Wow, there are a lot of you jumping on the meat-wagon. (Deadline for inclusion on the blog roll is February 1, 2011.) Kim and I are so happy to have so much support for our Year of Meat. I’ve made some changes to accommodate the enormous response – check out the pull down menu at the top of this page – that’s where you’ll find all the Charcutepalooza information for the rest of the year. Thanks go out to the amazing, brilliant, WordPress designer, Barb (@VinoLuci on Twitter,) who helped us figure it all out.
Kim and I were over the moon when Michael Ruhlman gave us a little link-love on his blog, and, behind the scenes, took the time to review and comment on our super secret plans. We’ve also been written up on Food52 (thank you Amanda Hesser & Merrill Stubbs!) We’ve been called a trend in the SFWeekly blog and the Washington Post blog “Around The Water Cooler”. There was even a commenter on CHOW who said he intended to participate in Charcutepalooza.
And check this out. Punk Domestics set aside a new category of listings for salume and charcuterie and is interested in linking to your inspiring DIY kitchen stories. It’s a great site, so join, contribute and tell everyone about your Meaty Experiences.
There is more to come, but for now, we’re thrilled to have fantastic stories to read. Stories about babies being moved to make room for ducks, Christmas in January (so far the only goose breasts participating), and how the French and Italians make duck proscuitto. Farmers are joining, city-dwellers, bloggers you know and love, and one young chef who has us all astonished.
Photos have been shared on Flickr – so many breasts on one site and no request to verify you’re over 18. And for off color humor and way too many meat jokes, follow us on Twitter using the #charcutepalooza hashtag.
Duck Prosciutto Posts Today
Today is the day we’ll be watching for your duck prosciutto posts. Remember, we’re looking for your recipes and ways you are enjoying your charcuterie. Kim will put together a wrap up post on the last day of January with some links to your brilliance, so if your post isn’t ready today, you’ve still got some time.
It’s not too late to join the Charcutepalooza. There’s no obligation to participate every month, but for those of you who post all twelve months of challenges … we’ve got an amazing grand prize.
Kate Hill has been incredibly generous. She’s offered up a place in one of her week-long butchering classes at her meat school in Camont. Yes, that’s right. In France – Gascony, to be exact, learning about charcuterie where many say the craft was first perfected. We’re working on finding more sponsorships for more prizes and giveaways, and we’re firming up how the grand prize will be awarded. We’ll get back to you before long on all that.
One thing – we realize many of you did not have time to complete the duck prosciutto challenge. Therefore, in order to qualify for the grand prize, just make and post about the duck prosciutto sometime before the end of the year.
The February Challenge
We’ll be posting two challenges each month – the Apprentice Challenge and the Charcutiere Challenge.
This month, we’re taking on the Salt Cure. Where January’s duck was cured in salt and hung to dry, we’re going to be exploring salt in even more depth this month.
First, read about salt cures in Charcuterie.
And then, for the Apprentice Challenge, make some fresh bacon. It can be pork, lamb, goat belly – whatever floats your boat. For now, we’re not asking you to smoke the bacon, simply to cure and roast. Fresh Bacon. You’re going to love it.
(Not on the meat-wagon? While not included in this month’s official Charcutepalooza challenge, you might opt to cure salmon, make salt cod. Even beef jerky. Why not preserve lemons? There are plenty of ways to play in the salt.)
Posting date is February 15th. Please tag your post Charcutepalooza. And if you want to be sure we’ll see it, send a link to me, or to Kim, or post on the Charcutepalooza Facebook page. Kim will do a wrap up of our favorite Salt Cure blog posts on the last day of February.
Sunday, January 16th at 9pm (EST), The Culinary Institute’s Bob del Grosso will join Kim and me for a Twitterchat (at hashtag #Charcutepalooza,) to answer questions and get this meat party started. Details on the chat are on Kim’s post.
A Little Help From My Friends
Okay. Imagine this. You’re married to a vegetarian. You ask.. “Honey, could you take pictures while I butcher this duck?” Imagine the sound of crickets. It became clear I needed a meat-friend.
Back in September, 2009, when I finished my charcuterie class, I asked my pal Paul if he wanted to make some sausages with me, and a partnership was born. I have to say, it’s a lot more fun to do this with someone. And there are many charcuterie activities for which four hands are useful. For this challenge, we were all in the kitchen. Paul, Elaine, me, and Pedro and LuLu, the two chihauhas.
We started with two Berkshire pork bellies, one was a gift from my friends in Tennessee, the other purchased from Evensong Farm in Maryland. They were very different shapes – one thinner with less fat – seemed perfect for rolling for pancetta. The other thicker and a very bacon-like shape that looked just right for slicing.
We fortified ourselves with wine and duck proscuitto. Also fontina, pepperoni and mortadella from the local Italian market – inspiration for more projects in the future!
There have been many questions from all of you about pink salt. Pink salt is a combination of sodium chloride – salt – and nitrite – a preserving agent. I’ve made fresh bacon using kosher salt and I’ve made it with pink salt. The taste is nearly the same. Some people reported butchers who use sea salt. I think the bacon cured with kosher salt tastes more like pork roast than bacon, but that’s just me. And there is nothing wrong with pork roast. With pink salt, the bacon is a color we’re more used to seeing in bacon. Pinker. From what I can suss out, it’s all a matter of aesthetics.
You can very easily forego the pink salt to cure fresh bacon. Eugenia Bone, in her book Well-Preserved, suggests a ratio of 3 Tbls. salt to 2-1/2 lbs. of meat. Be aware of this ratio and use your scale, and your calculator, to adjust the ingredients appropriately.
If you do choose to use pink salt, please wear gloves. No need to cure your hands.
If your meat comes with a skin/rind on it, do not remove this gorgeousness until you have finished roasting the belly. The bacon rind is a wonderful tasty way to get soup started or flavor stew, stocks… well, you know, anything, really.
We massaged a brown sugar rub all over the belly, sealed the meat in a large bag, and put it in the refrigerator where Paul promised to flip the bag over and continue the massage every day for a week.
The other, larger, thinner piece needed to be trimmed. I’ve included pictures of Paul’s genius knife skills and trimming work on our Flickr page. Post trim, this nice rectangular piece was flavored with a strong peppery juniper and bay mix, then wrapped up for the ‘fridge with similar rub-the-belly instructions.
It’s another night at Paul & Elaine’s. We’re making bacon. It’s roasting in the oven, after a good rinse and drying well. Now, the scent is tantalizing us as we wrestle with the pancetta. Once the bacon has roasted to an internal temperature of 150°, we’ll chill it completely before making serving sized packages for the freezer. Some will be sliced, some will be cut into lardons. It will be appreciated, that’s certain.
We noticed that Paul’s oven, set at 200°, took a very long time to roast the belly. We raised the temp to 225° after two hours, and it was done 30 minutes later. I’m pretty sure the oven temperature was wonky, so Paul’s going to get an oven thermometer. Always a good idea to have a thermometer in your oven. This is my favorite. In my home oven, the low temperature setting is a little too functional, and I’ve had some issues with bacon roasting too quickly and become tough. So watch your oven temperature carefully.
Next up – pancetta. Paul thought we might use a Silpat to roll the belly up as though it were sushi. I don’t know if it made things easier. Maybe it helped keep the belly from sliding all over the counter. Next time, I might try plastic wrap as the sushi-roll-stand-in. Rolling the pancetta was not easy. We got it rolled once, and even trussed it, but there were a lot of air pockets, something Ruhlman warns about. It’s these airpockets where bacteria and mold can grow. That worried us enough to become slightly obsessive about how tight the roll was, and how well trussed. Yes, we undid the entire thing a couple of times, retrussed (oh, that was fun), and finally, on the third try, had a fairly tight roll. I fussed for awhile longer, tightening the butcher’s string over and over. When you are trussing, don’t make knots at every junction… that makes it impossible to retighten the trussing, and you’re going to want to tighten it a few times. I’m hoping a year of this will make me a better trusser.
This belly was big – over 4#, and the book’s instructions tell you to roll from the long side. We could see it would be a very long pancetta roll, but we kept it in one piece to roll and truss, then cut it in half for hanging. As we tied (yes, it took all four hands) and tucked and worked to get the air out of the roll of meat, I thought about flat pancetta. Beginning to sound like a really good idea except it won’t fit in the wine refrigerator.
I’ve been tinkering with my newly acquired Craigslist wine fridge, now installed in a corner of the basement. I used a humidity/temperature thermometer and moved the dial up and down until I had the required environment for pancetta – the same as the duck – 50-60°F and 70-80% humidity. The temperature was easy, but humidity was low until I install a bowl of salted water in the bottom of the fridge. This pancetta smells divine even now, just a week into the cure. I’m going to go for the full two weeks, after which Paul, Elaine and I will get together for a taste test. I’m already dreaming of a pasta dish with cream and peas.
When we trimmed pork belly for the pancetta, I ended up with about a pound of scraps, which meant rillette! I flavored it with Calvados and thyme, using this recipe as inspiration, as well as my go-to rillette recipe in The Cook and The Gardener.
We served it with local black walnuts, bright green olives (oops, forgot to buy cornichons), sharp mustard and baguette. We needed sustenance for the pancetta rolling.
And with the roasted, fresh bacon trimmings, there was only one thing we wanted. Paul, Elaine and I share a love of the classic French lardons salad. Here’s our take on it. Note the aesthetics of the two lardons types – one treated with pink salt and one without.
Bacon Lovers Salad, with an Egg
1/2# Bacon lardons
8 thin slices of baguette
4 Farm fresh eggs
4 medium Golden beets
12 oz. Baby arugula
1 T Shallot
2 T aged balsamic vinegar (or any vinegar you love)
6 T Olive oil (something nice)
Fleur de sel or a nice crunchy large crystal salt (smoked salt is fabulous)
Cracked black pepper
Scrub the beets, leaving them whole and unpeeled, drizzle with olive oil and wrap tightly in foil. Roast at 425° for 40 min. Allow the beets to cool slightly, then peel and quarter.
Blanch the lardons briefly and dry on paper towels.
In a saute pan, crisp up the lardons.
Remove the lardons from the pan with a slotted spoon, heat the bacon fat in the pan and quickly saute the slices of baguette, flipping when crispy.
Fill a medium saucepan with water, and bring it to a simmer. Poach one egg for each person.
In a large bowl, combine the arugula, shallot, vinegar and olive oil. Toss well, add salt and pepper and taste, correct seasoning.
Arrange the salad as shown, or in your own design-y way.