If there’s any one important thing to remember about Michael Ruhlman’s Charcuterie book is that it’s salty. Like really salty. The book itself secretes salt crystals if you don’t pay attention. I’m not complaining, I love me some salty food.
So, they had local pork shoulder on sale for cheap (on sale for CHEAP!). The pork shoulder was cheap but do you know what is hard to find? Pig fat. What the hell, Vermont? There are pigs everywhere. Most of the people I know who are raising and slaughtering their own pigs are ‘harvesting’ before winter comes and that means younger, leaner pigs. My half pig had hardly any fat. No leaf lard or fat back, the belly had more meat than fat. They shoulder came skin on and with some nice fat, but it wasn’t enough for a good 10% mix. But, meh, went with it.
First up was the spicy italian, page 121. It was definitely a step up from my own recipe and I’ll be making it again. The addition of the red wine vinegar was the real game changer. It really brought out the flavors of the herbs. I did not, however, appreciate the whole coriander seeds. I love coriander, I use it all the time especially in Indian food, but it was just wrong. It specifically called for coriander seeds, not powder. You’re sitting there all sucking down this italian celebration when POP a coriander seed gets in there and crunches. It just isn’t right. But that’s my only real complaint about the recipe. I didn’t stuff the sausage this time around, we’ll save that excitement for later.
Next up was breakfast sausage. For this one I used my own recipe. The recipe in the book called for ginger and too much sage. I just can’t imagine it all in my gravy and smothering my biscuits. Speaking of… my biscuit game is sort of slowly but not really getting better. I did use the salt ratio in the book.
Both sausages were pretty salty and I have to keep that in mind when I cook with them. It also had me grind the meat on the smaller plate and that was too fine for my tastes. I’m going back to the bigger plate next time. My dad just sent me a load of garlic from his garden and I will be making up a batch of the garlic sausage on page 116. Once Kristen thins the herd a bit we’ll have lamb meat for Moroccan merguez.
For the record, it takes approximately 8 Blue Moons to bust a 12 1/2 pound bone-in, skin-on pork shoulder down to 10 pounds of sausage. I kept the bones, as it had both the shoulder and the elbow joint in there and that means connective tissue and that means delicious, delicious asian soup stock. I also kept the skin which I will turn into cracklins the next time I fry up some chicken.
But it’s not all salted meats, sometimes you have to set your sights on the vegetables in your life. Decided to make some lactic acid fermented pickles. Instead of vinegar you soak your veggies in a 5% salt water solution and it makes some lactic acid which gives you pickles of varying levels of pickle-tude. First experiment was a mix of carrots, fennel bulb, fennel frond, jalapenos and serranos and the pickling spice from page 68. It was generally okay, not great, I didn’t take my pants off or anything. I did actually like the fennel bulb and carrots, they stayed nice and crunchy and absorbed a good deal of the spice from the chili peppers, they also managed to keep the salt absorption down. They weren’t so overwhelmingly salty. I did a batch of jalapenos, serrano and anaheim peppers in just a plain salt solution. Made some good crunchy pickled peppers but, again, very salty. The last experiment was actual pickling cucumbers. These sucked. They just plain sucked. Super salty and they got very soft and mushy. Nothing pickley about them, just 4 jars of impotent disappointment.
I’ll probably do the fennel and carrots again, but mostly I’ll stick to vinegar pickling.
Coming up… this is the Winter of The Shank, I’m going to dive into the art of the braised shank. For Shanksgiving I have a lovely pair of local lamb shanks. It’s a toss up between some sort of traditional red-wine-braised recipe or something Persian since I got me a Persian cookbook and also all the ingredients, even the weird ones (like angelica and mahlab). Kristen’s got a pair of pork shanks for Shanksmas and I’m hoping to get my hands on some veal shanks for the hell of it. I do really want osso buco.
And I’ve perfected the scone recipe. Not ‘made better’ or ‘yeah, it’s okay’. I have perfected the shit out of my scone recipe.