Sunday, July 19, 2009

Jambon a la ya-ya

In Louisiana, we use pork in everything (and that's a good thing!). According to John Folse, the word Jambalaya comes from the colloquialism "Jambon a la ya-ya", "Jambon" being French for pork and "Ya-ya" from an African Bantu word for rice. Jambalaya is derived from the Spanish dish paella. There are two basic styles of jambalaya, Cajun and Creole. If you travel the Louisiana countryside, you are not likely to find tomatoes, bell pepper, or celery in the jambalaya. The Cajuns call this "brown" jambalaya. Cajun jambalaya is generally made with chicken or pork with sausage and onions. In New Orleans, jambalaya almost always contains seafood, onion, bell pepper, celery (known as "The Trinity") and tomatoes. This is known as Creole, or "red", jambalaya. Creole jambalaya often has shrimp or crawfish instead of chicken. The debate over whether red or brown jambalaya is "real" jambalaya rages on. I generally prefer the Cajun style, but am perfectly happy with either one.

This weekend I pulled out my 5 gallon cast iron kettle to make a pork and sausage jambalya (aka "brown") for the extended family. It has taken me several years to master the technique to produce a good brown jambalaya. Cooking in a kettle presents its own challenges, in addition to learning to moderate the 200,000 btu propane burner that I use with it. I always get compliments on my jambalaya, but being the perfectionist that I am, I usually expect more from myself. This weekend was as close as I have come to perfection.
Let me describe how I did it:


8 lbs Boston Butt, cut into golfball size pieces
3.5 lbs smoked pork sausage, cut into 1/2" slices
3 lbs Vidalia Onions, diced (or other sweet onion, such as Texas Sweet)
6 lbs long grain rice (extra long if you can find it)
4 quarts of chicken stock
2 quarts of water
1 bell pepper, diced
1 red pepper, diced
1 cup Italian parsely, chopped
1/2 cup Bacon grease
(Creole Seasonings) Black Pepper, Kosher Salt, Cayenne pepper, Chili pepper, Granulated garlic, Oregano, Thyme, and Paprika to taste.

Heat cast iron pot over high heat until smoking. Add bacon grease and stir quickly with a metal paddle to coat the sides of the pot. Add the Boston Butt and use the paddle to spread the meat ot in the pot. The meat will stick. Wait until it releases (about 2-3 minutes) then use the paddle to turn the meat. At this point, the meat will start giving off a good amount of liquid. Add the sausage. Stir frequently, but not constantly, speading the meat ot each time. The idea is to cook off the liquid, render the fat, and brown the meat and sausage without burning the whole works. As the liquid reduces, you have to reduce the temperature to prevent burning.

As the meat gets brown, a "fond" develops on the sides of the pot. This is all of the porky goodness that sticks to the sides of the pot. Do not burn the fond. When the meat is thoroughly browned, turn off the fire and remove the meat to a large bowl using a skimmer leaving the rendered pork fat and bacon grease. Set the bowl aside.

Turn the fire back up to medium and add the onions. Use the paddle to stir vigorously. As the onions start to sweat, the fond will break free and dissolve into a brownish liquid. This is a good sign. Moderate the fire as needed to cook the onions down. The onions are done when the onions and fond have an almost caramel-like appearance. Add the meat back in and toss with the paddle.

Add all remaining ingredients except rice. Season the pot fairly heavily. Taste the meat, veg, stock mix, remembering that 6 lbs of rice will soak up a lot of it. Once you are satisfied, increase the heat to bring the pot to a boil. Use the paddle to scrape the sides of the pot to ensure that all of the fond has been released. Reduce the heat to low and put a lid on it. After 20 minutes, turn the heat back up to high for 60 seconds and then turn it off. Do not lift the lid. Allow the pot to rest covered for 20-30 minutes.

Remove the cover and gently fluff the rice with the paddle. Serve with hot sauce and crusty french bread.


Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Harry Trotter

Welcome to the wild world of Pig Racing! Apparently the idea was born in the U.S., but the sport is picking up in England and New Zealand. Originally, the race was held on a 100m flat track, but now they have added jumps for additional excitement. 

I love the names. Harry Trotter and Pigtoria Beckham are my faves. 


Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Finally! Lard is cool...

The Lipid Hypothesis was developed in the late 1800's and gained wide popularity starting around the 1950's. It has led Americans to fear dietary fats. In the 1990's, the notion of so-called "good fats" took hold and increased the popularity of olive and canola oils.

I have Jennifer McLagan's new book Fat: An Appreciation of a Misunderstood Ingredient in my reading stack. I am very much looking forward to reading it. I was pleased to see that it was mentioned in this article proclaiming that lard is finally cool again. It appears that lard fits into the current interests in minimally processed foods and environmental consciousness. Those of us who really cook know that some fat in your diet is good and have never been scared of lard. Whatever floats your boat, I just know its good stuff.


Thursday, May 28, 2009

Hey, will you watch my pig for me?

Thanks to Gioia for sending this article discussing the concept of "remote pig ownership". It also has a comparison of Italian and Brittish butchering styles. You can read for yourself, but let's just say that the Italian put the Brittish butcher to shame.
I am also very interested in "Pestadice", a sausage with little nuggets of fried, crunchy pork skin mixed into it. I'll have to do some research on this one.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

So how did I get into sausagemaking?

I'll admit, it is an odd hobby. I have been making sausage for about 7 years. Several years ago I started collecting old cookbooks. I liked old cookbooks because they do not use shortcuts (a can of this, a packet of that...). I found that some of these cookbooks contained recipes for regional sausages that are no longer made. I bought a Kitchen-Aid Meat Grinder and Stuffer Attachement to give some of these recipes a try. My first attempts yielded mixed results. I had some successes and some failures. However, after several batches, I started to get the hang of it. The Kitchen-Aid quickly became a limiting factor.

Everything changed when I got a small commercial sausage stuffer for my birthday. It became a full blown hobby when I added a stand-alone meat grinder and vaccuum sealer. I make over a dozen fresh sausages now, mostly adapted from old recipes. I favor Cajun/Creole, Mediterranean, and Western European styles.

Recently, I have tried my hand a meat curing. I have made pancetta, bresaola, and lonzino with good results. I am planning to try my hand at fermented salamis before the end of the summer.


Friday, May 15, 2009


I have started this blog to catalog my numerous projects and experiments. They usually involve pork in some way or another. All are welcome here, but if you are a vegitarian, this may not be the blog for you.