Category Archives: Charcuterie

Greek Lamb Sausage

I have Greek food on the brain.  The current infatuation has many diverse origins.  For starters this summer is the ten year anniversary of an epic trip through southern Greece, and I have been reading old food notes from the journey.  Also I’ll be doing a class on Greek mezze for Metro Continuing Education this fall.  With all this in mind last week I made a Greek lamb sausage.

Coils of Greek lamb sausageIn 2008 I spent five weeks in Greece, eating in tavernas two or three times a day.  I don’t think I ever had a sausage like this.  In other words this sausage is not traditional, but it is very much inspired by Greek loukaniko, a pork sausage flavoured with orange zest.

This version is made with 100% lamb shoulder, so I figured we may as well go ahead and use lamb casings.  And we may as well wrap them up into adorable little coils and skewer them.  I never saw this in Greece but it makes for an interesting mezze.  And as I wrote here, Canadian Greek food is very much wanting for interest right now.

 

Greek Lamb Sausage

Ingredients

  • 2.270 kgs lamb shoulder – I like Four Whistle lamb
  • 35 g kosher salt
  • 54 g garlic, minced fine
  • 25 g orange zest (I use a zest compound called Perfect Purée)
  • 6 g ground black pepper
  • 3.6 g allspice
  • 2.38 g dried oregano
  • 1.8 g cayenne pepper
  • 1.17 g bay leaf
  • 0.9 g chili flake
  • 240 mL chopped parsley
  • 220 g ice water

Procedure

  1. Cut lamb shoulder into 1″ cubes.  Mix with salt and spices.  Spread onto a sheet tray in a single layer and semi-freeze.
  2. Grind meat using a 3/16″ plate.
  3. Transfer mixture to the bowl of a stand-mixer.  Add chopped parsley and water.  Mix on speed 2 for two minutes.
  4. Stuff mixture into lamb casings.  To make the spirals shown in the photo above, stuff into 19-21 mm lamb casings.  Be careful not to over-stuff as spiralling puts a bit of pressure on the contents.  Link into 22″ lengths.  Cut the links apart.  Curl into spiral shape.  Set spirals right up against each other on a sheet tray so that they are holding each other in shape.  Skewer.

Yield:  Approximately 16 spirals

Introduction to Charcuterie

This is the information I provide students in my Charcuterie at Home class, which I run a few times a year for Metro Continuing Education.

A charcuterie plate with air-dried beef in the top right.

What is charcuterie?

  • Charcuterie is a French word, from char for flesh or meat, and cuit for
    cooked.
  • Originally this was a medieval guild that was allowed to prepare certain cooked
    meat dishes like pâté and terrine.
  • These days it broadly refers to cured meat, whether bacon, ham, salami,
    prosciutto, or even duck confit and jerky.  It also encompasses other meat preparations like fresh sausages.
  • Most charcuterie techniques – salt-curing, smoking, and air-drying – were
    developed as a way to preserve meat.
  • Even though we now have ways to pasteurize, refrigerate, and freeze
    meat, we still use these ancient techniques because they are so delicious!

Types of Charcuterie

  • Most classic charcuterie is make from pork, but there are several examples made from beef, duck, and other animals.
  • Charcuterie can be made from whole, intact muscles, or ground meat
    • eg. of whole muscle charcuterie: bacon, ham, prosciutto, coppa
    • eg. of ground meat charcuterie: salami, mortadella, pepperoni
  • After curing, charcuterie is either cooked, or air-dried (ie. hung in a cellar to dry out, after which it is eaten raw)
    • eg. of cooked charcuterie: bacon, ham, mortadella
    • eg. of air-dried charcuterie: prosciutto, coppa, salami

Important First Principles

When making charcuterie…

  • Use the highest quality meat you can afford (see Resources below).
  • Weigh all ingredients, especially salt and curing salt.  If you don’t already have one, you should invest is a good digital scale with precision to the gram.  I use a Starfrit scale that I got at London Drugs for less than $30 if my memory serves me.  This is partly for food safety (ensuring we always have the right amount of salt) and partly for consistency.
  • Carefully control time and temperature as per your recipe.
  • Invest in a good reference such as Charcuterie by Michael Ruhlman and Brian
    Polcyn (again, see Resources below).

Salt and Curing Salt

  • All charcuterie is made by applying salt to meat.
  • Salt preserves meat by killing or disrupting micro-organisms.
  • Table salt (NaCl) was used for thousands of years to preserve meat.  Sea salt, sel gris, fleur de sel, Maldon, Himalayan pink salt…. these are all NaCl, just with different mineral impurities that give them subtly different flavours and colours.
  • In medieval Europe a new type of naturally-occurring salt was discovered, saltpeter, which is potassium nitrate (KNO3).  People found that using it in very small amounts improved their cured meats.  It affected the meats in the following ways:
    • produced a distinctive, piquant flavour
    • gave the meat a bright, rosy pink colour
    • preserved the meat better than normal table salt (for instance, it prevents oxidation and rancidity)
  • Later it was discovered that microbes in the meat convert the nitrate in saltpeter to nitrite, and that this is the actual active ingredient.
  • Modern curing salt is sodium nitrite (NaNO2).  It is available at butcher supply shops like Halford’s Hide, Butchers and Packers Supplies, CTR Refrigeration

Cure #1 vs. Cure #2

  • Nitrate can act as a “slow-release” cure, as it is slowly converted to nitrite by micro-organisms in the meat.
  • Air-dried preparations that will spend weeks or months in a celery (eg. salami) are usually treated with a combination of nitrite and nitrate.
  • Preparations that are cured and cooked over the course of a week (eg. bacon and ham) are usually treated with nitrite.
  • In the US, curing salts are usually died pink so that they are not confused with table salt.  For this reason, curing salt is often called pink salt, or tinted cure.
  • Note that there are several types of table salt that are pink, but are not curing salt!  Eg. pink salts from Hawaii and the Himalayas.  This should not be used in charcuterie!
  • Common names for nitrite mixtures: Cure #1, FS Cure #1, pink salt, tinted cure dmix (TCM), TCM #1, Prague Powder
  • Common names for nitrate mixtures: Cure #2, FS Cure #2, Salami Cure, TCM #2
  • If there is any uncertainty, the package should clearly list the ingredients and their percentage weight.

A Quick Word on “Nitrite-Free” Charcuterie

  • In recent years nitrites have been portrayed as unsafe, even carcinogenic.  Harold McGee, one of the world’s foremost food scientists, writes in his book On Food and Cooking: “At present there’s no clear evidence that the nitrites in cured meats increase risk of developing cancer.  Still, it’s probably prudent to eat cured meats in moderation and cook them gently.”
  • Even though there is no proven link, there are now many “nitrite free” products in the super market.  The disturbing part of all this is that these products always contain something like fermented celery extract, which contains nitrites!  In other words there are nitrites in the product, but they don’t appear in the ingredients list because they are an elemental component of the celery extract.  It’s a bit like like saying that your hot dog is “sugar free” because you didn’t sprinkle white sugar on it, even though there is sugar in the wiener and the bun and the ketchup and the mustard.  Always…

Rub-Curing vs. Brine-Curing

  • Traditionally most charcuterie was simply rubbed with or packed in dry salt.
  • Many modern charcuterie items are cured by being submerged in a brine,
    which cures faster and plumps the meat.
  • Generally, lean cuts like pork loin and leg benefit from brine, while fattier cuts like belly are best rubbed.

Brine Basics

  • We heat the water to dissolve the salt and sugar.
  • Chill the brine thoroughly before submerging the meat.
  • Make sure there is enough brine to keep the meat fully submerged.
  • It may be necessary to weigh the meat down to keep it from bobbing at the surface.
  • Brine penetration: larger cuts of meat benefit from a small injection of brine into the centre at the start of curing.
  • Brine time: a good rule of thumb is to leave the meat submerged for 12 hours for every pound of meat (eg. a 10 lb ham would cure in 5 days).

Rub-Cure Basics

  • Rub-cures should be periodically overhauled: this is simply redistributing
    the cure over the surface of the meat.
  • Rub curing takes longer – even relatively thin pork belly is left in contact with a rub-cure for a week.

Smoking

  • We make the distinction between hot-smoking and cold-smoking.
    • During hot-smoking the meat is held between 200°F-250°F and is slowly
      cooked as it is exposed to the smoke – bacon and ham are hot-smoked.
    • Cold-smoking is done at 100°F or lower so that the meat remains raw – air-
      dried products like speck are cold-smoked.
  • Pellicle formation: after rinsing the cure off the meat, dry the surface of the meat by patting with a clean dish towel.  Set the meat on a wire rack and leave it uncovered in the fridge overnight.  The surface of the meat will dry and become slightly tacky: this will help smoke adhere to the surface.
  • We usually smoke with hardwood (eg. maple, apple, hickory, mesquite, cherry) though there are some traditional preparations smoked with evergreen like juniper or fir (most notably true Black Forest ham)
  • Usually 2/3 of the wood chips are soaked in cold water for 30 minutes prior to smoking – this helps the smoulder longer.
  • The key is to have intense heat that can smoulder the chips, while keeping the ambient temperature of the chamber in the ranges mentioned above.
  • For more info and a thorough explanation of how to smoke meat using a barbecue, see my post called Smoking Meat at Home.

Smoking bacon on the barbecue

Air-Drying

  • Air-dried products are cured (typically with a rub-cure), then held at cellar
    temperature and humidity until they have lost a good deal of their moisture
    content.
  • Examples: guanciale, coppa, lonzo, lonzino, lardo, pancetta, prosciutto,
    salami, speck, bresaola, bündnerfleisch
  • The key to this process is controlling temperature and humidity:
    • Too moist and the moisture will not leave the meat and mold will grow on the surface
    • Too dry, and you may see case hardening: the outermost part of the meat will dry so thoroughly as to become impermeable, locking moisture within.
  • Ideal temperature range is 12-15°C.
  • Ideal humidity range is 60-70% humidity.
  • Highly recommended product: Auber Instruments Temperature and Humidity Controller.
  • Friendly mold cultures can be applied to the outside of the meat to prevent colonization by less-desirable microbes.
  • Hang-times vary from a couple weeks for slender sausages to one or two
    years for prosciutto.

The finished air-dried sausage

Resources

Meat

  • Acme Meat Market – These guys source quality meat and are great with special requests and cutting instructions.
  • Nature’s Green Acres (City Centre Market) – Probably the most unique and ethically- and sustainably-raised meat in the province.  This is the meat I use in my home.
  • Pine Haven Meat Shop – Pine Haven is a Hutterite colony near Wetaskiwin.  This is the meat I use at work at Elm Catering and Salz Bratwurst Co.  You can order their meatonline for pick-up at Ben’s Meat and Deli.

Equipment and Material

Books and References

  • Charcuterie by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn – One of the most influential food books published in the last 20 years, this is an amazing primer on curing, grinding, sausage-making, and air-drying.  Lots of theory, and an expansive collection of solid recipes.
  • Charcuterie by Fritz Sonnenschmidt – An old-school reference by a German-born Master Chef. I  like this book because it includes some lesser-known old world preparations like Pressack, Leberkäse, and Kassler Rippchen.
  • Salumi by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn – A very thorough treatment of traditional air-dried Italian preparations like salami, coppa, pancetta, and prosciutto.
  • The Button Soup Charcuterie page.  Basic theory and lots of recipes.

 

Corned Beef

Originally posted on March 18, 2012

Corned beef and its delicious, delicious juicesCorned beef, also known as salt beef and spiced beef, is a national dish of Ireland.  Recipes vary, but the cure is usually made of kosher salt, curing salt, a heap of brown sugar, and spices like clove, allspice, black pepper, and mustard seed.  The cured meat is gently simmered (usually in water, sometimes in beer) until tender, and can be eaten hot or cold.

To clarify, corned beef has nothing to do with maize.  “Corn” was once a broad English term for a small bit, whether a grain of wheat, or a crystal of salt.  “Corned beef” is beef that has been covered in corns of salt.[1]

Like most charcuterie, corned beef was first developed as a way to preserve the meat.  Because of its good keeping quality, the British navy adopted Irish corned beef as a ration for its sailors.  Wherever the British navy went, there was money to be made in provisioning its sailors, and many, many inferior corned beef producers sprang up around the world, notably on the Hawaiian islands and in South America, where the cured beef was later canned.  Sailors detested the canned meat, and apparently called it “salt junk.”[2]

Inferior corned beef was also used extensively as cheap, long-keeping food for British and French slaves, especially in the Caribbean.[3]

Despite its bastardization at the hands of imperialists and industrialists, corned beef remains one of the great festive dishes of Irish cuisine, along with colcannon, discussed below.  It is commonly eaten on Christmas, Easter, and St. Patrick’s Day.

Corned beef is made of brisket, a cut of beef from the breast of the cow. It is actually comprised of two muscles: a long muscle on the bottom called the flat, and a smaller muscle on top, off to one side, called the point.

The bulk of the flavour of corned beef comes from the pickling spice used in the brine.  Don’t buy pickling spice; make your own. Here’s a simple procedure. I divide my pickling spices into two families: the “sweet spices” like cinnamon, clove, and allspice, and the “deli spices” like mustard seed, black pepper, coriander, and chili flakes.  Combine one measure of each of the sweet spices with two measures of each of the deli spices by weight.  Add the spices to the brine as you are heating the liquid to dissolve the salt and sugar.

I’ve had some issues with brine-penetration when curing brisket in the past.  It seems that the tough, fatty muscles of the brisket resist curing more than, say, a pork loin.  Some tips on achieving uniform cure:

  • Consider separating the point and flat from each other before curing.  This creates two, tabular muscles that will brine more evenly than a whole brisket.
  • Don’t overcrowd the meat in the brine.  It’s tempting to try and cram as much meat as you can into the tub so that it is all just, just submerged.  If you do this there will not be enough salt to cure the entire mass of meat, and there will be grey, un-cured pockets in the centre of the brisket.  Maintain the ratio in the recipe below: 4 L of curing brine for every 2.25 kg of meat.
  • Inject the meat with some of the brine.  A good rule of thumb is 10% of the weight of the meat.  This is especially important if you have decided to keep the briskets intact.
  • Curing time: 5 days should be sufficient if you follow the guidelines above.

As a side note, once you have cured the brisket, if you were to coat your corned beef in crushed black pepper and coriander, then hot-smoke the meat, you’d be making pastrami.  If your hot-smoker were in Montreal, you’d be making Montreal smoked meat.  Anyways.

Brisket is a tough cut that requires extensive cooking.  I put my corned beef in a casserole, add cider until the meat is half submerged, cover the dish with parchment and aluminum foil, then kept it in a 250°F oven until a fork slides easily into and out of the meat, about eight hours.

The water left in the casserole is extremely flavourful, though very salty and greasy.  Cool the liquid, remove the solidified fat from the top, then dilute with water or more apple cider until the salt content is tolerable.  Serve as a brothy sauce for the beef.

Corned beef is a fantastic dish to serve to large groups.  Once the beef is tender, you need only gently reheat it.  You can throw it in a low oven an hour or so before you plan on eating, then bring it to the table and slice across the grain of the meat.  I probably don’t need to write this, but the leftovers can be sliced and used to make superlative sandwiches.

Corned Beef

Ingredients

  • 4 L water
  • 450 g kosher salt
  • 450 g dark brown sugar
  • 25 g curing salt (6.25% sodium nitrite)
  • 25 g fresh garlic
  • 25 g pickling spice
  • 2.25 kg beef brisket

Procedure

  1. Combine half the water with the salts, sugar, garlic, and spices.  Heat on the stove, stirring periodically, til the salts and sugar have dissolved.  Remove from the stove and add the remaining cold water.  Chill brine thoroughly.
  2. Inject the brisket with 10% of its weight in brine.  Focus injections on the thickest parts of the brisket.
  3. Completely submerge the brisket in the remaining brine, weighing down with ceramic plates as necessary.  Keep refrigerated for 5 days.
  4. Remove the brisket from the brine, rinse with cold water, then let rest in the fridge a few hours, preferably overnight.
  5. Put the cured brisket in a large pan with a bit more garlic, bay, and cinnamon.  Add about an inch of apple cider to the pan.  Cover loosely and cook in a 250°F oven for several hours (maybe 8-10?).  The corned beef should be fork tender and wobbly when fully tenderized.

 

 

References

1.  Kurlansky, Mark.  Salt: A World History. ©2002 Mark Kurlansky.  Vintage Canada 2002 Edition.  Page 125.
2.  Ibid.
3.  Ibid!  Is it bad to have three citations from the same page of the same book?

Butcher’s Cake

A slice of butcher's cake with a dollop of crème fraîche and a salad.I’ll mention right off the hop that this concept is from the brain of Emmanuel (Manu) Thériault.  He might have made this when he was at Woodwork, but I’m not sure.  He calls it “Butcher’s Cake”.  He told me about it and I think it’s one of the most brilliant food ideas I’ve heard in a very long time.

Part of the reason I am so enamored with butcher’s cake is because I work in a sandwich shop. When you work in a sandwich shop, you have at least three significant sources of possible waste.  The first is bread.  Bread is a problem ingredient because it has such short shelf life.  It can be difficult to maintain fresh inventory, and some bread invariably gets stale before it can be used.

The other potential sources of waste are meat and cheese ends.  When using a commercial meat slicer, the last inch of a roast or block of cheese is difficult to get through the slicer without putting your fingers at risk.  For some items you might not even want to slice and serve the outermost part.  For a roast or a ham, the very end is often harder, smokier, and generally less succulent that the rest of the meat.

Ham endsThis butcher’s cake is an ingenious and delicious preparation that uses all these waste products.  It is basically a savoury bread pudding studded with little chunks of cured meat and cheese.  I use trim pieces from ham, salami, mortadella, roast beef, even prosciutto and speck.  Of course, if you don’t work in a sandwich shop you can use plain old ham and cheese; there’s no reason it needs to be the trim or waste.

When Emmanuel told me his idea I knew immediately how I could go about making it: by adding chopped meat and cheese to Serviettenknödel, the Austrian bread dumplings discussed here.  I’ve found that a bit of black pepper and chopped herbs like parsley and rosemary are a nice addition.

Butcher’s cake makes a fantastic lunch, especially when served with with a refreshing salad.  I have a sneaking suspicion it would also be good for breakfast (bread, egg, milk, ham, cheese…. sounds like a breakfast pastry to me.)

Thanks, Manu!

 

 

Butcher’s Cake
Concept by Emmanuel Thériault
Recipe by Allan Suddaby

Ingredients

  • 8 whole eggs
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 8 oz unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 lbs stale bread
  • 1 lb cured meat ends, coarsely chopped
  • 10 oz cheese ends, chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped rosemary
  • 1 tsp coarse ground black pepper

Procedure

  1. Combine the whole eggs, yolks, melted butter, milk, and salt in a large measuring cup.  Whisk thoroughly until eggs are completely incorporated.
  2. Put the bread, meat, cheese, herbs, and pepper in a large mixing bowl.  Pour the milk mixture over the bread.  Mix gently but thoroughly with your hands until all the milk has been absorbed by the bread.
  3. Move the mixture to the fridge for one hour.  This will give the liquid ingredients time to fully soak into the bread.
  4. Butter a large casserole dish.  Lightly press the soaked bread mixture to the casserole.  If you like you can top the bread with more grated cheese and herbs at this time.
  5. Bake in a 350°F oven until the interior is cooked and the exterior is golden brown and crispy, maybe 50-60 minutes.
  6. Let cool slightly before cutting and serving.

Yield: Butcher’s Cake for about 12 people

A casserole of butcher's cake, fresh out of the oven.

 

Cretons

Originally posted December 15, 2009 (if you can believe that).  Re-posted today with some major corrections.  I first read about cretons in an article in The Ottawa Citizen by then-food-columnist Ron Eade.  He presented cretons as a Quebecois variation on rillette.  A while back Emmanuel (Manu) of Pied Cochon, Joe Beef, and Woodwork fame gave me the skinny on cretons, and they really are not like rillettes at all.  I am not able to find that original Ron Eade article to expose it.  Presumably someone from the lower St. Lawrence forced him to remove it as libel or lies.  Anyways.  

A ramekin of cretons.Cretons is a pork spread made by simmering ground pork and aromatics like onion, bay, and clove in milk or cream.  As with any Quebecois dish there are as many variations as there are Francophones.

Pork.  You can use regular ground pork.  Actually the pork can be quite fatty as any lard that renders into the pan will be bound up with the dairy and (in my recipe…) breadcrumbs.

In addition to ground meat, Manu also adds gryons. This is the Quebecois word for greaves (see this post on rendering lard for more info).

Usually I’m a fanatic about searing meat, even the ground meat used in chili and meat sauce.  Searing generally improves the colour and flavour of a dish, but there are a few notable exceptions.  In my book those exceptions are veal blanquette and cretons.  We want a soft texture and a light colour.

Onion.  To me onion is essential as a sweet-‘n-savoury bridge between the pork and the spices.

Speaking of Spices.  Clove seems to be the most commonly used spice in cretons.  I use a standard quatre-épices blend of black pepper, cinnamon, clove, and nutmeg.  These baking spices can easily become cloying, so use a light hand.

Dairy.  Some use milk, some use cream.  I use cream because it gives the final dish a rich texture but a happy, bright white colour.

Breadcrumbs.  Again, not all recipes include breadcrumbs, but I like using them to bind up any pork fat that has gone adrift and floated to the surface of the mixture.  Starch such as breadcrumb makes for a smoother, more cohesive spread.

Basically all these components are combined and simmered until the dairy has reduced and become a stodgy porridge.  At this point the mixture is potted and chilled.  It is most commonly eaten for breakfast, on toast.

Lazy Man’s Cretons.  Oftentimes when I make pie I misjudge the ratio of dough to filling, and am left with a surfeit of one or the other.  Excess pie dough is easy to get rid of (pie sticks!)  Excess filling can be a bit trickier.  If I have leftover tourtière filling, I put it in a heavy pot and cover it with heavy cream.  If you simmer this mixture for about an hour it’s hard for an Anglo such as myself to differentiate it from true cretons.  I have no idea what Quebecers would think of that, but it’s already happened so we should all move on.

Like many rustic preparations, cretons is a double-edged sword: on the one hand it’s almost impossible to not be tasty; on the other it is truly impossible to make it look appetizing in the modern sense.  It is cold meat porridge, after all.  But it’s delicious, and a great way to use up leftover ground meat.

 

Cretons

Ingredients

  • 600 g ground pork
  • 150 g onion
  • 10 g garlic
  • 1 tsp quatre-épices
  • 470 g heavy cream
  • 30 g bread crumbs
  • 1.5 tbsp kosher salt

Procedure

  1. Gently cook the pork in a heavy pot.  Do not colour the meat.
  2. Add the onions, garlic, and quatre-épices.  Cook gently until the onions are starting to become translucent.
  3. Add the remaining ingredients.  Simmer until the cream has reduced.  The mixture should have the consistency of porridge.  Roughly 45 to 60 minutes.
  4. Transfer immediately to ramekins or ceramic dishes.  Chill thoroughly.
  5. Spread on toast.

Cured Fatback – Lardo

Originally posted on July 5, 2014.

 

Cured fatback on toast.This post is about cured fatback, most commonly known by its Italian name lardo.

Fatback is the subcutaneous fat that covers the pork loin.  Resist the urge to say “back fat”: it’s called fatback.  Industrially-raised pigs are intentionally grown very lean, so the fatback is typically only an inch thick.  Heritage pigs can have three inches or more of fatback.  These are the animals you need in order to make lardo.

Two autumns ago I got a side of Tamworth pork from Nature’s Green Acres.  The fatback was two and a half inches thick in some places.  It was the first pig that I ever cut that truly deserved to have its fatback cured and enjoyed on its own, instead of, say, simply being ground into sausage mix or rendered into lard.

The procedure for curing fatback is simple.  Cut the fat from the lean meat.  Rub with salt, sugar, herbs, and spices.  Rosemary is common.  I used thyme, juniper, bay, and black pepper.  Store the fat in a cool, dark place for six months or longer.  A cool, dark place could be a centuries-old Carrara marble box in a dank Tuscan cellar, or it could be a drawer in the bottom of your fridge.  In the latter case, put the salted fat in a Ziploc bag and cover tightly with aluminum foil to keep out light.  Light promotes oxidation and develops off-flavours in fat.

Six months later your slab of fat is ready to taste.  My first taste of lardo was in a salumeria in San Daniele.  Raw pork fat sounds so outrageous to my Anglo-Saxon ears that I expected an audacious flavour and grotesque texture.  Truth be told lardo is an extremely subtle preparation.  It is mild, sweet, faintly lactic, and above all creamy.

My homemade lardo is similar to the stuff I ate in Italy, though I think I was a bit heavy-handed with the sugar.  And the exterior was extremely salty: the first few slices were frankly inedible.

I’ll use this word again: subtle.  Lardo is so subtle it promotes contemplation. How could something so crude be so nuanced in flavour and texture?

A civilized preparation, this cured fatback.

A slab of cured fatback, or lardo.

Plain Jane Garlic Sausage

It recently dawned on me that I don’t have any sausage recipes on this site.  Which is crazy.  So I’m going to post a bunch.  For details on procedure and technique, I have two posts linked below.  Also… I happen to be teaching a sausage-making class for Metro Continuing Education on October 19, 2016.

 

A plate of sausage, toast, apple sauce, and braised red cabbage.This simple sausage goes by many names in my house, among them “everyday sausage”, “plain Jane”, and occasionally “garlic brat”, though it is not a bratwurst in the strictest sense.[1]

I wanted a relatively neutral sausage that would go well with most of the food I cook at home, which I would describe as North American farmstead with a serious central/eastern European slant.  So instead of making ten different types of sausage each year, I could make one or two and have all my bases covered.  This sausage is most often eaten on a bun, or with Austrian potato salad, or other simple plates like the one at left.

The predominant flavours in this recipe are pork, garlic, and black pepper, with some secondary, supporting flavours in the background.  Since I so often eat my sausages with something from the mustard family (prepared mustard and cabbage, especially) there is a touch of mustard powder in the recipe.  There is also a hint of cayenne pepper, enough to warm the palate and reinforce the black pepper, but not enough to make this a “spicy” sausage.

My ideal texture for this sausage is achieved by what I call the “lazy brat” method.  All the meat is ground through a 3/16″ plate, then a portion of the meat, anywhere from 1/4 to 1/2, is set aside, and the remaining meat is ground a second time.  Then all the meat is re-combined for the mixing process.

Here’s the detailed recipe.

 

Plain Jane Garlic Sausage
your everyday sausage

Ingredients

  • 2 kgs pork butt, boneless and skinless, but with entire fat cap (about 1.5″ thick)
  • 33 g kosher salt
  • 40 g fresh garlic, minced fine
  • 6 g black pepper, coarsely ground
  • 10 g mustard powder
  • 2.8 g cayenne
  • 200 mL ice-cold water
  • about 10′ hog casing

Procedure

  1. Chill the pork butt thoroughly by spreading it out on a sheet tray lined with parchment and storing in the freezer.  The meat should be slightly crunchy on the exterior, but not frozen solid, and still with some give.
  2. Grind the meat through a 3/16″ plate.  Set aside about 1/3 of the ground meat.
  3. Re-chill the remaining 2/3 ground meat as described in step 1.
  4. Grind the chilled 2/3 meat through a 3/16″ plate a second time.
  5. Re-combine all the ground meat.  Add the remaining ingredients (except the casings…) to the bowl of a stand mixer.  Mix with the paddle attachment for 90 seconds on a medium speed, then 30 seconds on a medium-high speed.
  6. Fry a small piece of the mixture in a pan.  Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary.
  7. Stuff into hog casings.
  8. Twist into 6″ links.
  9. Poach until the meat is just cooked, reaching an internal temperature of 150°F.  Transfer the links to an ice bath to arrest cooking.
  10. Let links dry thoroughly.

Yield: about 20 x 6″ links

 

 

Footnotes

  1. It’s a common misconception that bratwurst are so-called because they are fresh sausages that are pan-fried.  “Brat” does happen to mean roast, or fry, as in Schweinsbraten (roast pork), but that is a coincidence.  A true bratwurst is made with a fine-textured emulsified mass called a “brat”, which is studded with small chunks of chopped or coarsely ground meat.

Breakfast Sausage

It recently dawned on me that I don’t have any sausage recipes on this site.  Which is crazy.  So I’m going to post a bunch.  For details on procedure and technique, I have two posts linked below.  Also… I happen to be teaching a sausage-making class for Metro Continuing Education on October 19, 2016.

 

Breakfast sausages frying on a griddle.I wanted to create an artisan version of the little sausages you get at dive-y breakfast institutions like the Commodore.  The kind of diners that that pour you bad coffee all morning.

North American breakfast sausage is usually made entirely of pork.  It is ground quite fine and mixed to emulsify so that it has a very delicate texture.  It is often flavoured with sage and other versatile herbs.  And, most characteristically, the links are narrow and short compared to, say a smoky or even a hot dog.

For my fancy breakfast sausage I use pork butt with all of the 1.5″ fat cap.  It is flavoured with both fresh and dried sage.  I find you have to add a prohibitively expensive amount of fresh herbs to get the flavour to come through in a sausage.  And to amp the fancy-factor up a notch I use orange zest and ginger.

I double-grind the meat for delicate texture.  That’s two passes through a 3/16″ plate.

And finally to get the narrow diameter characteristic of breakfast sausage I use lamb casings.  Being lamb, these are a bit expensive, but they’re essential here.  I twist the links into 4″ lengths.

A detailed recipe follows.

 

Breakfast Sausage
with sage, ginger, and orange

Ingredients

  • 2 kgs pork butt, boneless and skinless, but with entire fat cap (about 1.5″ thick)
  • 40 g kosher salt
  • 44 g fresh ginger, peeled and grated
  • 1.6 g dried sage
  • 18 g fresh sage, chopped
  • 47 g fresh garlic, minced fine
  • 5.4 g black pepper, coarsely ground
  • 22 g orange zest (I use a packaged orange zest made by The Perfect Purée)
  • 222 mL ice-cold water
  • about 2 m lamb casing

Procedure

  1. Chill the pork butt thoroughly by spreading it out on a sheet tray lined with parchment and storing in the freezer.  The meat should be slightly crunchy on the exterior, but not frozen solid, and still with some give.
  2. Grind the meat through a 3/16″ plate.
  3. Re-chill the ground meat as described in step 1.
  4. Grind the meat through a 3/16″ plate a second time.
  5. Add the remaining ingredients (except the casings…) to the bowl of a stand mixer.  Mix with the paddle attachment for 90 seconds on a medium speed, then 30 seconds on a medium-high speed.
  6. Fry a small piece of the mixture in a pan.  Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary.
  7. Stuff into lamb casings.
  8. Twist into 4″ links.
  9. Poach until the meat is just cooked, reaching an internal temperature of 150°F.  Transfer the links to an ice bath to arrest cooking.
  10. Let links dry thoroughly.

Yield: about 35 x 4″ links

A plate with breakfast sausage, fried eggs, and toast.

Preßwurst

Presswurst at an Austrian Heuriger.Preßwurst, transliterated “presswurst” and pronounced “PRESS-voorst,” is Austrian headcheese.

Headcheese is a polarizing preparation with a terrible name, but I think borrowing a trick from Preßwurst can make headcheese much more palatable to North Americans.

Both dishes are made from pork head and trotter.  The meat is brine-cured so it is rosy pink, then simmered until tender. The meat is strained, shredded, and packed into a mold with some of the gelatin-rich cooking liquid, which firms into aspic when chilled.  Full details on the procedure can be found in this post.

The most important way in which Austrian Preßwurst differs from North American headcheese is that after being packed into the mold, a heavy weight is rested on the shredded meat and aspic.  This compacts the meat and forces excess aspic from the mold, making for a dense, cohesive texture.  Most North American’s objection (or revulsion) to headcheese is the jelly component.  When the terrine is pressed this way, there is no discernible jelly; the gelatin is simply an adhesive that binds the various elements together.

Besides changing the appearance and mouthfeel of the dish, the properly weighted Preßwurst is cohesive enough that it can be sliced very thin, like ham.

To replicate the Austrian version I use a commercial kitchen container called a 1/3 plastic insert as my mold.  Once the meat and aspic are packed inside I make a 3 kg weight by adding 3 L of cold water to a second plastic insert that rests on top of the first.  The terrine should be refrigerated for at least 24 hours, preferably 48 hours.

I realize now, looking at the photo below, that my mixture has a lot more fat than the true Austrian version above.

homemade_presswurst

 

Schmalzfleisch

Mixing cured meat and lard to make SchmalzfleischSchmalzfleisch is one of the staple Aufstriche (spreads) at an Austrian Heuriger.  If that sentence made absolutely no sense to you, read this post before proceeding.

Schmalzfleisch literally means “fat-meat”.  It is one of several dishes Austrians have developed to use up irregular scraps of cured meat, like the very end of a ham that can’t quite be passed through the meat slicer.

The process for making Schmalzfleisch is simple: pieces of cured meat are ground, then mixed with rendered lard to form a cohesive paste that can be spread on bread.  Traditionally cured meat and fat are the only two ingredients.  I like to add a touch of mustard for balancing acidity.

If you grew up in eastern Canada and spent any time in a church basement, you’re probably familiar with minced ham.  Schmalzfleisch is similar to minced ham, only it is bound with lard instead of mayonnaise.

 

Schmalzfleisch

Master Ratio – 3:1 ground cured meat, lard

Ingredients

  • 240 g leftover charcuterie (see Note below)
  • 80 g warm lard
  • 8 g mustard

Procedure

  1. Cube the charcuterie and grind once through a 1/4″ plate.  Transfer to the bowl of a stand mixer.
  2. Add the warm lard and mustard to the bowl and mix briefly with the paddle attachment, until the ingredients are combined and the ground charcuterie has formed a spread.
  3. Transfer to serving dish, garnish with chives.  Consume on light rye bread.

Note:  “Ham-type” charcuterie, ie. pork that has been brine-cured and cooked, works best.  A small amount of air-dried meat like salami can be used, but not more than 1/4 of the total weight.  Fresh (un-cured) cooked meat like pork chops and roast beef give the mixture a mushy texture and should be used sparingly.

Yield: 320 g schmalzfleisch

A ramekin of Schmalzfleisch