Category Archives: Charcuterie

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.

Fatty Ducks and Geese: The Skinny on Rendering Fat, Confit, and Rillettes

Ducks and geese are fatty little creatures.  Historically even fattier than they are now.  Especially in southwestern France, where they are usually fattened to make foie gras.

This is a goose from Greens, Eggs, and Ham.  It weighs about eleven pounds.  We’re going to render some of its fat.  We’re also going to confit the breasts and legs, then turn them into rillettes.

Greens, Eggs, and Ham goose

First we cut the breasts and legs from our goose.  For a description of this process, see Poultry Cutting.

The breasts and thigh-legs

Rendering the Fat

Even though the choice fat around the breasts and legs is going into our confit, there is still lots of fat to be rendered from the goose. Look for fatty trim … Continue reading.

Pancetta

Pancetta is Italian for “little belly.”  It is cured pork belly, usually but not always partly air-dried.  It may be a flat slab, like North American bacon, or it may be rolled into cylinder with a delightful, spiral cross section.  It is almost never smoked.

Making Pancetta at Home

1. Make the cure mix: kosher salt, curing salt, fresh coarse ground black pepper, crumbled bay leaves, fresh ground nutmeg, crushed juniper berries, brown sugar, and fresh thyme. The complete recipe can be found in Michael Ruhlman’s Charcuterie.


2. Trim the pork belly. Square the edges. The slab I had also happened to have the skin on, which must be removed. Try to leave a thin layer of fat on … Continue reading.

Easter Ham

For the last few years we’ve been curing our own Easter ham with more or less an entire leg of pork.

The primal cut of pork known as the leg is separated from the loin and belly by sawing through the middle of the pelvic bone.  The section of the pelvis that is left on the loin is called the pin bone.  The section on the leg is the haitch bone.  To remove the haitch bone you have to follow its frustrating curves with your knife until you expose the ball joint where the leg meets the pelvis.  Cut through this joint.

Next the skin is removed in one large sheet.

What remains of the leg typically weighs about 15 … Continue reading.