Category Archives: Charcuterie

Fir-Smoked Ham

Boughs of firIf you consult a North American resource on smoking meat, you’re likely find something like the following:

The first rule of smoking meat: use hardwood. Apple, hickory, maple, oak, pear, cherry, whatever you please, but do not use soft wood, and especially not evergreens. They are extremely resinous, and not only do they produce harsh, turpentine flavours in the meat, they are also poisonous!

These comments are discouraging to someone who lives where the prairies meet the boreal forest. Of course there are hardwood trees in Edmonton, but they’re not nearly as common as, say, poplars and spruce. There’s a spruce tree in my front yard that, if left to its own devices, will someday eat my house. There’s a … Continue reading.

Pâté with Pork Tenderloin and Morels

Pork pâté with morel and tenderloin inlayI like to make pâté around Christmas. This year I wanted to try a terrine with an inlay. Inlays are usually pieces of lean mean, like a pork tenderloin or duck breast, that are set in the middle of a terrine, surrounded by forcemeat, so that each slice of the terrine has a cross-section of the lean meat. At left you can see a rosy pork tenderloin cooked to medium.

Winter is a reflective season, and nowhere is this more true than with food, as many of the things we eat in December were by necessity harvested in September, or earlier. The special significance this pâté has to the past year is the garnish studding the forcemeat: morels. This was … Continue reading.

Notes on Dry-Curing Meat: Mold

When dry-curing, mold is inevitable, yet there’s little detailed information available to guide the beginner. I don’t know for sure why this is, but I have some theories:

  • mold is so variant and hard to describe,
  • mold-discussions might disgust customers, and
  • mold is a mystery of the charcutiers’ cult.

The general rule in charcuterie is that smooth, hard, white mold is “good.” I don’t think it affects the flavour of the meat in any way, but it discourages the growth of “bad” mold, that is, mold that is pathogenic or that somehow compromises the meat. Any type of fuzzy mold is said to be bad.

Luckily, undesirable mold can simply be cut away; it doesn’t taint the entire batch of … Continue reading.

Buffalo Tongue

A simple variation on the brine and boil theme.

The rule of thumb for brining hams is a half day per pound of meat. Tongues seem to take a week for the brine to penetrate, even if they only weigh two pounds. This could be because the meat is dense and fine-textured, but that’s only a theory.

As is easy to imagine, the tongue is a highly exercised muscle. It contains lots of connective tissue that moist heat dissolves into delicious, succulent gelatin. As such tongues are almost always boiled.

I had just made some good buffalo stock, so I decided to braise this particular tongue. I didn’t expect braising to affect the tongue much differently than boiling; I just … Continue reading.

Headcheese

I remember Gramp butchering a pig once and there were a lot of people around. This was in the wintertime and there was a big steel barrel full of water that had a huge bonfire under it to heat the water. They killed the pig and then heaved it in the barrel and pulled it out again and all the guys started scraping it with knives. I later learned they were shaving the bristles off it and that the hot water made the job easier. I remember Granny then made headcheese.

-Marvin Streich, in The Streich Family

A pig's head from Nature's Green AcresThe above quote is from a family history that my mom wrote. Marvin, her eldest cousin, penned several pages of his earliest memories … Continue reading.

Blood Terrine

This blood terrine is based on a recipe from Fergus Henderson’s book The Whole Beast. The procedure and recipe are almost identical to those for blood sausage:

  • sweat onions, garlic, and spices in butter;
  • add blood and heat to thicken;
  • add cornmeal in a steady stream, stirring constantly to prevent clumping;
  • heat the mixture until it thickens;
  • add diced backfat;

the only difference being that the mixture is cooked in a loaf pan in a water bath instead of casings.

This cake set beautifully. It was tender, but held up to slicing. This experiment reinforces my theory that there was too much moisture in the other blood sausages. (The cornmeal in the cake was cooked directly in the blood, … Continue reading.

Blood Sausage

Blood sausage is, as I have written before, pretty much what you would expect: pig’s blood and fat, seasoned and stuffed into casings. The sausages are almost always flavoured with onions, and often contain a starch like oats or cornmeal or rice.

I have only come across blood sausage twice in Edmonton. My first taste was at Charcutaria Micaelense on 118 Avenue, but they have since stopped making their own and instead carry an inferior commercial substitute. More recently I have tried the blood sausage at Old Country Meats.

There are a few reasons we don’t see it very often here. First: our timorous approach to eating. Second (and closely related to the first…): the hassle of obtaining pig’s … Continue reading.

Pig Skin Sausages

When butchers break down a side of pork, they are after the several lean cuts of meat, the bones that can be used in stock or sold as dog treats, and the large pile of trim that can be ground into sausage meat. The only parts that typically go to waste are the head, the glands (particularly prevalent in the jowls, but also in the hind legs), and the skin.

Progressive (or retrogressive?) eaters don’t have a problem with pig head, and the glands represent a very small amount of waste, maybe 100 g on a side of pork. That leaves the skin. While it can be put into a broth or cassoulet, there happens to be a much … Continue reading.

Air-Dried Sausages

Hanging sausages to dry in a cellarI just finished my first batch of dry-cured sausage. It is essentially fresh ground pork, stuffed into casings with nitrate and seasonings, then left to dry. The temperature and humidity have to be just right for the sausage to dry properly. I experimented with climate-control when making pancetta this past spring. In that case the meat had already been cured in my fridge, and the drying was just to change the texture. The pancetta was also cooked before eating. This is a whole other ball game, as these sausages aren’t cured in the fridge beforehand, and aren’t cooked before eating.

Dry-curing is an interesting process. With most charcuterie preparations, there are easily-described visual indicators to guide you along. For instance, … Continue reading.

Duck Liver Pâté

This week I made a duck liver pâté and served it with sour cherries.  Both the livers and the cherries came from Greens, Eggs, and Ham.

The recipe was adapted from that for pâté grand mère in Michael Ruhlman’s Charcuterie. Duck livers can generally stand in for chicken livers.

1: Season the pork and liver (separately), with salt, pepper, bay, and thyme. Leave the mixtures overnight in the fridge.

The pork and duck liver, seasoned and left to marinate

2: The next day, chill the meat grinder and mixer parts. Ice water is particularly effective. You can also preheat your oven to 300°F.

Chilling the grinder parts in ice-water

3: After removing the bay leaf and thyme, sear the livers quickly over high heat. This is done strictly to enhance flavour and colour. Remove the … Continue reading.