Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Saussison Sec

Monday night I made Michael Ruhlman's Saussisson Sec. This is actually my second attempt. When I first got interested in curing, I was operating under the delusion that my attic could serve as a curing chamber during the dead of winter. I made some Saussison Sec and hung it in my attic. After 18 days I had a fossilized casing with a perfectly raw center. I decided that it was better to chalk it up as a learning experience and discard it.

This failure ultimately led me to purchase the wine fridge that I use as a curing box now. It works quite well because, unlike a traditional refrigerator, wine fridges do not dehumidify the air when cooling. This helps preserve the corks. I bought a hygrometer, and I get fairly stable readings of 55 degrees and 68 relative humidity. The temperature can be adjusted as low as 50 and as high as 65 degrees. I have successfully made pancetta, bresaola, and lonzino in the wine fridge. I intend to try my hand at salume in the near future.

The picture above is the new batch of Saucisson Sec. I am hopeful that I will get better results than last time. I'll post updates.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

If I could just figure out what to do with the squeal.

In Louisiana, we have an expression that you can "eat everything on a pig but the squeal". This morning, I was flipping through the Sunday paper when I saw that Rouse's had Boston Butts on sale for $0.87/lb. After a second cup of coffee and short trip to the store to buy two shoulders (16 lb worth), I started several projects that I have had in the queue:
  1. Following the instructions on Jason's Cured Meats Blog, I harvested two coppe. I will put them down to cure later tonight.
  2. I set aside one shoulder to make Saussisson Sec, per Michael Ruhlman's instructions in his excellent Charcuterie. I might as well make them tonight also. (Happiness is a full curing box, right?)
  3. I trimmed the fat caps from both shoulders to render lard for my version of Pommes Anna. My version layers russet and sweet potatoes with lard, seasoned with paprika, garlic, cayenne, and salt.
  4. I took the other shoulder and seasoned it with a spice rub. As I write this, it is one cooking over a small hickory fire at exactily 250 degrees. It will be ready for pulled pork sandwiches tonight. I guess I better hurry up and make some slaw!
Not too shabby for a Sunday afternoon. Reports to follow...


Monday, July 20, 2009

Project: The Mini-Smokehouse

For years, I have joked with my friends that I would never consider myself successful until I owned a barbeque pit that had a trailer hitch and turn signals. Anything made by Klose will do. (Check out the Paul Kirk model!).

Prior to Hurricane Katrina, I owned a small log-burner that served me well (pictured left, R.I.P. old friend). I kept a good stash of wood (oak, hickory, pecan, persimmon, and fig) and barbequed often. A week in Katrina's salty floodwaters ruined my pit and, to date, I have not replaced it. Someday I will do so.

In the meantime, I have been using a Weber Kettle as a grill, but have been limited in my ability to smoke. I got the idea of builing a small smokehouse that uses the Weber as the "firebox". It will be much easier to explain by taking a few pictures, but suffice it to say that I had a metal shop make a tray that will fit the Weber in place of the lid. I will need to build a small box on top of the tray. I intend to use it this Fall to smoke sausage and bacon. I better get to work finding some more wood to cure.


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.


Tuesday, July 14, 2009

A Bit Off-Topic, but...

I mentioned in a earlier post that I am reading Fat. This is a fantastic book for anyone who just enjoys food. The first section is devoted solely to butter. After being fully indoctrinated into the joys of butter, I went down to the local Whole Foods to browse their butter selections. Lo' and behold! I found the mother of all butters on their shelves:

Parmigiano Reggiano Butter! OK, so it is $5 for a half pound, but it may be the best butter I have ever had. Sweet. Creamy. Awesome.

Read the book. Eat butter.


(P.S. I have just started the section on Pork Fat. Standby for more updates.)

Guanciale Review

Sorry folks, I fell a bit behind on posting. Last week I finally gave in and pulled the guanciale from the curing box. I can't say that I am disappointed, but it is not what I was expecting. It has a very rich pork and salt taste. It has almost no hint of herbs or pepper. My first taste was a slice that I pan-fried. It tasted almost exactly, but not quite like cracklin'.

Two days later, I made Spaghetti alla Carbonara with it. This came out startlingly good. I had it for dinner and leftovers for breakfast (Hey, its just eggs, bacon, and cheese with pasta, right?).

I sliced most of it very thinly, saving a few 1/2" slabs just in case. I forgot to take pictures until after I had vaccum sealed it all up.

Overall I like the final product, but I learned a few lessons for next time:

1. Get a smaller jowl. The jowl I had was 4 1/2 lbs. Most recipes that I have call for 2 jowls totalling 3 lbs. I think that this one had a higher fat-to-meat ratio than most.

2. Use more herbs and pepper to impart more flavor. If I want cracklin' I can make cracklin'.

As I write this I am finishing off my excellent lonzino and a bottle of wine. Good livin'.


Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Barbeque on the Road

When I am not making sausage or barbequing myself, I enjoy sampling OPP (Other People's Pork). I especially like any and all forms of barbeque. I have put together a list of barbeque joints that I have eaten at personally and would reccomend to you. Keep in mind that this is not a comprehensive list of the places I have sampled, just the one's I'd recommend if you are in the area. They are predominantly "mom-and-pop" places, with a few small franchises included. I also have listed a dish I'd recommend at each place.

Here we go (In no particular order):

Dreamland Barbeque: Tuscaloosa, Alabama
Spare Ribs with White Bread
(Highly Recommended)

Dreamland Barbeque: Mobile, Alabama
Spare Ribs, Coleslaw, and White Bread

Hillbilly BBQ: New Orleans, Louisiana
Pulled Pork, Ribs, Beans, Cole Slaw

The Joint: New Orleans, Louisiana
Pulled Pork, Beans, Slaw

Whole Hog Café: New Orleans, Louisiana
Pulled Pork, Pulled Chicken

Mrs. Hyster's, New Orleans, Louisiana
Spare Ribs, Coleslaw, Beans, Roll

Walker's Barbeque, New Orleans, LA
Cochon de Lait Poorboy!
(Highly Recommended)

Bowie Junction, Raceland, LA
Brisket, Sliced Pork, Smoked Sausage

Country Tavern, Shreveport, Louisiana
Spare Ribs, Brisket, Beans, and Coleslaw

Arthur Bryant's: Kansas City, Missouri
Burnt Ends Sandwich and Beans

Gates and Sons: Kansas City, Missouri
Spare Ribs, Coleslaw, Beans
(Highly Recommended)

Charles Vergos Rendezvous: Memphis, Tennessee
Loinback Ribs, Coleslaw, Beans, and Rolls

Corky's Bar-B-Q: Memphis, Tennessee
Spare Ribs, Coleslaw, Beans, and Rolls

Cozy Corner: Memphis, Tennessee
Spare Ribs, Sausage, Barbequed Bologna, Beans, Coleslaw
(Highly Recommended)

Interstate Bar-B-Q: Memphis, Tennessee
Chopped Pork Sandwich and Beans

Neely's Bar-B-Q: Memphis, Tennessee
Chopped Pork Sandwich and Beans

Big Daddy's: El Paso, Texas
Beef Ribs, Brisket, and Hot Links

I hope you have a chance to try a few of these in your travels.