Our Thanksgiving bird was, once again, wonderful. We go to a lot of trouble to buy a high-quality bird (a Bourbon Red in our case), from a farmer we know. And we pay a lot, compared to that insipid supermarket stuff they call turkey – $87 for a 12 lb bird, to be precise.
I get as as much as I can out of that bird. It’s not just the money, either – it’s a matter of respect for resources. And one of the ways we stretch the use is to start a big pot of turkey soup while we’re cleaning up from dinner. Literally, I’ll break up the roasted carcass into a soup pot, add water, put the pot on a small hob and lowest flame, and start a simmer that will last nearly 24 hours. Here’s the pictorial.
Note that you need lots of headspace – 1 inch, no kidding, if you want to assure all jars seal (one in this batch did not).
Costing notes: This turkey yielded about 30 individual meals, which is fairly unheard of for a bird this small. Total cost, then, is $2.90 per serving (that does not include dog food). The trick is to not waste any. We hope this post helps you do that.
And now a word from our sponsor: find the best, freshest coffee at:
OK, the pig itself was not 500 years old. But my pancetta project started 5 centuries ago, give or take.
Pancetta, for the uninitiated, is an Italian version of “bacon”. It starts with a pork belly, but unlike American bacon, it is salt-cured (along with garlic, pepper and other spices), not smoked. Pancetta is typically cubed and rendered to provide flavor for any number of dishes, and to my taste is more enjoyable than American bacon, mainly because it tastes more “porky”.
Before I became determined to make pancetta, I became infatuated with a hog. Not just any hog, an Ossabaw Island hog. These pigs are descendants of the legendary Iberica swine, and were deposited by the Spaniards on Ossabaw Island, off the coast of Georgia, in the 1500’s. As an isolated, feral herd, they are now the most genetically pure European swine on the planet. These are not your ordinary industrial hogs.
Fortunately for me (who lacks a farm), I have a friend as crazy as I am. Bruce is the fourth generation on his Hillsborough, NC farm, and he agreed to raise a some Ossabaws. We bought some gilts from Cane Creek Farm in Snowcamp, NC, later found a boar from another farmer, and soon enough we had piglets. Bruce’s young son took care of the piglets, and in October we harvested the pig that was subject of this post.
While our piglets were bulking up, a couple of food bloggers created the Charcutapalooza Challenge. The gist of it is that they proposed one charcuterie challenge per month, and dangled a big prize for the person who completed all the projects in an exemplary way. They managed to get Michael Ruhlman, author of the amazing book Charcuterie, to be a consultant to the project. As soon as I saw the project I knew I needed to be involved.
Sadly, however, I’ve only had time for one challenge – duck prosciutto – till now. I posted on that one several months ago. In some ways, knowing that I can’t compete for the prize was liberating. I am now free to focus on my art, the way I want to. And I thought that it would be pretty unusual for anyone to make Ossabaw pancetta, let alone from a pig they’ve grown. In addition, I decided I would do the hog processing myself. Here’s the photo tutorial.
Now that you see how to make the pancetta, let’s do something with it: pasta carbonara.
And now a word from our sponsor: find the best, freshest coffee at:
It’s been a little while since my last post. There’s lots of reasons for that, of course, but mainly it’s because we’ve come to the downhill part of the season for food: summer. This blog is about things that are perceived as difficult, or requiring skills that are no longer commonly possessed by the average eater. But in the summer, anyone with even a lick of sense can eat like a king. Summertime is easy time. Even most summer canning doesn’t rise to the level of advanced. Without even breaking a sweat, you can put up pickles. If you can read at a 4th grade level, you are able to can fruits. 6th grade reading will leave you with a pantry full of tomatoes and other vegetables. So there hasn’t been much to write about here, which is kind of a good thing.
But today I took on a little project that, judging by the response I get when I tell people, is beyond the scope of the usual home cook. A “lost art”, so to speak.
Today I canned fish. Yeah, that’s right, I made my own tuna fish. You could do it with any fish, but we like tuna. And like most other make-it-yourself projects, the taste of the results bears but a passing resemblance to what you can buy. There are other reasons to can your own, too, of course: 1) lower cost; 2) assurance that you are eating sustainably harvested fish; 3) you want to know where your fish came from, whether it be because you want to eat local, or you’re cautious about mercury levels; 4) you want specific herb/spice flavors added to your fish; and the list goes one. And finally, when you come right down to it, it’s easy, too.
Before we get into the photo tutorial, let’s talk about the elephant in the room: safety. People are afraid of home canned fish; most of them don’t know WHY they should be afraid, but there is a deep-rooted fear nonetheless. Turns out there is actually a reasonable basis for concern: fish can contain Clostridiens, a type of gram positive bacteria responsible for botulism. Clostridiens, IF they are present, are not killed by normal boiling water.
All is not lost, however! The answer is a pressure cooker. Many of you may remember your mothers using a pressure cooker for canning. For many, if not most home canning tasks, a pressure cooker is great, but it’s overkill. For meats and fish, however, a pressure cooker is, in fact, a necessity. The reason is that pressure cooking under high pressure creates superheated steam, i.e., steam that is above the boiling point of water. At 11 psi, the pressure of most pressure cookers, the steam is about 250F, which is above the 244F required to kill Clostridiens. Temperature at pressure varies with altitude, so the safest thing to do is use a cooker that can get to 15 psi, which assures that you will reach at least 250F at any altitude you might be cooking at.
If you want to make jams, pickles, or can tomatoes, there is more information on the internet than you can possibly sort, and most of it is actually good. When it comes to canning fish or meat, however, there are decidedly less references. I have found a couple worth reading, as well as one video from the University of Alaska, which I consider a must-watch before you get started. here are the references and the video:
And here is the mother of all fish canning videos:
OK, now that you’ve read the primers, and watched the video, let’s go through my photo tutorial.
I always end each post with a little plug for our artisan roasting company. If you want excellent coffee, please visit us at http://www.muddydogcoffee.com
WARNING: THIS POST IS NOT SUITABLE FOR THE SQUEAMISH
After 12 years of living in the southeastern United States, I consider myself a southerner. But every once in a while, my Pennsylvania Yankee roots show themselves, usually in connection with my food preferences. And one of my guilty food pleasures is a food that is loved by some and loathed by others: scrapple. Also known by the slightly more appetizing Dutch name of Pon Haus, or “ponhaws”, or the more descriptive name “pork mush”, scrapple is a unique Pennsylvania delicacy that does vary somewhat region to region. The common threads, however, are that it’s a food made from pork scraps, spices and cornmeal. Variations include the specific scraps of meat used (more specifically, whether the recipes include organs), the specific spice melange employed, and whether grains other than or in addition to corn are used.
I might not have ever been possessed to make scrapple myself, but for “the Ossabaw Project” I embarked on with a friend a couple years ago, and which is still ongoing. To make a long story short, we bought a couple Ossabaw gilts, which my friend raised on his Orange County, NC farm. Ossabaws are a heritage breed swine from Ossabaw Island, GA, and they are reknowned for their spectacular flavor and texture. We bred our gilts with a Duroc boar, another breed with wonderful eating characteristics. The resulting piglets have been some of the best pork I have ever tasted. In keeping with my desire to minimize waste and respect the animal, scrapple is a perfect food to make from scratch. It also happens to be exactly the kind of food that should be the focus of this blog: something that utilize “unusual” ingredients that people generally don’t know how to handle any longer. Including me, as it turned out.
Because even though I’ve eaten my share of scrapple, I really had very little idea how to make it. So I started where I usually start when I’m stumped: with a Google search. It turns out there are as many scrapple recipes as their are scrapple recipe authors. What I usually do in that situation is read as many as I can stand, and start to mentally construct my own recipes and techniques from the best of what I read.
The common threads I kept coming back to were some of the spices. Many of the recipes leveraged one or more of three spices: salt,
coriander seed and sage. I knew my recipe would include those in some way. I became very enamored of one recipe in particular, from the Food Network, of all places (I’m a big enough man to admit when I admire a Food Network recipe), and even more surprisingly, from Bobby Flay (I say surprisingly only because scrapple seems so unlike Bobby Flay’s usual cuisine choices). The thing I liked about the Food Network recipe was that it specified the use of roasted cornmeal, which is exactly what we make at our coffee roastery. Score! I also knew that any recipe I made would have to include pork liver (because what else would I do with it), and pork head, because while many other variations are possible, using the head for this purpose is very traditional.
Here’s the recipe I ultimately concocted:
1 lbs pork jowls, trimmed of fat
1 lbs pork liver
1.5 qts water
2 bay leaves
10 whole peppercorns
1-1/2 TBSP smoked sea salt
1-1/2 TBSP sea salt
1/2 TBSP dried sage
1/2 TBSP coriander seed, toasted and crushed
1/2 TBSP ground black pepper
3-1/3 cups roasted cornmeal
Here’s the photo tutorial on how to do it:
In any case, if you make your own (and I highly recommend you do – like everything else of this type, making your own is infinitely superior to what you can buy), be sure to share the recipe here. And make sure you’re drinking some fine Muddy Dog coffee when you eat it.
My work on this planet may be just about done.
After a dinner of the Best Porkchops Ever (from heirloom pigs we selected, crossed with a farmer’s hybrid boar from friend farmer Tim, grown with love by our friend Bruce at his farm), I asked daughter Courtney what she would like for school lunch tomorrow.
Answer: pork chop biscuit.
Be still my heart.
So I set about making biscuits. Only to have Southern grandma-channeling daughter Emily hop up to coach me on my biscuit prep skills. Because this girl can make her some biscuits.
And together, we made the World’s Best Porkchop Biscuit. I have eaten me some porkchop biscuits in my time, including the famous ones at the NC State Fair. And I am not exaggerating, this is the best ever.
And it dawned on me, how many of you have never had a porkchop biscuit that didn’t come from Hardee’s? Or Biscuitville. Whatever. This is another one of those foods that is crazy-easy to make, and everyone loves. So here’s how to do it:
Biscuits (Alton Brown’s recipe, it’s the best):
- 2 cups flour
- 4 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons shortening
- 1 cup buttermilk, chilled
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Using your fingertips, rub butter and shortening into dry ingredients until mixture looks like crumbs. (The faster the better, you don’t want the fats to melt.) Make a well in the center and pour in the chilled buttermilk. Stir just until the dough comes together. The dough will be very sticky.
Turn dough onto floured surface, dust top with flour and gently fold dough over on itself 5 or 6 times. Press into a 1-inch thick round. Cut out biscuits with a 2-inch cutter (or a little bigger), being sure to push straight down through the dough. Place biscuits on baking sheet so that they just touch. Reform scrap dough, working it as little as possible and continue cutting. (Biscuits from the second pass will not be quite as light as those from the first, but hey, that’s life.)
Bake until biscuits are tall and light gold on top, 15 to 20 minutes.
For the porkchop:
Obtain the highest quality porkchop you can find. A thick one, at least 3/4″. None of that boneless crap, either.
Brush it with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper (I like smoked salt for this).
Grill it till about 155F. Just a little pink inside. Yes, it’s safe.
Remove bone and excess fat. Slice it about 3/8″ thick (probably in half). Cut such that it fits on the biscuit.
Place porkchop slices on biscuit and prepare for the magic to happen. A little pat of butter on the biscuit first won’t kill you. Quickly.
Try it paired with a nice of of Nicaragua El Limoncillo Pacamara Peaberry from Muddy Dog Roasting Company.
Do you like ham? Really, really, good ham? I’m guessing you do.
When’s the last time you made one? It’s been a while, hasn’t it? Why is that? Because they’re freakin’ huge, I’m guessing. It takes all bloody day to cook one, and a small army to eat one. Not to mention that, mainly because of their large size, they’re expensive. And even if the thought of cooking the damn thing doesn’t intimidate you, the thought of wasting some expensive meat just might. Am I right? If you’re like most home cooks, I’ve hit at least one of your hot buttons with that list.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Because some time in the past, there was a great invention. It’s called a knife.
Yes, believe it or not, you can cut that bad boy down. Cook part of it (and I’ll teach you a quicker way to cook it than the all day bake your momma and grandma taught you. Not blindingly fast, mind you, but you can be eating ham in two hours). Freeze the rest to cook another day. Yes, I know that momma never cut her ham down before cooking. Grandma would find it unthinkable. And because momma and grandma didn’t do it, it probably hasn’t occurred to you. That’s where I come in. I started this blog to teach people how to tackle real food that is viewed as difficult. Unruly. And a big-ass ham fits that description.
The ham I’m about to tackle came from one of our Ossabaw hogs, grown by my good friend Bruce and his young son in Orange County, North Carolina. This ham is a city-cured ham, meaning it’s processed with smoked and sugar, and not salted and cured as a country ham would be. City cured hams require cooking. This one was processed at Acre Station in Pinetown, North Carolina, and ultimately weighed in at just over 13 pounds. We were feeding six people tonight, and I wanted leftovers for sandwiches, so I decided I was going to cook half this ham, and break the other half in two to freeze for later. here’s the pictoral.
There, wasn’t that relatively quick and easy? Don’t let large cuts intimidate you, they are just as good broken down and cooked in smaller portions.
So I’m hopelessly behind on the Charcutepalooza challenge. I accept that. I will not finish all 12 challenges this year. My goal, then, is to make the challenges I do complete worthwhile.
The duck prosciutto challenge is now in the rear-view mirror, and I can say without a doubt it was a smashing success. The curing took a bit longer than expected – 2 weeks instead of one to achieve the 30% weight loss desired – but the result was so worthwhile. The prosciutto is slightly salty, but not so much that its “duckness” is lost. It has a smooth, almost creamy texture. We ate a little tonight with some beautiful cheese from the Hillsborough Cheese Co., and some nice wines. Fabulous.
With this one behind me, I’m looking forward to starting on one of the newer challenges.