Category Archives: Charcuterie

Intermediate Sausage-Making

After this year’s Eat Alberta conference, I had a few people ask me about giving some kind of “advanced” sausage-making class.  I wouldn’t consider myself an expert sausagemaker, but at Nomad I got to make them almost every week, so I picked up lots of tricks.  I thought I’d compile some of those ideas in this post.

The following are notes on refining ingredients and techniques to better tailor your sausages to your liking.

 

Ingredients: The Meat and Fat

Every book on sausage-making says pretty much the same thing: use shoulder.  Maybe jowl, maybe belly, and maybe a bit of trim from around the carcass, but shoulder is the undisputed sausage-making cut.  The reasons are this:

  • it generally contains
Continue reading.

Book Review: Salumi by Ruhlman and Polcyn

Ruhlman and Polcyn's new book SalumiMichael Ruhlman is one of my favourite food writers, and a handful of his books have changed the way I think about food and cooking.  I’m convinced that his book Ratio is the single most powerful and pragmatic cookbook ever written.  He had a hand in The French Laundry Cookbook, one of the most influential cookbooks of the last twenty years.  In his narrative Soul of a Chef he describes the discipline and dedication required to work in kitchens like that of The French Laundry.  And of course there is the seminal book Charcuterie, a collaboration between Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn that almost single-handedly started a cured meat revival in restaurants and home kitchens and backyards across … Continue reading.

Air-Dried Beef

Air-dried beef goes by many different names in many different places.  The most famous, I think is bresaola, from northern Italy.  In adjacent Switzerland air-dried beef is pressed into a unique block shape and called Bündnerfleisch, after the Swiss canton of Graubünden.  Nearby in eastern France it is often lightly smoked, and called brési.  In all of these alpine regions it is a common accompaniment for fondue.

Eye of round is one of the best cuts to use for air-dried beef.  It is a single muscle, with very little internal fat, easily trimmed to a convenient size.  First remove any silverskin and fat.

Beef eye of round, with silverskin and fat

The cleaned eye of round:

Beef eye of round, cleaned of all silverskin and fat

The clean muscle is then rubbed with salt, … Continue reading.

Pork Tongue

A brined, cooked, peeled pig's tongueThe tongue is one of those cuts that sounds way, way weirder than it really is.

The tongue has two sections.  There’s the part that we usually think of when we consider an animal’s tongue: the part at the front that can move freely around the mouth.  Then there’s the base, at the back of the mouth.  The meat from these two sections is different.

The tip meat has a very close, dense texture, and is lean. The base meat has a coarser texture, and is a bit fatty.

The meat from both sections is very tough in its raw state.  As you can imagine, the tongue is a highly exercised muscle, and requires extensive cooking at low temperatures, usually … Continue reading.

On Brining Meat

A b- b- b- back bacon brine.There are two types of brine: seasoning and curing.  Each will be discussed in turn.

 

Part One: Seasoning Brine

Seasoning brine typically contains three ingredients: water, salt, and sugar.  But why do we season-brine meat to begin with? There are at least three reasons:

Flavour.  The first reason we season-brine meat is to evenly distribute flavour-enhancing salt throughout its mass, instead of simply on the outer surface.  We can also impart the flavour of herbs and spices to the meat.

Increased Tenderness.  As Harold McGee writes in On Food and Cooking, “salt disrupts the structure of the muscle filaments [and] dissolves parts of the the protein structure that supports the contracting filaments.”  A strong enough brine … Continue reading.

On Cured Beef, Montreal, and the Gout

I have a certain old friend.  Technically we went to high school together, but I first got to know him in Lister Hall, then at the Kappa Alpha house on university row.  He studied philosophy, and after graduation he followed a girl to Montreal.  There he fell victim to many of the city’s seductions: strong beer, girls, and cocaine, yes, but above all these, smoked meat.

For a while he lived only a few blocks from Schwartz’s, that Mecca of Montreal smoked meat.  For a while he ate there every day: a sandwich, a pickle, and a cherry coke.

Montreal smoked meat is that city’s version of New York’s pastrami: beef brisket, cured with a concoction of spices reminiscent of … Continue reading.

Peameal Bacon

Slices of homemade peameal baconIt’s always confused me that Americans call back bacon “Canadian bacon,” when it’s much more associated with Britain than Canada.  To my knowledge the only uniquely Canadian form of bacon is peameal bacon: cured pork loin rolled in ground split peas, which keeps the surface of the meat dry and inhibits microbial growth.  Sometime over the past century cornmeal has taken the place of peameal, but the name hasn’t changed.

This week I made two forms of peameal bacon: the contemporary favourite – lean, centre-cut pork loin, fat trimmed down, brined and rolled in cornmeal – and a rustic recontruction, inspired by the fantastic book The Art of Living According to Joe Beef.   I left an inch or two … Continue reading.

Smoked Pork Loin – Kassler Rippchen

The cured loin, smoking on the barbecueThis is hands down my favourite preparation of pork loin: brine-cured, smoked, and sliced into thick ham chops.

While the eye of loin is a very lean, mild-tasting muscle, it is surrounded by large slabs of fat: fatback on top, and the streaky side meat that becomes bacon.  Grilling or pan-frying a large pork chop with all this fat usually results in either overcooked meat or under-rendered fat.  By slowly bringing this roast up to temperature over several hours in a smoker, we render all that fat without overcooking the meat.  The final dish is somewhere between bacon and ham.

In Germany this preparation goes by the name Kassler Rippchen, which literally means “little ribs from Kassel”.

Details.  Use … Continue reading.

A Fall Dinner, in August

I had to doublecheck my calendar: it’s still August, isn’t it?

This past Saturday I stood on my deck, wearing a sweater, tending a barbecue that was puffing applewood smoke into the yard.  Within the ‘cue was a cured pork loin.  Within the house, on the kitchen counter, was a head of cabbage.  Beside it, a jug of cider, weakly alcoholic, tart, sweet, faintly effervescent.

I have high hopes that there will be a few more weeks of heat, and a few more summer storms, but the last few days at my house have felt like fall.

 

A Fall Dinner, in August

A jug of the year's first ciderPart One: Windfall Hard Cider (Lisa’s Special No. 8)

The cider was the inspiration, the centre of … Continue reading.