Thursday, November 15, 2007

Offerings to the God of Charcuterie

Thanks to Smallholder, I have procured a side of pork that can only be described as monstrous. "Hanging weight," or the weight of the carcass sans hair, teeth, eyeballs, little curly tails, etc.,of this side of beast was around 250 pounds. Considering that most commercial hogs are only raised to a similar weight for the entire body, this animal was quite large.

The ham weighed at least 35 pounds. It has been salted, and is now making the long journey towards prosciutto. The journey is not without its hazards. Critters of all kinds, especially little microbial nasties, will try to have their way with the ham unless temperature and humidity are closely monitored. And by long journey, I am estimating it will take at least a year to finish.

The bacon, or more specifically belly, was enormous as well. A full slice would be about the size of a small baseball bat. It is being transformed into smoked bacon, pancetta, and lardo (usually dry cured fat, but it can be made with belly as well).

I also have two hog heads (the real thing, not your common water-barrel) on standby, waiting for the right moment to become marinated and braised pig's head.

Much of this business of curing and air-drying can be unpredictable, especially the ham. But I have faith.

UPDATE: The book I have been using to conduct my porcine experiments is:

Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing, by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn. A well written and very informative book. In the age of microwave burritos, cryovac, and "instant" foods, the authors maintain that while the methods they demonstrate are no longer necessary for food preservation, they should not be left in the past for one important reason: taste.

UPDATE II: The molasses cured bacon was lightly smoked on hickory chips, and it is amazing.

Thanks to the Maximum Leader at Naked Villainy for the link.


Brian B said...

Excellent book, my chef instructor swears by it. He encourages us to explore charcuterie, even let me make my own pancetta. Good times.

Polymath said...

The book has been a revelation for me. Everything I have tried from it comes out amazingly well. In fact, I just smoked the bacon yesterday and fried a few rashers for breakfast. Delicious!

I assume you are involved in some kind of culinary training to have a chef instructor. Care to elaborate?

Brian B said...

Yes, I'm about a third of the way through my second year of the culinary arts program of my local community college. I'll graduate with an AA degree and will be an ACF Certified Culinarian.

Brian B said...

Oh, we did have one failure with a recipe in that book, but it wasn't the recipe's fault. Our Roman cured beef went bad with a surface infection of some sort, the problem was humidity -- tough to control this time of year in the Northwest.

Polymath said...

Nearly all of my culinary training has been OJT, with zero exposure (save the occasional duck terrine) to charcuterie. It is good to hear that this gastronomic fine art is being taught as part of a formal education.

Brian B said...

The formal charcuterie training isn't a big part of the formal cirriculum, but our Chef Instructor encourages us to take extra time to experiment with concepts we are passionate about. I LOVE charcuterie, and to a lesser extent other old school preservation methods like pickling, etc.