Tag Archives: charcuterie

november challenge. curing.

The eleventh challenge. We’re almost through the Year of Meat and a trip to France is so close for one of you.

We’ve come a long way. We’ve salted, brined, smoked, ground, stuffed, packed and stretched our way through parts of pork, slabs of beef, flocks of chickens, dozens of ducks and hundreds of feet of casings. We’re ready to cure.

Charcuterie served at Camont.

The weather is cooling and it’s time to hang meats and sausages in the garage, the wine refrigerator, the attic, the back of the pantry – wherever you have the right conditions for curing.

Apprentice Challenge: Please cure a sausage, ex: soppresata, saucisson sec, Spanish chorizo, salami or coppa
Charcutiere Challenge: Please cure a whole cut, ex: lonzino, bresaola, jambon de Camont, lardo

Some of these cures may take longer than the month usually given to complete a challenge, so the deadline for posting is December 1st. That’s six and a half weeks. If you’re going to do a whole cut cure, you’d better get cracking, you’ll want every minute of that time.

Tag your post charcutepalooza and we’ll be sure to see it. Share your blog post with Punk Domestics. Cross post and upload photos on Charcutepalooza’s Facebook page and Flickr page. And don’t forget to share all those great original recipes on Food52.

Please take note – the final challenge will be announced November 1st. And the posting deadline will be December 15th. Also on November 1st, expect to hear about all the end of the year hullaballoo. TrufflePig, Kate Hill and the rest of our Grand Prize sponsors are finalizing all the plans.

Christiane Chapolard passes a plate of the family's charcuterie.

Making the Cut

My recent trip to Gascony provided a great education in the making of a perfect dried sausage. Sausage that is cured should be deeply flavored and redolent of the pig, its diet and the farm where it lived. Some sausages are heavily spiced and reflect the country of origin. But under all those spices, you want to taste excellent meat.

There is a critical difference between the meat we have available in the US and what is sold at the markets in France. The French serve up older meat. Older cattle. Older pigs (12 to 14 months, versus the 6-8 months here.) As animals age, the cellular structure changes; they grow and mature into muscled protein and flavor carrying fat. I tasted the proof. The older meat was porkier. The bevette was beefier. These meats had so much more flavor, texture and character.

Les Blondes d'Aquitaine beef - bevette, skirt steak, more. Butchery by Kari Underly.

This is one of the lasting lessons of Kate’s Camont kitchen. I hope to find a farmer who will raise a pig for me, and do so for a year. I’m going to talk to all my connections at the farmer’s market and see if I can spread the word. Which one of you will learn from Kate next March? I already envy you! The Grand Prize. It’s just a few weeks away.

Temperature and Humidity

At the Chapolard charcuterie shop, there is a serious looking machine serving as a curing chamber. In the first week, saucisse and sauccison seche are cured here, carefully monitored for temperature and humidity. After that first week, the sausages are placed in another cool, moist room to fully cure – an additional four to five weeks for the large saucisse – think slightly moist in the center salami – and five for the thinner saucisson seche – a kneaded sausage that is quite dry (seche) – another of their magical specialties.

What a proper curing chamber looks like. Also note how red the meat is. Older pig.

Most of us don’t have these great machines at home, so we must balance curiousity with caution. The recipes in Charcuterie all use curing salts, and that’s what will ensure food safety. We’re back to that pink salt debate, but it’s ramped up now – on to Cure #2. I encourage you to do your own research and decide for yourself about curing sausages and hanging whole cuts with or without these curing salts.

You may remember, back when we were curing pancetta, we learned the perfect conditions are in the 50-60°F range with 70% humidity. I wandered all through my house until I happened upon the right mix, and found the sweet spot in a decidedly unpicturesque corner of the garage. (No, we don’t park the car in there.)

Airflow is critical, so add a small fan if the space is not well ventilated. Up the humidity with a bowl of water. Check every day. Or, if you’re like me, several times a day.

Your best measure of the curing will be weight. Weigh the sausages or meat before hanging and then again after the recommended amount of time. You should expect about a 30% loss of weight when the cure is complete.

Super Sausages

When I was in college, one of my housemates came from a huge Italian family. His grandfather made (rather dreadful) wine, amazing tomato sauce in jars, and soppressata – what the family called Super Sausage. Every autumn, in that Pittsburgh row house dozens of sausages hung from the attic’s rafters, each filled with hand chopped pork and a secret blend of spices. I had never met anyone who did such a thing, but the memory has stayed with me. Now, I’m making super sausages of my own.

Before you rush into the recipes, read the introduction to Chapter Five – The Artist and the Sausage. Seriously. There is a lot of help there and important information about safety. This is hard core charcuterie -making salume – and you don’t want anything to go awry.

Grind the sausage using the large die. Gather the meat and spices together with your hands (or use the mixer.) I prefer to use my hands, as I’ve become familiar with the feeling when the meats are combined well, but still have some texture. Fill the casings well and completely, knotting twine between the sausages to finish.

Puncture the sausages all over using a sausage prick – DIY one with a wine cork and some sewing needles. Air pockets are not your friend, and these miniscule holes will help the air release from the sausages and keep the casing from wrinkling like a sharpei.

Then hang those beauties up to dry. It’s normal for an ashy mold to form on the outside of the sausage, but if the mold turns black, or is long and hairy, that’s a bad sign. Your temperature or humidity may not be conducive to curing in that spot. This is another reason to check on your babies every day.

Curing Whole Cuts

Whole pieces of meat hanging in the garage. It smells amazing in there. The dog walks through with his nose at 90° – looking for that smell, that lovely smell.

But be careful. Remove all the fat or you risk the fat going rancid before the meat cures. Be cautious with your curing temperatures. Airflow and ventilation are critical.  Trim up the whole cuts to make the pieces uniform, to ensure even curing. Wipe down the curing meat with wine or vinegar to keep mold at bay. Sloppy trimming means narrow ends may get overcured while the center of chubby pieces might not be fully cured. Obsessively weigh these curing meats to determine doneness. Don’t get complacent.

You may want to try a few different cuts of the pig and cow – there are so many options. I’m still mulling over a gorgeous little tenderloin of pork I tasted in France. It had been salted, lightly smoked and air cured for a little over two weeks. It was divine.

At Camont, and at the Chapolard farm, I became obsessed with Noix de Jambon, literally the nut of the ham. Les Grrls renamed them Jambons de Camont, in honor of Kate Hill’s hospitality and education. These little nuggets of smoked, cured ham are so darned delicious that I had to make them immediately upon returning home.

Cured in about three weeks, it’s a far quicker way to smoky ham flavor than the months to make old fashioned country ham or prosciutto. For this challenge, I ordered a half ham from Pam the Butcher at Wagshal’s. I intended to cut as many ham-ettes as possible, then grind the remaining scrap with freezer-finds – shoulder and belly scrap – to make Charcuterie’s saucisson sec and Dominique’s saucisse.

Beware the half ham. I should have asked more questions. I literally got the top half of the ham. My jambons were shorter and smaller, but still very tasty. In retrospect, I suppose I could have taken the whole ham and given the gift of meat for the holidays…

From half a ham, I cut four jambons, but only three were suitable for hanging. The fourth had been, in a word, butchered. The cure is short – only 48 hours – and the meat is well peppered before smoking and then air drying. It’s salty, spicy, smoky, silky, tender and chewy all at once. Heaven.

Here’s a little more genius from Gascony: When you find your cured meats have lost all moisture and are hard little nuggets in the back of the refrigerator drawer, use a microplane or a grater and shower saucisse goodness over salads, macaroni and cheese, soups, eggs or anything else you can think of.

Even after watching Dominique (twice!) and Camas skin, bone out and cut up a ham, I studied this video “How to cut fresh ham for noix de jambons” from Neal Foley (on Twitter, @PodChef) about ten million times before taking the first cut….

And don’t miss –
Hank Shaw’s Lonzino
Matt Wright’s Port and Fennel Pollen Salami

Charcutepalooza loves our sponsors. D’Artagnan , generously offering 25% off the meat-of-the-month. If you aren’t receiving your email with the secret code for Charcutepalooza members, register here. And the trip to France – an awesome grand prize deliciously designed by Trufflepig and Kate Hill at Camont. Love to Kinetic Web Solutions and @CreativCulinary who helps us navigate technology. And, Armagnac CASTAREDE, providing celebratory Armagnac to our Grand Prize winner’s party in Paris.

charcutepalooza april challenge. hot smoking.

It’s time for another Charcutepalooza challenge, and this time, we want you to get in touch with your inner McGyver. We’re taking all we’ve learned from salt rubs, salt cures, and brines, and we’re adding fire. It’s Hot Smoking time.

And once again, Kim and I are saying, “Poor Dennis,” at least once a day. My wonderful husband, a mostly-vegetarian fan of simple foods prepared simply, is extremely patient. And loving. And not a fan of smoked foods. (Or cured, for that matter.)

Dennis tells people the secret to our happy marriage is that he “lets Cathy be Cathy.” And he means it. But for four days last week, it was tough going. Twenty seven pounds of meat sat brining, salting, curing and otherwise bleeding in the refrigerator. There was no looking past the slabs of pork belly, the visceral jowl, looking way too much like what it is. A pig cheek. And then the large containers of brining pork loin, a big meaty shoulder, sliced and salted, drying on a rack over a sheet pan. That’s a lot of meat. Confronting.

Saturday, after six hours in Paul & Elaine’s backyard, smoking various fabulous tasty treats, I walked in the front door and Dennis said, “Have you been smoking?”

Seriously? I had to remove my clothing in the laundry room.

So, you’ll see why Kim and I were feeling a little sorry for Dennis.

Last night, right before turning in, I stirred together the batter for English muffins. (Thank you for yet another spectacular recipe, Michael Ruhlman.) I had in mind Eggs Benedict. After all, I had my very own homemade Canadian bacon, leftover egg yolks from my class (pavlovas! buttercream!) for hollandaise. And extra beautiful farm fresh eggs crying out to be benedict-ed.

This morning, I’m griddling the English muffins – Dennis was intrigued. Impressed, even. I told him about the eggs benedict plan, and this is what he said…

“You made Canadian bacon? I used to love Canadian bacon.”

The angels sang out.

I would feed my husband charcuterie. He might even like it.

So, tonight’s dinner will be eggs benedict, from scratch. (No hollandaise for Dennis, thankyouanyway. Oh well.) And for the time being, until next month’s challenge, we will forget about the pity party.

For the Apprentice Challenge, please hot smoke salmon.

For the Charcutiere Challenge, please hot smoke either pork loin (Canadian bacon or spicy smoked pork) or pork shoulder (tasso ham.)

Big props to our generous sponsor, D’Artagnan – they’ll have pork shoulder and pork loin discounted, just for Charcutepalooza. Remember to show them some love with links and mentions. If you aren’t receiving emails with the discount code, send me an email to get in on this great deal.

Remember this is the last week for the Cochon and Charcuterie events – I am so excited to be attending in Little Washington, Virginia on Sunday, March 20. There are still a couple of spaces left.

Yes You Can Smoke

I tested a variety of methods but I know many of you are already smoking lots of things, so please chime in and share your knowledge. Your pastramis made me sigh and get a little teary-eyed.

We’ll be giving away this fabulous Charcutepalooza apron, handmade by Charcutepalooza-er Pam, who blogs at Snappy Service Cafe , and can be found on Twitter at @LeakySpoon. Kim and I will randomly select a comment on this post and we’ll announce the winner in Kim’s post 3/31. And get this? Pam’s offered to personalize the winner’s apron with your name, blog name, Twitter handle, or favorite pig part. Won’t you let us know what you think about hot smoking? Share your tips, your tricks. This apron could be yours.

Post on the 15th. Tag your post charcutepalooza and we’ll be sure to see it. Share your blog post with Punk Domestics. Cross post and upload photos on Charcutepalooza’s Facebook page and Flickr page. And don’t forget to share all those great original recipes on Food52.

Indoor Smoking
For indoor smoking, use fine wood chips, not big chunks, and use them dry, not wet. These fine chips – sawdust? – are available at hardware stores, kitchen stores, and through Amazon. I liked the four pack as I had the chance to play with fruit woods and hickory, and the classic for salmon, alder wood. For more tips and hints, Elaine found this cool book full of great ideas and information for indoor grilling and smoking.

McGyver Your Wok
Line your wok with aluminum foil, then cover dry wood chips with a dome shaped piece of foil (to keep the meat from dripping directly on the wood), just insert a small grill rack and add your meat/fish and either use the wok cover or create a tent with more foil, crimping it all airtight. Heat the wok on the stovetop until you see a little smoke, reduce the temperature to medium low, and cook for the recommended amount of time. (Here is the guide I used, from the New York Times.)
Review: My wok is cast iron, and therefore took far too much time to get hot enough to make the wood chips smoke. I think a lighter weight wok would work well. It took a long time to get to temperature and there never was big smoke, just weak smoke, so the taste was dull. Make sure you open the window and get the wok right over to the fresh air before opening it up, then you won’t have smoke detectors going off, a kitchen filled with smoke, and so on.

Cameron’s Stovetop Smoker
A metal box with sliding cover, a rack and drip pan. Everything fits together, so it’s easy to store, and the sturdy handles fold back in the most clever way. The small size would be perfect for a two person household and will allow you to smoke up to 2# of salmon or pork loin or shoulder. The larger size, which I purchased, is about the size of a lasagne pan. A 3.5# piece of pork belly fits perfectly. Available from Amazon for $30-$45.
Review: I love this smoker. The smoky flavor is perfectly imparted. It’s easy to clean, easy to use. Very little smoke escapes until you open the lid (see above.) And when we did open it up inside, oops, the over-the-stove exhaust hood took care of the concentration of smoke quickly. The downside is the inability to regulate the temperature. I guesstimated a handful of chips for the bottom of the smoker, put it over a medium flame until a wisp of smoke snuck out, then reduced the heat and was able to smoke salmon (20 min.) and pork (45 min.) to perfection. It seemed like magic that everything worked as it’s completely impossible to control. I will be using this stovetop smoker often (like, every Sunday morning! bagels and hot smoked salmon? be still my heart.)

Smoking Outside

The Big Green Egg
Paul and Elaine have one of these really cool contraptions. They’ve used it for grilling, and only once for smoking, so we were using information from the internet to help us along. We had some issues controlling the temperature and we nervously babysat for most of the 2 hour period, open the top, close the top; open the bottom vent, close the bottom vent. I do expect the next attempts will get easier.
Review: While Charcuterie recommends 200° for smoking, we liked the moist smoked results at 250°. The meats came out of the Egg with a gorgeous crust. I’m not sure the stovetop smoker will ever achieve that intense smoky salty crispy amazingness.

Mercy, that’s some pig.

I look forward to more experimentation and more Saturday afternoons in Paul & Elaine’s backyard. (Extra specially nice? I designed their garden a few years ago and now I get to hang out there.)

Weber Gas Grill (McGyver returns)
I used the Weber two ways. I used it to keep a very low heat under the Cameron’s Smoker (see above.) This was a great absolutely carefree way to smoke foods for long periods. It’s easy to manage the low temperatures, although not low enough to cold-smoke.
The other smoking method came from reading several websites devoted to fiddling a smoker out of a grill. I made an aluminum foil packet (6″ x 8″) of half wet wood chips and half dry. I poked some holes in the packet and placed it on the right side of my grill. I lit only the left side of the grill. Once the temperature was at 200°, I placed the meat to be smoked on the right side (indirect heat) of the grill. The piece of pork shoulder (tasso) came out beautifully. Perfect crust, nice smoke flavor, but missing that extra, really nice, charcoal taste of the meat smoked on the Egg.

Wish I had…
A Bradley smoker.
Maybe in my next life.

Most impressive McGyver effort
Check out this cardboard box smoker. I believe this deserves a merit badge…

Hot Smoked Salmon

Last April, Food52’s weekly contest theme was Salmon. I entered a recipe I’ve made for 25 years, or more… Salmon with Sorrel Sauce. It’s a good recipe, and always a hit at a dinner party. I was thrilled to be selected a finalist, but thought I’d never win when I saw the competition – what an AMAZING recipe. Meet Christine. She’s a culinary school grad, a journalist, and a great friend. She’s on the Meat-wagon, curing goat belly and hanging duck breasts with all of us.

Her recipes (find them on her blog and on Food52) are spot on smart, tasty, and they work. Every. Single. Time. She was my competition, and her recipe for Hot Smoked Salmon Soba and Asian Greens Salad was brilliant.

So, since last April, I’ve made Christine’s salmon recipe many times and Dennis likes it more than any other I make. But I’ve never managed to trick out a smoker until this challenge came along. I usually grilled the salmon and hoped that did the recipe justice. (Sorry, Christine.)

I have to tell you. Smoking makes a HUGE difference. The way the smoke works with the five spice powder is amazing. Make this recipe. Right away. It’s fantastic.

The salmon is also great served cold, as an appetizer. And here’s the most surprising thing. I froze some, just to see if it would freeze well once smoked. That fish came out of the freezer perfectly, with no reduction in texture or flavor. We snacked on it, with crackers, in the late afternoon Spring sunshine, while the pork smoked.

Another evening, in just one hour’s time, I brined a pound of salmon in salty water flavored with molasses and sorrel, then smoked it over alder wood. I served that salmon on stone-ground grits topped with creamed spinach scented with nutmeg.

Have fun with your brine, with your wood chips, and with your salmon.

Smoke and Pork Are BFFs

There was a time when I grilled pork tenderloin all the time. For parties, for quick dinners, for the leftovers, for the cold sliced pork sandwiches. It was inexpensive and easy and fast. And, let’s face it, pretty boring until you added a great sauce.

When you brine, or salt cure, a pork loin, a larger cut from the same general part of the pig, then add smoke, you’ve created a little bit of paradise. That dullish cut becomes sublime. From one four pound loin, I made both the Canadian bacon and the spiced smoked pork loin following the recipes in Charcuterie. Because I had pieces that weighed just 2 lbs. each, I cut the brine amounts, or the salt rub amounts, in half (by weight) but kept the curing times the same. Both pieces of pork were smoked at 250° for a little more than two hours in the Big Green Egg. And they are really really good. So much better than any pork loin I’ve ever made.

Store bought tasso ham has never been a favorite of mine, but I thought I would try it home-cured. You could knock me over with a feather. It’s completely different. Completely. The big meaty 4.5# pork shoulder (boned) made five 1” thick slices, with almost two pounds leftover for another project. Two slices were cooked on the Cameron smoker, two on the Big Green Egg and one on the Weber. Each slice ended up weighing about 6oz, after smoking, which was exactly the right amount for this delicious dinner party ready recipe.

Thanks go out to Stonyman Gourmet Farmer for generously providing the meats for my challenge posts. DC area Charcutepalooza-ers should email Susan to pre-order. Pick up at the Bethesda Women’s Market (W,F, Sa).

Charcutepalooza loves our sponsors. D’Artagnan offers 25% off the meat-of-the-month. If you aren’t receiving your email with the secret code for Charcutepalooza members, register here. And the trip to France – an awesome grand prize deliciously designed by Trufflepig and Kate Hill at Camont.

charcutepalooza. the events.

Image by David Dadekian. Check out his blog for more exceptional photography.

Butchery, charcuterie making, farm to table, a pot-luck.

From the start, Kim and I had hoped there would be some Events. We wanted to get you ‘paloozers together.

After all, Kim and I met on Twitter, but when I was in New York just a few weeks later, we actually met, for a cup of coffee. We’re fans of the IRL meeting. I have to think that the fact we had met in person made it easier to contemplate meat making together. I knew she would be game – she’s freaking fearless – there’s not a food project that scares her (if you don’t believe me, read this or this.) She knew I had experience with charcuterie and teaching classes, so I can only assume she felt confident I wouldn’t let her poison her family.

So we talked about what might get all of you meat-people from all around the world together…. and this is what we came up with ….

Pigs. Of course. And learning. Butchery as an art form. Great food, discussion and wine served up in gorgeous surroundings. And the sheer whimsy of a pig roast on a summer afternoon..

This Events page will join the other Charcutepalooza pages on the top banner, and we’ll update it as often as we can. We hope for many more events going forward. If you have an idea for a get-together, we’ll add it to the mix, just get in touch.

First, let’s start with Kate Hill’s Events. Yes, Grand Prize Kate Hill. The one who has that fabulous farm in Gascony, and offers classes in charcuterie and butchery. She’s bringing Gascony to the US for six, very special, workshops.

Offered to professionals, cooks, food lovers and Charcutepalooza’ers these workshops cover the basics of traditional French seam butchery and crafting authentic charcuterie. Led by Kate and Dominique Chopolard, a traditional Gascon butcher, and hosted by some exceptional people, you’ll be completely immersed in the French way of meat making.

March 14 & 15 9:00 am -1:30 pm
The French PIG: the elegance of the cut

The Herbfarm Restaurant, Woodenville, WA.

March 16 5:00- 9:30 pm
Working with the Master

Portland Meat Collective- Portland, OR

March 18 9:30am -5:00 pm
Seed to Sausage Charcuterie

Claddagh Farms Cookery School/ Podchef Farms), Montville, ME
*Special 10% Discount available for official Charcutepalooza participants.

March 20 9:30 am-5:00 pm
The French PIG: glorious Gascony comes to
Stonyman Gourmet Farmer, Little Washington, VA
*Special 10% Discount available for official Charcutepalooza participants. Use code charcutepalooza123.

March 21 & 22
2-day Professional Workshop
(Mon 2pm -9pm, Tues 9 am-4 pm)
Woodberry Kitchens, Baltimore, MD


May 4-5

The Art of the Lamb at Stonyman Gourmet Farmer, Little Washington VA
Day one: 4-9pm Exhibits and evening wine reception
followed by a spit-roasted lamb dinner;
Day two: 9:30-2 Speakers, sausage making demonstration with MrsWheelbarrow,
followed by a merguez lunch
Bringing farmers, butchers, chefs, consumers, 4H, and Charcutepaloozer’s together – We’ll be mixing delicious
food with hearty conversation and a sprinkling of policy discussions, all in beautiful Rappahannock County.

Summer 2011, date TBD
Meat Up
with TheYummyMummy, New Paltz, NY
Kim, Cathy and Bob del Grosso are planning a Charcutepalooza pig roast at Kim’s Country House.
Word has it the Mosefund Farms will be throwing in a Mangalitsa and East Coasters should start packing up their tents and thinking about pot luck sides. We’ll keep you all posted as we nail everything down.

There just might be tattoos, too. Of the temporary type.
But you’ll have to get to an event to know for sure.

Charcutepalooza February Challenge. The Salt Cure.

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.

Are you in for the Charcutiere Challenge? Ready to bring it? You’re going to make pancetta. Or guanciale. There is no need to limit yourself to pork, check out this inspiring take on lamb prosciutto.

first attempt - too loose

(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.

Day One

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.

on the left - bacon cured with pink salt; at the top, without pink salt; on the right, the rind

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.

Day Seven

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.

Charcutepalooza. January Challenge is Duck Prosciutto

This post kicks off Charcutepalooza with our project for January – Duck Prosciutto. This is an easy way to limber up for The Year of Meat. It’s an eight day project with no special tools required other than a cool, marginally humid location, 50-60° F. I use my garage, but have to watch carefully at this time of year, as it sometimes drops to 40°, making this process take a little longer. Others are reporting good success with wine refrigerators. If you just don’t have a spot, we’ll be on to the next challenge in a few days. (Speaking of our next challenge, we’ll be revealing the project on January 15th. Now is a good time to order pink salt.)

Breasts or Whole Bird?

In these photos, you’ll see I used the packaged Moulard duck breasts. I also purchased a whole duck, as I had plans for the other parts. I realize I was fortunate – here in Washington, DC, Eastern Market has duck almost all the time. Some of my favorite farmers also have duck from time to time, although they are less likely to have it at this time of year.

Remember, even previously frozen duck breasts will work well here, but beware any that have been injected with brine prior to freezing. The two Moulard breasts cost $23. The whole duck cost $25., and those breasts were quite a bit smaller (200g vs 380g.)

The two Moulard duck breasts were started eight days ago and unwrapped and served this afternoon at a lazy lunch (see above) as part of a larger cheese and charcuterie presentation.

I broke down the whole duck, making more prosciutto with those breasts – they’ll be ready next week. With these, just for fun, I flavored one with ancho chili and soaked the cheesecloth in tequila. The other is wrapped in fresh thyme and the cheesecloth was soaked in Armagnac. I have no idea how they will come out, but, it seemed like a good idea at the time.

With the rest of that duck, I made Red Cooked Duck with the leg quarters (OMG wonderful.) I made a teeny tiny duck liver terrine with apples, rendered all the fat for potato roasting and frying (YUM) and, then, with the carcass, Autumn Stock from Amanda Hesser’s lovely cookbook The Cook and The Gardener. Ultimately, that stock will be used for chicken and dumplings or chicken pot pie.

There’s meat hanging in the garage

You’ll need kosher salt, cheesecloth, twine and a scale. Ruhlman suggests flavoring with white pepper. I’ve used – at different times – white pepper; fresh thyme; lemongrass with Kaffir lime; juniper and allspice; and, Chinese five spice. Each imparts a glorious taste to the meat.

After reading the recipe and exploring the photos on Ruhlman’s post about duck prosciutto, I noticed he scored the duck breast, as you might if you were cooking it fresh. This makes perfect sense, as you want the salt to be absorbed into the flesh – so make sure to score before you slather on the salt.

Note that you may need up to 3 cups of salt. Finding the perfect container for the two breasts, ensuring they are not touching, but still snug, will keep the salt use in check.

I wrapped the duck in cheesecloth after a day basking in the salt, weighing each breast first. I hung them in the garage (keep the twine ends long enough to tie to a hook, rafter or, in my case, the steel shelf edge. In the past, I’ve allowed the duck to cure too long, seeking the firm flesh noted in the book. Results were mixed until I started weighing before and after, watching for a 30% reduction.

I couldn’t find masking tape anywhere. Christmas tags were abundant.

Truly, this couldn’t be easier.

Once cured, your duck prosciutto will freeze and hold up to three months without diminishing flavor, texture or taste. I haven’t held on to any for more than three months. If you do freeze it, take full advantage and slice super thin before the prosciutto fully defrosts.)

Now what?

Your duck proscuitto is ready. Serve it as an elegant appetizer sliced very very very thin. Something bubbly – champagne or prosecco – is nice alongside.

And – here’s one of my favorite ways to use duck prosciutto. (Kim said she’s thinking about individually sized mini pizzas with quail eggs as as appetizer at her New Year’s Eve party. I love how she thinks.)

Okay, now it’s your turn. Post by January 15th. Tag with ‘charcutepalooza’ and, please post to our Facebook page (and “Like” it, too!)


Charcutepalooza. Let’s make meat.

(Let’s just drop that pesky ’11 or 2011 or whatever.)

The Co-Creators: Mrs. Wheelbarrow and The Yummy Mummy

Twitter Hashtag: #Charcutepalooza

We’re kicking off the twelve months of meat so aptly named Charcutepalooza by Kim.  This is a remarkable opportunity to learn as a group, to share experiences, and to explore far and wide how we approach the elegant “craft of salting, smoking and curing.”

There is little doubt it’s time to think about the meat we eat. How we use the animals raised for consumption. How we treat them. How they are butchered. And how the whole beast is used to feed our families.

Stories of meat tainting and commercially farmed animals in hideous circumstances are far too common. Wouldn’t it be better to celebrate the appropriate, thoughtful consumption of meat with a year long exploration of the age old craft of charcuterie?

Charcutepalooza (say it with us, “shar-coo-ta-pa-loo-za”)

We want to make it easy and fun to participate. If you are in, send me a message using the contact form on this blog. Include your name and your blog address. Everyone participating will be listed (with links) on a page linked to www.charcutepalooza.com.

If you don’t know where to hang meat in your studio apartment, don’t worry. There will be plenty of projects that do not require hanging meat. Duck prosciutto aside, each month’s project will be crafted with a wide range of applications in mind.

We’re using Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing as our guide. Michael Ruhlman has said he’ll be involved. More on that soon.

Already it looks like an amazing community of talented cooks will be involved. Watch for posts from GlutenFreeGirl and The Chef, Last Nights Dinner and A Dash of Bitters, Heathy Green Kitchen, TasteFood, The Peche, NotDerbyPie and Hedonia, to name just a few.

If you’re not a blogger, you can still participate. Post your experiences on the round-up post in the comment section, and share photos at our Flickr site. Or just read along and watch what happens. I’m hoping for a few good stories.

Hang on to your hats because there is more to come. Punk Domestics wants to run with this, showcasing blog entries from our Charcutepalooza. And Kim and I are brainstorming all sorts of fun and games. More on that later.

For now, let’s get on with it.

The Ruhls

  • Let’s celebrate the age-old talents and skills of charcuterie with contemporary takes on techniques, flavors and presentation.
  • Let’s agree to use humanely raised meat, sourced as close to home as possible.
  • Let’s write about our experiences. Not just how the charcuterie is made, but how we use it, serve it, flavor it.
  • Buy a copy of  ‘Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing’ by Michael Ruhlman.
  • Cook along as often as practical. There’s no obligation.
  • Post about your experiences on the 15th of the month.
  • Display the Badge, if you are so inclined; here’s how: Copy the following code into a widget on your website:

<a target=”_blank” href=”http://www.mrswheelbarrow.com/2010/12/charcutepalooza-lets-make-meat/”><img src=”http://www.mrswheelbarrow.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/charcutepaloozaSMALL2.jpg”


Right click on the badge to the right and save it then insert on your site and link it to: http://www.mrswheelbarrow.com/2010/12/charcutepalooza-lets-make-meat

Please, let’s not post the charcuterie recipes. However, recipes that use what you’ve made – that’s what we hope you will post. And presentation. And the photos. We know we’re going to love the photos.

How it will work

I’ll post a monthly charcuterie challenge on the 15th of each month. This will kick off the project and offer some tips for success. You’ll have one month to complete your take on the challenge.

Kim will post her take on the monthly challenge on the 15th, also. She’ll be addressing the charcuterie from her never-done-it-before point of view.

We hope our two perspectives will give you plenty of help and information to get on with some meat-making. We’re also hoping to get some expert help at a monthly twitter talk. More on that later.

(January is a special circumstance. We’ll start with Duck Prosciutto, for posting January 15th. That post is coming in a day or two. As soon as I catch my breath.)

We’ll post a round up of links on the 30th of each month. If we can find some sponsorships, maybe we can figure out some contests or giveaway. More on that later.

And each month, Kim will post her experiences, as a newcomer to meat-crafting. I can’t wait to see what she will get up to. Last I heard, she was looking for nightclothes for her duck breasts. No, not kidding.

We’re terrified and thrilled to set off on this project. Can’t wait to see how the charcuterie is served in your homes.

More on that later,

XO Cathy & Kim

Charcutepalooza. The Year of Meat.

Update: Throughout the year, you’ll find all the challenges here.