Tag Archives: trufflepig

IMG_5258

charcutepalooza december challenge. showing off.


This is it. The last challenge. It’s time to show us what you’ve learned. You’ve had a year of experimenting and practice. You’ve had the benefit of this exceptionally creative and daring Charcutepalooza community. And ‘tis the season.

What better reason to gather your friends and family than a celebration of all things charcuterie? It’s exciting to serve up these homemade lovelies. No reason not to crow a little. You’ve earned it.

Cassoulet is a natural. Choucroute garnie, as well. Perhaps Schweinshaxe? Or a long simmered Italian “Sunday Gravy?” A tapas offering? What about dim sum? We’ve looked cross culturally for so much of the year, the possibilities seem endless with a little internet research and a dollop of imagination.

Create a menu, a meal, a dish, a platter. We challenge you to create a celebration.

Use at least three items (Apprentice Challenge) or four items (Charcutiere Challenge) from the following list.

•Smoke, cure, or brine a whole cut of meat, poultry or fish (for instance, ham, duck proscuitto, roulades, pastrami, smoked salmon)
•Dried, cured sausage (for instance, soppresata, saucisson sec, salami, landjager, chorizo)
•Pork belly, any preparation (for instance, bacon, pancetta, ventreche, red cooked, braised)
•Sausage (for instance, bulk, in casings, smoked, emulsified)
•Pate, terrine, or mousseline, en croute, if you wish
•Rillettes or confit

Your deadline is December 6, 2011. Yes, this is different than the date first announced, for a very good reason – the details are revealed at the end of this post.

Good luck and have fun. We can’t wait to see what you do.

It’s just a fancy name for franks and beans.

I love my friend Katrin. She has been my BFF for many many years. She’s witty and warm, with a huge heart. Her Martha’s Vineyard home, circa 1680, the second oldest home on the island, sports low hanging doorways and wonky windows. This wonderland has been the site for a gathering of ‘girls’ for the last fourteen years. Some years there are over a dozen of us, and some years, it’s just six. But every year, this weekend recharges my spirit.

So when I set about planning the final challenge for this extraordinary Year of Meat, Martha’s Vineyard seemed the perfect spot. I wanted to share a Camont recipe for cassoulet and all the new knowledge from Girls Meat Camp with these dear friends. Katrin’s response? “Cassoulet? I’m not a fan. It’s just a fancy name for franks and beans.” I was determined to change her mind.

Start with the Best

To prepare, I engaged in some crazy suitcase packing, again. Noix de jambon, rillettes, fresh saucisse de Toulouse, ventreche and couenne snuggled in next to garlic, thyme from the garden, and some kitchen tools. I secured it all in ziplock bags, and tucked the bags in between my clothes. Hello, TSA!

Our friends at D’Artagnan had everything, shipping the remainder of what was needed for the perfect cassoulet, duck legs and duck fat, and a real treat – prunes stuffed with foie. (They’re called French Kisses. Rhapsodically good.)

D’Artagnan also carries the official bean of cassoulet – the Tarbais. This bean is like no other, and sports a great back story. It cooks perfectly, with some beans shedding their skins and softening to create a thick backdrop for the meats, and other beans magically remaining whole, but meltingly tender. A perfect texture for cassoulet.

(I also ordered a good sized roasting chicken, air chilled. This bird was delicious and chicken-y. I stuffed D’Artagnan’s outrageous truffle butter under the skin of the breast and legs, then served it with duck fat roasted potatoes and green beans.)

Take note. This month, for our last Charcutepalooza challenge, D’Artagnan will offer a remarkable discount on their entire product line. Watch your email for the code. You must call to get this discount, and talk to the sales reps. They are so knowledgable and will steer you in the right direction every single time. It’s a rare opportunity for this access – imagine, game birds, wild mushrooms, every cut of pork and lamb, wagyu beef and foie gras.

Constructing the Cassoulet

The beauty of cooking something like cassoulet is the minimal hands on time.

Soak the beans the night before. Sauté the ventreche and couenne, and the aromatics, then cook the beans for an hour or so in plenty of water. Just do this in the morning while the rest of the household wanders in and out of the kitchen for coffee and bagels imported from Brooklyn.

There was more than enough time for a walk through Edgartown, unearthing a new charcuterie shop as well as the divine baker, Rickard’s.

In mid afternoon, with the help of one able assistant (thank you, Jessie!) we added the browned duck confit and rope of saucisse de Toulouse. This concoction cooked for three plus hours. Occasionally, I would reach into the oven and stir everything around a bit. It was dinner time when a nice crust had formed on the top and the smells were so intoxicating we simply had to dig in.

I was a little sad that I couldn’t bring the traditional cassoulet pot Kate gave me, but the suitcase was already absurd. In the Vineyard kitchen, we unearthed an enameled cast iron dutch oven from the back of a kitchen cabinet and it was perfect.

The divine recipe and some tips from Kate:

The couenne, or rolled, tied, pork skin, adds a silky, delicious feel to the simmering beans. Add it with the ventreche, at the start.

Later, when adding the meat, untie and unroll the couenne, dice it the same size as the beans, and add it to the pot. These little pieces of goodness will rise to the surface and add a crispy je-ne-sais-quoi to the cassoulet crust.

The ventreche, carrots, and onions should be diced the same size as the beans.

Cook the beans in a full two quarts of water per pound. Don’t panic if there is a lot of liquid left when the beans are soft. Just add the browned meats and sausages and get the mixture simmering and hot. It will all work out.

Cook the cassoulet in a 325° oven, uncovered, and make sure it keeps the simmer. The cassoulet will develop a rich brown crust in good time. Be patient.

Serve with a very acidic, crunchy salad and a rough, earthy red wine.

Celebrating Charcutepalooza

While waiting for the cassoulet to finish, we enjoyed bourbon manhattans and a charcuterie board of jambon de Camont, pork rillettes, duck rillettes, cornichons and pickled asparagus. It should come as no surprise that we watched Bridesmaids.

And oh, it was a marvelous cassoulet, with duck confit, saucisse de Toulouse, ventreche, couenne and Tarbais beans. As authentic as it could be, from this side of the pond. Kate, I hope you approve!

Cassoulet is a food made for celebrations, and sharing it with good friends feels like a great big hug.

Charcutepalooza, Food52 and The Grand Prize

The Grand Prize will be awarded in just a few weeks. Kate Hill, Trufflepig, and The Antiques Diva have been dreaming up amazing fun for our lucky winner.

The dates are now firm – the winner will fly to Paris on March 2nd and fly back on March 10th, 2011.

There will be one night of fun in Paris, then off you go on a fast train to Agen, the Lot-et-Garonne town near Kate’s Camont.

You’ll spend four days in Gascony experiencing charcuterie at the source, then you’ll hop back on the train to Paris, where you’ll have an afternoon to explore the city. Friday, March 9th will be packed with fun: start your Paris day with a visit to the historic Ham Market with The Antiques Diva and then wrap it all up at Friday night’s blogger cocktail party. A true Charcute-folie!

Eligibility and Entries

We’re beyond thrilled that FOOD52 has agreed to host the Charcutepalooza final competition. Watch the FOOD52 site for details about the Charcutepalooza contest that will close up the year. That’s right, from December 29th and ending January 4th, 2012, the two finalist’s entries will be featured on FOOD52. Are you ready for your close up?

For now, this is a good time to review the eligibility requirements for your entry, and to begin to gather your thoughts.

We’ll be looking for quality writing, beautiful photography, and an original recipe, so scan your posts for the best example(s) of your charcuterie skills.

Your entry, due no later than Midnight EST, December 6th, 2011, must include

•your name, blog URL and email address
•a profile photo (jpg format)
•50 words describing your Charcutepalooza experience
•links to the 12 Charcutepalooza monthly challenge posts on your blog
•links to no more than two of your Charcutepalooza blog posts that you wish to nominate for the grand prize competition

Send this information in an email to Charcutepalooza at gmail dot com by 12/6/2011.

Kim and I will review all the entries. It’s up to us to whittle them down to the best six and we already know it will be tough – you all are so awesome.

The semifinalists’ posts will be forwarded to the judges, who will whittle the six down to two. The two finalists’ blog posts will be presented on FOOD52, where the community’s vote will decide the winner.

It’s all very exciting. And it’s coming right up.

IMG_5011

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.