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How to make turkey soup from scratch – and can it!

November 26, 2011 3 comments

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.

Here's our bird out of a two-day buttermilk marinade. 12 lbs or thereabouts.

Three hours later, heat has worked its alchemy. Once dinner is over, I remove all the meat from the carcass and save for sandwiches, pot pie, etc. But I retain the carcass, too. While we're cleaning up, our tradition is to start making soup. Simply break up the carcass and put it in a soup pot full of water. Put it on a small hob, with a low flame, and start a simmer that will last about 18 hours.

Here's the stock after an 18 hour simmer. I did not add any meat - that's all what comes off the carcass (and there's more, as you'll see in the next photo.

Here are the bones pulled out of the stock pot. There is nothing left of them. In case you're wondering, these bones weigh 641 grams, or about 1.5 lbs of the 12 lb turkey weight. The pink plate is full of bits of skin and such that will go to the dogs (250 grams). So of a 12 lb bird, we're looking at 1.5 lb bones, 0.5 lb dog scraps, so that leaves about 10 lbs of usable turkey.

Here are the vegetables we'll add. The stalks are retained from bok choy we steamed last week. It's every bit as good as celery, and we have it around, why not use it? We also added lots of root veg which are on season now - rutabaga, carrot, turnip and Jerusalem artichoke (not pictured).

Here's the veg chopped. Add it to the soup, simmer for another 30 minutes or so. Ladle soup into sterilized jars (half solids, half broth), leaving 1" head space. Close jars tightly.

Put the jars in a pressure canner, add a few inches of water, and take it to 15 PSI.

Process at 15 PSI for 1 hour.

Yields about 20 servings of soup.

One awesome quart jar of soup for the pantry.

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.

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How to make pancetta… starting with a five-hundred-year-old pig

November 21, 2011 2 comments

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”.

Ossabaws at Cane Creek Farm, the place we bought our breeding stock.

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.

It all starts with a hog. Bruce wisely talked me into letting him take the hog to be killed, scalded, and halved. The harvesting itself isn't such a big job, but the scalding is. So this half hog is how I took delivery of the pig. Note the beautiful fat on this pig, including the leaf lard in the viscera.

Here's the mid-section of the hog after I liberated the ham and shoulder. Since this isn'a post about how to butcher a hog, I'll focus just on the task of separating the belly that we'll turn into pancetta. Note that you don't need a lot of heavy cutting equipment to butcher an animal - a sharpening steel, a good boning knife, and a bone saw will do the job.

We start by separating the loin from the belly. We'll separate out the tenderloin, then turn the loin itself into three roasts.

We isolate the belly by removing the ribs. I also trimmed off a lot of the excess fat (which I retained for more lard). This belly is now ready for curing.

Bruce was enthusiatic to have me turn his half of the hog into pancetta, too, hence there are two bellies here. Bruce's is a little oddly shaped because he was a little more aggressive about separating the ham from the loin. The glasses contain the curing spice mixture specified by Ruhlman: Instacure #1, pepper, garlic, bay leaves, nutmeg, thyme and crushed juniper berries. Ruhlman also calls for brown sugar, which I forgot. But I was very happy with the outcome, and would probably omit sugar on the future, too.

Here are the bellies with the curing rub on them. From here they went into a giant Ziploc, and into my reach-in to cure for a while. Ruhlman said a week, but I let them go for three weeks, just because I didn't have time to take them out sooner. I did take them out once or twice for overhauling (rubbing the spices into the meat).

After three weeks in the reach-in, the meat was ready to roll and cure. First step was to rinse off the spice mixture, and trim them to an appropriate size for rolling.

Pretty simple now... cut, and roll tightly. You could add extra seasoning now, but I didn't.

Now tie the roll TIGHT. If you don't know how to tie a roast, see this video: http://video.about.com/homecooking/Tie-a-Roast.htm

Once they're all tied, hang them in a cool place out of direct sunlight. Ideal conditions are 50-60F and 50-60% RH. Because pancetta is cooked, hanging to cure can be an inexact science.

Because the weather in NC is highly variable (and warm for several days at a time), I built a simple curing chamber out of a dorm fridge. Basically I hijacked the controls and added humidification capability. It needs dehumidification, too. Next project.

After two weeks of curing, they were ready to slice and store. The vinegar was used to wipe off small bits of chalky white mold. I checked them every few days while curing and wiped off small mold spots when they popped up (which they did, because of the high humidity while I was curing). White mold is no problem. Green and black mold is the stuff you worry about, and I didn;t see any of that.

Here it is, all sliced up, ready to package. Beautiful, isn't it?

Couldn't resist a close-up.

Vacuum seal and store for 6 months, easy.

Now that you see how to make the pancetta, let’s do something with it: pasta carbonara.

Cube a wheel or two of that pancetta.

Render it.

Cook some pasta. Yes, I was lazy and used boxed pasta. Sue me. Be sure to reserve a little of the water from boiling the pasta (maybe 1/2 - 1 cup), you'll need it later.

Get some other stuff ready: a big hunk of butter (1/8-1/4 lb), a big mound of hard cheese (2 cups pecorino romano), a couple eggs, and wine (optional, for drinking, not cooking).

Heat a big pan in the oven while the pasta is cooking. When pasta is al dente, throw the butter in the hot pan to melt.

Add the pasta, cheese, and eggs to the hot pan with butter. Yes, one of my eggs was a double-yolker. Bonus.

Mix well, adding a little retained pasta water till consistency is correct. Normally I would have added pancetta in same step, but I have one vegetarian in the house, so I mix it up veg and plate hers first.

Add the pancetta, mix well.

Plate and enjoy!

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How to can your own tuna

July 25, 2011 3 comments

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.

Results of one of our annual coastal fishing trips. The yellowfin are the fish closest to you. The fish I'm canning in the photos that will follow are line-caught yellowfin.

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:

PDF from the government of Manitoba on canning fish
University of Georgia National Center for Home Food Preservation on canning fish, complete with tables of pressure required at various altitudes

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.

Cast of characters: about 3lbsof tuna, a bunch of sterile jars and lids, some herbs (I used oregano because it's in the garden), salt, lemon rind, and olive oil (not pictured)

Cut the tuna to fit in the jar. Fill the jar fairly full, but leave some room for oil. Salt each piece a ittle before placing in the jar, add the herbs and a hunk of lemon rind, and leave about an inch at the top.

Here's what the jar looks like when it's ready for oil.

Fill the jar with oil. You could use water, if you prefer, too. Use a chostick or knife to work the air out of the jar by working it around the perimeter, then top off the jar. Leave about 1/2 inch headspace.

Here's what the jar looks like full.

Clean the rim of the jar with a paper towel wetted with a little vinegar. This is necessary to assure the lids can seal. Once all the rims are clean, cap the jars tightly with sterile lids.

Put the jars in your pressure cooker and add 2 or 3 inches of water.

I have an electric pressure cooker, so it's easy: I set it on high (15 psi on mine) and tell it to cook for 99 minutes. Your cooker may vary, but make sure you cook at at least 11 psi for 100 minutes. You do not count the time required for your cooker to come up to pressure; start timing when the desired pressure is achieved.

Once the cooker has cooled sufficiently, remove the jars. Allow them to cool completely. Check the seals by removing the rings and trying to GENTLY pry up the sealed lid. If you CAN pry the lid off, cap the jar, put it in the fridge, and eat it within a few days. If the lids are sealed, you are good to store in the pantry for 1 year!

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

Categories: Meat, Preserving, Techniques Tags: , ,

How to make scrapple from scratch

April 20, 2011 9 comments

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,

Pork head. I warned you, not for the squeamish.

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:

My spice melange. Toast the coriander seeds in a skillet until highly aromatic, then smash them in a mortar.

Here is the trimmed jowls and liver, about 1 lb each. You can use whatever you want in yours - a shoulder roast will do nicely, or you can add other organs, too.

Adding the water to my pressure cooker. I absolutely LOVE my Russel Hobbs electric pressure cooker, i.e., could not live without it. If you do not have a pressure cooker, you can braise for a couple hours, instead.

Add the bay leaves and whole peppercorns to the pot. Pressure cook for about 15 minutes, or if you are doing an oven or stovetop braise, cook for a couple hours.

After the meat is cooked, allow it to cool. Strain and reserve the cooking liquid. Then grind the cooked meats.

Add all the ingredients to a large skillet, including the reserved broth, and simmer gently until the mush is stiff enough for a spoon to stand in it, maybe 10-15 minutes.

Spoon the mush into a mold. Traditionally, bread pans are used, but I wanted smaller units. So I used pencil baskets, and lined then with parchment paper. It worked great and was a perfect size. Once in the mold, refrigerate long enough to set up. Once set up, you can freeze for at least several months.

Here is my molded loaf. Perfect size.

Cut a slice about 3/8" thick, and pan fry on each side till golden brown, about 5 minutes.

Here is what it looks like when finished.

I wish that this challenge would be raised by the charcutepalooza women, so I might actually be ahead of a challenge for a change!  Mrs. Wheelbarrow, are you listening?

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.

The world’s best pork chop biscuit, from scratch

The World's Best Porkchop Biscuit. Seriously. Lousy photo. Awesome biscuit.

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

Directions

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.

How to manage a big ham in three easy steps

March 21, 2011 2 comments

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.

We start with a large ham. It was previously frozen. Yes, it can be re-frozen. "What about germs?", you ask. Don't do anything stupid and you'll be fine. Thaw it in the fridge, and as soon as it's thawed, deal with it (this guy was actually still slightly frozen in the center when I cut it up). When you deal with it, do so quickly, this shouldn't take more than about 10 minutes, seriously. Then rewrap what's gonna be refrozen, and freeze it. And clean your hands, your boards, your knives in advance. You'll be fine. And if you die, I'll admit I was wrong.

Step 1 - debone the ham. This is simple, really. Locate the bone at the top of the ham, and at the bottom. Find the smallest distance from edge to bone and make that your incision point. Cut along the bone, then make small cuts along the bone itself, working your way around the bone till it's free. Depending on your ham, you may have just a shank, or (as in this case) you may have part of the pelvic bone, too. Just find the bones with your kinfe and cut them free, keeping the cuts small and as close to the bone as possible. Save the bone for flavoring stocks and such (it can be refrozen, too).

Step 2 - cut the ham down into the pieces you want to cook or save. I've cut this ham in half lengthwise. I want to cook half now, and split the other half for later use. You can see I was starting to cook - my green stems are on the cutting board. I keep the stems from most greens and use them as you might use celery. They are cheaper, more flavorful, and last for months in the fridge once the leaves are stripped.

Step 2, continued - here's the other half, split in two. Each of these pieces was a hair over three pounds, perfect for a single, small family meal. I vacuumed sealed these right away and put them back into the deep freeze.

Step 3 - now cook the ham. momma and grandma did an all day slow bake, I know. Forget that. We're going to braise this bad boy, French-style. Saute some aromatic veg (onion, green stalks, etc., whatever you have) in some oil and butter till just soft (5 minutes). Add some herbs and spices - a bay leaf, half a dozen whole peppercorns, a couple whole cloves, and a few thyme braches are what I used tonight. Place the ham on top the veg. Add about 3 cups of white wine, and 3 cups of water, stock, or apple juice. Bring to a simmer. Cover and slide into a pre-heated 325F oven.

Step 3, continued. Set oven temp so that covered pan just simmers (probably 300-325F). Baste the ham (spoon some juice over it) every 20 minutes. Cook until internal temp is 160F, about 2 hours, maybe quicker depending on size (this guy was 6 lbs and took about 1 hr 50 min to get to temp. And yes, I need a bigger, better Dutch oven. If you are a cookware manufacturer, send me one and I'll make sure it shows up on lots of pictures on the internet.

Here's the finished ham. Delicious. Literally, it was 1 hour and 55 minutes from the time I took the wrapped ham from the fridge until I was eating ham off that plate. And the other two 3-pounders had already started to refreeze by that time. There is no excuse not to eat ham more often.

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.

Duck Prosciutto – Check!

March 21, 2011 2 comments

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.

The final weigh-in. It took 2 weeks to lose 30% of its original weight, but we hit the 315 gram target precisely. Note how loose the kitchen twine is now - it was tight at the beginning.

For the more geeky among you, you may be interested in the day-by-day weigh-in data. I'm guessing ambient conditions have something to do with the second derivative of that curve.

Behold the mummy! The breast now has a firm texture, with no off aromas (it has a slight "meaty" aroma) and no mold whatsoever.

Here it is in all its cured, meaty splendor. Wafer thin, simply delicious. I might try cooking some, too, pancetta-style.

With this one behind me, I’m looking forward to starting on one of the newer challenges.