This month’s Charcutepalooza challenge was curing bacon or pancetta. I split the difference and chose the pancetta recipe but without the rolling. The fresh bacon / belly I had in my freezer was a pretty small amount – the wrong shape to roll it up into a pretty spiral. It’ll taste the same anyway. And it wound up fairly pretty and round:
Apparently I should have removed the skin before curing – at least if I was going to roll it up into a cylinder which now has a curved, hard, skin on the end. Oh well. Lesson learned for next time. And there will be a next time. YUM.
I was saving my last few parsnips from the winter farmshare this season for one of my favorite dishes starring parsnips. Conveniently, it also needs pancetta. I first found a version of this recipe from Martha Stewart. (I know, I know.. but it’s tasty, and simple.) Martha obviously doesn’t serve this to kids in pre-k, or have the same sense of humor as I do, though, so she ignores the great alliteration potential – Pasta with Parsnips, Parmesan, Pancetta, Pepper, and Parsley. I made both the 5 year old and the other grownup laugh by pairing it with Pink grapefruit juice. “Mommy, why did you make grapefruit juice? That doesn’t start with P.” “Ah. But what color grapefruit did it come from?”
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I’ve stumbled upon a monthly blogging project that will get me to use a bit more of my favorite new cookbook, Michael Ruhlman’s Charcuterie, and now in addition to pondering it I’ve bought ingredients and gotten started.
The project is called Charcutepalooza, and a number of bloggers will be making cured meat, sausages, and whatnot once a month and blogging about it throughout 2011.
Today I started duck breast prosciutto by putting a large raw duck breasts into a containerful of salt. (This project should have happened and been finished by 15 January, but I hadn’t heard about it yet.) February’s project is pancetta, which is cured and tightly rolled up bacon. I am making a smaller quantity of both of them than the recipes call for – if they turn out great I will perhaps feel silly, but if they’re a disaster I will be glad not to have ruined quite as much expensive meat.
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A few months ago, I got my first try at sausage making. Soon after, I borrowed Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn’s Charcuterie from the library, made salt cod from it, drooled some more over the recipes, renewed the library book, forgot to return it, paid the fine, and, concluding that the book really needed to stay on my bookshelf, went to pick up my own copy at Porter Square book.
As reported here earlier, the first recipe I tried after that was corned beef tongue. And then the book was out on the dining room table with its siren call of sausage recipes. To be specific, the emulsified sausages : meat suspended in fat with a uniform creamy texture, like a hot dog or bologna. And I’d been working on arranging to get a KitchenAid food grinder on permanent loan. So when it arrived, I went and bought veal stew meat, pork back fat, and casings, and decided to try the weisswurst recipe that introduces the section on emulsified sausages. (They get tricker from there.)
Weisswurst is a white sausage with lemon zest, mustard, mace, and parsley in the seasoning, all smooth inside with a juicy pop when you bite into it. It’s important to keep it really cold while you pass it through the grinder, back into the freezer, through the grinder again with ice and salt, and then mixed up with all the seasonings, just until it forms a smooth paste which you add milk to to stabilize the emulsion. It really does create the kind of texture you expect from something a factory processed the heck out of – only with the fresh taste of real ingredients and the satisfaction of having made that ourselves.
Speaking of ingredients you can trust, I’m still feeling a bit guilty for my first purchase of veal in at least 5 years… but thanks to this project I’ve learned that the next time, I don’t need to. There are farms that raise “pastured veal” or “rose veal” – calves butchered young enough to taste like veal, but allowed to roam on pasture instead of stuck in pens, and some of them are even in Massachusetts.
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Thanks to the encouragement of my friends here at Always Be Cooking, the 2nd half of the fresh ginger went into two projects, and for each one I got a little more out of it than the recipe said, just by thinking “am I really supposed to get rid of that now?”
Ginger beer starts off with a syrup of sugar, water, and finely grated ginger, steeped for an hour and then poured through a sieve into the bottle with yeast and water. So I sampled whether all that steeping had sucked all the flavor out of the shredded, somewhat sweet ginger – it hadn’t. I scraped that onto a piece of wax paper, sprinkled more sugar on it, rolled it flat between two layers of wax paper, and let it dry on the wax paper, and wound up with a tasty ginger candy sort of thing, lacking some texture and integrity compared to the real product.
Because I wasn’t fully invested in the ginger beer project, and wanted something that was pleasantly gingery but not knock-your-socks off, I used less ginger than the recipe called for for my first 2L test batch.
This left me with just a little bit more ginger – perhaps 2″ of thick root. Just enough for a microbatch of the other project I was hoping to try – homemade pickled ginger. Once again, the first thing to do gave me a bonus – the slivers of ginger had to be blanched for a minute or two in water. So while I proceeded with the recipe (you just dump the blanched ginger in a jar with the same volume of vinegar plus a little sweetener of your choice), I poured off the water into a mug and drank it with a little sugar and lemon.
4 gingery food items, one half a root of fresh ginger in need of using up.
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