, blue, and black molds.  What I have done is to cut a 4in diameter hole in the front of my cure chamber, and a small hole in the bottom left side to encourage airflow around my meat.

So how does the average person put this plan into motion.  Unless you live in southern Italy, or have a cool dank basement, you are going to have to build yourself a cure chamber.

First order of business is to acquire a Chamber.  You can probably get a used one on Craig's list, or at a yard sale, but since I run an appliance store I opted to get a new 14cuft Freezer.  Make sure what ever you get is a frost free model.  Below you will see a picture of the Fridge before I broke out the Dremel tool and voided my warranty forever!!