Category Archives: 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.

Burger Freak-Out

Originally published September 29, 2012.

Burger: A Sneak PeekThis summer I had a little burger freak-out.  I thought about hamburgers more in the last few months than my entire life previous, and I came to realize that, despite eating them for about twenty five years, I knew very little about them.

The following burger info will be obvious to many of you, but circumstances conspired to stunt my burger knowledge from a very young age.  For instance, the burgers I ate growing up were a bit like squished meatballs: they contained bread crumbs and eggs and were mixed to bind the ingredients together.  They were tasty and comforting, but they hampered my understanding of proper hamburger flavour and texture for years.  To aggravate the situation, I make sausages at work every week, and in days past I would often apply the same theories and practices to hamburgers.

In other words I had to unlearn everything that I thought I knew about burgers.

Let’s start at the beginning.

 

Beef.  The best burgers are made from quality beef that you’ve ground yourself.  Chuck usually forms the bulk of the mixture.  Fat is important as a source of beefy flavour and moist mouthfeel, so I usually spike the mix with a bit of brisket.  I aim for roughly 25% fat by volume.  There’s no science to this: you have to eyeball it.   I trim my chuck and brisket of all connective tissue, then give it one pass through a 1/4″ plate.  If you’re using meat from which you can’t remove all the silverskin, like shank, you’ll need at least two passes through the grinder to tenderize properly.

Of course, you can make good burgers with pre-ground meat, just make sure it’s not lean or, God forbid, extra-lean.  I’ll say it again, in case the recent E. coli outbreaks haven’t already convinced you: only buy quality beef from trusted producers!

Other Ingredients.  As I mentioned above, I grew up on homemade burgers that contained eggs and bread crumbs.  Some burger joints swear by Worcestershire and granulated garlic.  For reasons that will be discussed in the “Mixing” section below, I currently add two ingredients to my ground beef: salt and pepper.

One big way that burgers differ from sausages is salt content.  If you season a burger mix as you would a sausage mix, for some reason the burgers taste way too salty.  The right amount of salt is also important for the final texture of the patty.  Salt aids in protein-extraction, and helps bind the ground meat together.  This is something that we encourage in sausage-making, but discourage in burger-making.  Again, this will be discussed further in the “Mixing” section.  For sausages I take the weight of the meat and fat, divide by 60, and that is the amount of salt I add.  For burgers I divide by 90.  In other words my burgers have 2/3 the amount of salt that my sausages do, about 1.11% of the weight of the beef.  Even this is fairly aggressive seasoning for a burger.

If you want to taste pepper in the final patty, add 0.2% of the weight of the meat in freshly ground black pepper.

Mixing.  This is where my sausage-making background seriously affected my understanding of burgers.  Sausages are ground meat, combined with salt and water, then mixed to develop a cohesive, springy texture.  The large dose of salt helps extract proteins.  The water and the mixing develop those proteins into a strong network, very much like kneading bread.  Sausages are usually stuffed into casings.  Sausage patties are not stuffed into casings, but they are still combined with salt and water and mixed prior to shaping, so that they have the resilient texture of a sausage.

Burgers are emphatically not sausage patties, because they have not been mixed.  They have a texture all their own.  To quote Harold McGee: “the gently gathered ground beef in a good hamburger has a delicate quality quite unlike even a tender steak.”

The most critical part of burger preparation, once the right grind has been selected, is to season and shape the patties without developing a protein network.  We have lowered the amount of salt added because salt extracts protein from the meat.  We have omitted all liquids, whether egg yolks or Worcestershire sauce, to discourage protein development.  Now we must minimize mechanical agitation.

When grinding my own meat for burger mix, I add the salt and pepper to the cubed meat, before grinding.  This way the salt is evenly distributed through the grind, without my having to mix the meat and develop the protein.

Working with pre-ground meat, I add the salt and pepper, then, instead of folding and compressing the meat, I pretend I’m tossing a delicate salad.  I lift the ground meat, then let the individual strands fall between my fingers so that they don’t get pressed together.

A raw beef patty

Shaping.  Gather the desired amount of seasoned, ground beef, then gently compress it between your palms, using your fingers to maintain the round shape of the patty.

The diameter of the patty should be tailored to the diameter of the bun.  The height of the patty should be tailored to the size of the diner’s mouth.  A lot of people like tall, messy burgers that you can barely get your mouth around.  I don’t.  I find that once the bun and condiments are in play, a final patty height of 3/4″ is all I can handle comfotably.

Remember that the burger will shrink in diameter and grow in thickness as it cooks.  The raw patty should therefore a bit wider than the bun, and very thin.  I start with a patty that is 5″ across, and 1/2″ tall.  After cooking it will be 4″ across, and 3/4″ tall.

Cooking.  The cooking of hamburgers is taken very seriously.  Anthony Bourdain says to order a burger anything besides medium-rare is “un-American.”  On the other hand it is actually illegal to serve a burger anything less than well-done in Canada, though apparently a few places are doing it.

Frankly I think the whole issue is overblown.  Well-done burgers can be moist and tender, as long as they contain the right amount of fat and haven’t been over-mixed.  Medium-rare burgers are safe to eat as long as the meat as been handled properly.  I would never buy factory-raised, ground beef from a grocery store and eat it anything but well-done.  At home, using quality beef that I have cut and stored myself, I aim to cook my burgers through, but if there’s some pink meat in the middle, I don’t freak out.

If you subscribe to Bourdain’s jingo and absolutely must prepare a medium-rare burger, here’s Harold McGee’s suggested method:

Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil, immerse the pieces of meat in the water for 30-60 seconds, then remove, drain and pat dry, and grind in a scrupulously clean meat grinder.  The blanching kills surface bacteria while overcooking only the outer 1-2 millimeters, which grinding then disperses invisibly throughout the rest of the meat.

Note that if you’re cooking a burger mid-rare, there will be less patty-shrinkage.

While there is a time and a place for cooking burgers on the barbecue, most afficianados maintain that very hot griddles or skillets are the ideal cooking surface.  These methods don’t develop the open-flame char flavours of the barbecue, but you can get a very heavy, uniform crust on the flat sides of the burger.  The crust has good flavour and a distinctive crunch.  Burger-freaks call this “burger candy.”

Bun.  My childhood burger was placed on a lean kaiser roll.  We have gone to great length to avoid developing the protein in the meat so that we have a loose, tender amalgam of beef.  If we put this burger on a kaiser bun, with its lean, glutenous chew, we have ruined dinner.

True burger buns are a bit like cake: pains have been taken to avoid the development of gluten.  Fat and sugar have been added to the recipe to interrupt gluten strands.  The batter has been mixed only to combine the ingredients, not a stroke further.  Burger buns are therefore rich, sweet, and tender.

I’ve never tried my hand at baking my own burger bun.  My understanding is that the dough is quite runny, and very hard to work with by hand.  Many joints around town use brioche batter for their burger buns.  I use commercial hamburger buns (sorry…)

Whichever bun you decide to use, show it some love and toast it.  One of the advantages of cooking your patty on a griddle or in a skillet is that you’ll have a bit of burger fat in which to fry the bun.

Condiments.  These are obviously a matter of personal taste.  My own thoughts:

Some form of tomato is necessary.  If I have fresh tomatoes, I use fresh tomatoes.  If I don’t, I use ketchup.  I don’t like using both.  If I use fresh tomatoes, I add mustard.  Raw onion and dill pickles are also required.

While I do have a soft-spot for processed cheese, I usually use gouda, Gruyere or Emmenthal for cheeseburgers.  The younger versions have better melting properties.  I find that the cheese-flavour is stronger if the slices are only partially melted.  Overheating will thin out the cheese and make it run off the burger.

Money Shot

The finished burger, top bun removed for full photographic affect

My burger, half eaten

 

Addendum: Cherry Coke

Traditionalists will argue that I’m ruining coke; locavores will say I’m ruining Evans cherries.

This is my perfect cherry Coke, the ideal accompaniment for burgers, Montreal smoked meat, and fried chicken:

 

Sources

My two main sources of burger info were Harold McGee’s On Food and Cooking and Heston Blumethal’s In Search of Perfection episode on the burger, which you can watch here.

Chicken Skin

Crispy chicken skin.Really you shouldn’t end up with an excess of chicken skin very often.  The skin is a delicious and coveted part of fried chicken and roast chicken, and if it’s well-rendered it can also go into some cold, day-after preparations like chicken salad sandwiches.

But if you are shredding leftover chicken to make chicken noodle soup or chicken stew, you may want to set the skin aside for another application.

Here’s how to turn cold, flabby, leftover chicken skin into golden brown, crispy pieces of crackling. Line a sheet tray with parchment and lay out the pieces of chicken skin so they are flat.  Place another sheet of parchment on top, and then another sheet tray on top of that, so that you have sandwiched the skin between the trays.  This is just to keep the skin from curling up.  It may also help them cook evenly, now that I think of it.

Bake in a 350°F oven until crisp and deep golden brown with an amber hue.

You now have what are essentially chicken skin crackers.  You may be wondering what you should do with them.  Here are some ideas.  Crumble them onto soups, and into salads.  Use them as a base for an hors d’oeuvre, or as a crispy garnish for any number of dishes.  Mac and cheese comes to mind.  In my opinion the supreme usage for crispy chicken crackling is to layer it generously onto a tomato sandwich.  Spicy chili mayo, pickled red onions, and rocket can play welcome supporting roles in this venture.

A sandwich made with tomato, chili mayo, pickled onion, and crispy chicken skin.

Squirrel

A squirrelLast week I went on a hunting trip with Kevin, and I shot and killed my first animal.  It was a squirrel.

I know: that’s not very impressive.  I’m sure most boys who grow up in the country have done this by age ten.  And I know: you think squirrel is something that only hillbillies or starving back-country adventurers eat.  Actually it’s pretty tasty.

Once skinned, gutted, and cleaned, the squirrel carcass looked very much like a tiny rabbit.  The meat was shockingly dark.  I thought that a small critter with such rapid, twitching movements would have light meat.

The cleaned carcass:

The cleaned squirrel carcass.

I divided the squirrel that same way I would a rabbit: into forequarters, a saddle, and hindquarters.

The squirrel carcass divided into quarters and saddle.

I made a simple stew.  I had a sausage on hand, so I removed the casing and cooked the meat in the pot to get some of the fat.  I seared the squirrel in that sausage fat, then added onion and garlic and sautéed briefly.  I poured in some leftover Labrador tea, brought it to a boil, then added wild rice.  The stew was gently simmered over the fire until the wild rice had popped and the squirrel was tender.  Mid-way through I added some potato.  I finished the stew by wilting foraged dandelion.

Squirrel stew in a pot over the fire.

So, how did baby’s first squirrel dish taste?  It was good.  The squirrel meat itself reminded me of spruce grouse more than anything else.

 

Chicken Stew

chickent_stewUnlike beef stew, which I make from fresh cuts of beef, chicken stew is foremost a way of reclaiming and elevating leftover roast chicken.

There’s not much point in stewing chickens these days.  Old recipes like coq au vin are from a time when we actually let some of our birds grow old enough to be tough and require stewing to tenderize.  Basically all of the chickens that we eat now are less than two months old, so their meat is extremely tender.  Stewing these birds only dries them out.

However, if you happen to have leftover roast chicken, shredding the meat and coating it in the sauce of a stew returns some moisture and savour to the meat.

In other words I consider this a great secondary preparation.  Roast a chicken for Sunday dinner, make stock from its bones on Monday, have chicken salad sandwiches on Tuesday, and chicken stew on Wednesday.

Obviously the exact vegetables should change with the seasons.  Below is an example of a late summer version using corn, bell peppers, zucchini, and potato.

 

Chicken Stew

Ingredients

  • 75 g unsalted butter
  • 200 g onion, 3/4″ chunks
  • 20 g garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp sweet paprika
  • 1 tbsp dried oregano
  • 175 g carrot, 3/4″ chunks
  • 100 g celery, 3/4″ chunks
  • 60 mL dry cider or white wine
  • 150 g red bell pepper, 3/4″ chunks
  • 500 g Yukon gold potato, 3/4″ chunks
  • 90 g corn kernels
  • 1 L good chicken stock (approximately)
  • 250 g zucchini, 3/4″ chunks
  • 400 g chicken, shredded or cut into 3/4″ chunks
  • 120 mL chopped herbs, ideally a mixture of parsley, thyme, rosemary, and sage
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar or white wine vinegar
  • kosher salt to taste
  • black pepper to taste

Procedure

  1. Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed pot.  Sweat the onion, garlic, paprika, and oregano in the butter until the onions are starting to turn translucent.
  2. Add the cider or white wine and reduce by 2/3.
  3. Add the carrot, celery, bell pepper, potato, and corn.  Add chicken stock until the vegetables are just, just covered.
  4. Simmer very gently until the vegetables are tender.  The potatoes will take the longest.  Add the zucchini for the last 10 minutes.
  5. Remove 500 mL of the stew and blitz into a smooth purée in a blender.  Add the purée back into the the sew.
  6. Add the chicken, fresh herbs, and vinegar.  Taste and adjust salt and pepper as desired.

Yield: about 2 L of chicken stew

Chicken Wings

Chicken wings straight out the fryer.Buying whole animals forces you to eat their various components in rigid proportion.

For instance, if you go out on a Wednesday and eat two dozen chicken wings, you have eaten the upper appendages of six chickens.  If you had to purchase those chickens as whole birds, you would then be stuck with a dozen breasts and a dozen legs that you would need to consume before you ever ate wings again.

All this to say I don’t prepare chicken wings at home very much.  But I love them, and sometimes I’ll squirrel away the wings from my chickens, accumulating them over several months, until I have enough to justify preparing them bar-style.

Anatomy of a Chicken Wing.  If you were confused by the statement above that each bird yields four wings, this is because we divide each of the bird’s wings in two: the first segment, closest to the breast of the chicken, is the drumette; the second, farther from the body, is the wingette.  These are the two types of meat that you get when you order wings at a bar.  The drumette looks like a little drumstick.  It has one bone through the centre, and the meat is on the pale, lean side.  The wingette has two slender bones arching within, and the meat is a bit darker, and for my money, juicier.

There is actually a third section of the chicken wing, the wing tip.  This is always removed in western restaurants, but is usually left attached to the wingette in Korean and Japanese restaurants.  If you think that the best part of the chicken wing is the crispy, tacky, saucy crust, you should consider finding wings with the wingtip still attached, as you’ll increase your crust-to-meat ratio.

Cooking Method.  Bar wings are made just like fried chicken: the meat is marinated, then dredged with flour and deep fried in oil.

Sauces.  Most chicken wings are then coated with sauce while they are fresh out of the fryer.

“What about salt and pepper wings?  They don’t have sauce on them.”

I’m going to pretend you didn’t just bring up salt and pepper wings.

Un-sauced wings are fine.  I like plain fried chicken as much as the next guy, but sauce is what makes chicken wings.  At the bar you can smell when the group three tables over gets their platter of wings because the air is redolent of the chili and vinegar in the sauce.  That’s what I like about wings.

My two favourite sauce flavours are “hot” and honey garlic.  You can make a fantastic honey garlic drizzle at home.  Just heat honey in a small pot, then add garlic grated fine with a microplane, some dried herbs like thyme and savoury, and a splash of cider vinegar.

Dipping Sauce.  Wings are often served with a ranch-type dipping sauce.  You take your saucy wing and dip it in yet another sauce.  It doesn’t make sense.  It shouldn’t be good, but it is.  A simple dipping sauce can be made at home by combining mayonnaise and sour cream, then flavouring with garlic and herbs.

The perfunctory celery and carrots seem like a clumsy way to add some vegetables to the meal, but they, too, are perfect.  A cool crunch between firey heat.

A plate of chicken wings, honey garlic and hot

Jackrabbits

A hare hanging out in my backyard, waiting for my fruit shrubs to become vulnerable.I live in McKernan, a neighbourhood in south Edmonton.  Our most common fauna are magpies, sparrows, squirrels, and jackrabbits.  There are jackrabbits everywhere.

Specifically, these are white-tailed jackrabbits, which aren’t rabbits at all, but hares.  Hares are larger than rabbits.  They have longer hind legs, and longer ears with black markings.  Hares live above ground, while rabbits make burrows beneath.  Hares change colour with the seasons; rabbits don’t.  Male hares are called jacks, females jills, and babies leverets.

One last charming tidbit on jackrabbits: they are named because their long ears reminded someone of a jackass.

I learned all of that from this National Geographic post.

As far as I can tell, jackrabbits love neighbourhoods like McKernan and Garneau.  There are very few threats here.  Their main predator is probably motor vehicles, but jackrabbits are so spry I can’t imagine this is much of a worry to them.  The coyotes that venture up from the river valley are probably a distant second.  (This is entirely speculation…)

From observation I can tell you that jackrabbits prefer to eat greens, like grass, clover ,and dandelions (which I can supply them in abundance).  They also eat certain leafy items in our vegetable patch, like Swiss Chard.  This isn’t much of a concern to me, but when it comes to our baby fruit and nut trees, jackrabbits are downright destructive pests.

We have sour cherries, plums, apples, and hazelnuts planted in our yard.  They were all procured as saplings only a few inches high from the University of Saskatchewan fruit program.  They were planted in the summer, and for a few months they lived peaceably amongst the hares.

Then came fall, and all the green growth in our lawn turned dun.  With this the jackrabbits turned their brown, nervous eyes to the baby fruit trees.  The slender specimens were eaten back to ground level.  The larger apple tree had its bark stripped from the lowest levels of the trunk.  The deep snow of winter protected the plants for a while, but come spring, when the snow had left but there wasn’t yet green growth, the devastation continued.

Thankfully, all of the plants, even the ones that were eaten down  to the roots, grew back and are doing fine.  They breed ’em strong at the U of S.

To keep the jackrabbits at bay we constructed cages.  We drove some sturdy sticks into the ground around the plants, wrapped chicken wire in a protective loop, and fastened it with tie-wraps.

A wire cage protecting a young plum tree from jackrabbits

 

I’ve eaten plenty of rabbit, but never hare.  Hares don’t do well in captivity; to my knowledge they aren’t farmed like rabbits.

But there are many classic recipes for wild hare.  I think of these recipes often when I look out my window and see a jackrabbit squatted in a patch of clover in my yard.

Eating an animal that roams a large city seems like a bad idea at first.  Who knows where it’s been or what it’s eaten?  But what if I watch the animal sit in my yard, day after day, eating the exact same dandelions that I sometimes make into salad?

Idea for a springtime dish: broad noodles with a sauce of egg yolk, mixed with shredded leg of hare and wilted dandelion greens.

Towards a Theory of Fried Chicken

Fried chicken cooling an a rack.Usually I don’t post about something til I’m confident I have a best practice down pat.  I have to say that there’s one important point in my fried chicken technique that I am waffling on: I’m torn between the winning flavour of buttermilk-brined chicken, and the superior texture of dry-rubbed chicken.

The Chicken.  Frying chicken is a bit of a balancing act: you want the crust to develop the perfect, deep golden brown at the very instant the meat reaches the proper temperature.  If you were to take an entire leg from a large chicken and deep fry it, the exterior would get much too dark by the time the meat cooked through.[1]

For this reason I like using smaller birds, somewhere around four pounds, and I cut them in the classic 8-cut style.

Brining vs. Dry-Rubbing.  Once the bird has been cut there are two mains methods for marinating it.  The first way that I learned is to submerge the chicken in buttermilk overnight.  If given sufficient time, the tangy flavour of the buttermilk penetrates the flesh.  It also supposedly tenderizes the meat, I think because of its acidity.  The next day the chicken is dredged in flour and fried.

Many chefs expound the dry-rubbing method, in which the chicken is set out on a wire rack, sprinkled with salt and spices, and left uncovered in the fridge overnight.  The salt works its way into the meat, and exposure to the dry, circulating air of the fridge supposedly makes for better skin.  The next day the chicken is dipped in buttermilk and dredged in flour before frying.

This past weekend I tried these two methods side by side.

Dredging.  I dredge in flour spiked with a bit of paprika and dried herb.  I add only a tiny bit of salt to the flour because the brining and seasoning methods above have already made the chicken plenty salty.

Dredging should be done moments before dropping the chicken in the oil.  Shake excess flour from the surface.

Frying.  As always I will emphasize that you don’t need a deep-fryer to deep fry at home.  Any straight-sided, heavy-bottomed pot or pan will do.

Fried chicken is cooked at a relatively low temperature.  I heat the oil to 320°F.  The cold chicken actually drops the oil temperature to 275°F or lower, and it will take several minutes to recover.  Higher temperatures will darken the exterior before the meat cooks.

Even if the chicken is entirely covered in oil I flip all the pieces half way through as the downward-facing sides tend to brown faster.

Cooking takes roughly 15 minutes, depending of course on the size of your chicken bits.  I use a temperature probe and pull all the breast meat at 70°C and all the leg meat at 80°C.

The Results: Buttermilk Brine v. Spice Rub

Some succinct tasting notes.

Buttermilk-brined chicken.  Dark amber colour, actually a bit too dark.  Crust not perfectly cohesive? Tangy, well-seasoned throughout.

Spice-rubbed chicken.  Beautiful golden brown.  Well-seasoned but perhaps not as thoroughly penetrated with salt?  To me no detectable buttermilk tang, even with the dip before dredging.

No discernible difference in moisture content between the two styles.

They were both delicious, and I would be happy to serve and eat either.  The visual difference was striking.  Temperature was carefully controlled, so I figure that the extra milk sugars present in the buttermilk-brined chicken burnt.  Also I think that the extra moisture on the brined chicken caused some of the dredging to slide off during frying.

More work is required obviously.  Below is my dinner plate.  The drumstick in the background is the spice-rubbed chicken.  The thigh in the foreground the buttermilk version.  Accompanied by garlic mash potatoes and green salad.

A plate of fried chicken, buttermilk mash potatoes, and green salad

 

1. If you do find a piece of chicken getting too dark well before the meat is properly cooked, you can take the chicken out of the oil and put it on a wire rack on a sheet pan and hold it in a 250°F oven.  The meat will continue to cook and the browning reaction at the surface will slow considerably.

 

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