Category Archives: Charcuterie

Blunz’n – Austrian Blood Sausage

A healthy portion of Blunz'n at an Austrian heurigerWhen I first had Blunz’n at a tavern in Austria I had a very narrow idea of what blood sausage was.  Most of the blood sausage I had eaten before this moment I had made myself, following recipes in Ruhlman’s Charcuterie and the Au Pied de Cochon cookbook.  These versions are simply pork blood studded with cubes of pork fat and onion.  The Austrian Blunz’n before me was radically different: it was soft and moist, but closer in texture to a dumpling then boudin noir, and it was burgundy, not black.

Before I left Austria I got a Blunz’n recipe from one of my chaperones.  I read through the recipe and thought there must have been some kind of … Continue reading.

Leberkäse

Loaves of Leberkäse Leberkäse is an emulsified sausage mixture that is shaped into a block, baked, and sliced to order.  Picture hot dog filling, only instead of stuffed into casings it’s packed into a loaf pan.

Yes: a hot dog terrine.

For the record the name literally means “liver cheese,” but usually contains neither liver nor cheese.  There is, however, a preparation called Käseleberkäse, which is Leberkäse studded with cubes of cheese in the style of a Käsekrainer.

Where would you eat Leberkäse?  Austria and Bavaria, for starters.  More specifically sausage stands, beer gardens, grocery stores, and any other place that might hot-hold food for quick service.  The loaves are baked till they have a … Continue reading.

Pork Liver Pâté

Seared liver and ground pork

“What the hell is pâté?”

Pâté is fancy French meatloaf: it’s ground meat, bound with dairy, eggs, and bread.  The only difference is that pâté usually contains some liver, and it’s usually eaten cold.  If it’s baked in a special ceramic dish, it can be called a terrine.

Within that definition, there is a spectrum of pâtés that runs from rustic to refined. The two qualities that decide a pâté’s place on the spectrum are texture and ingredients. Rustic pâtés are coarser in texture and made with cheaper, heartier ingredients, like liver. They are often described by words like campagne (“country”), grandmère (“grandma”), and maison (“house”). Refined pâtés have a finer, creamier texture and feature meat more prominently than liver. … Continue reading.

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.