Brine + Love = (Rullepølse + Corned Beef + Sunshine)

A rolled rullepølse ready to cook

Lone and Søren's rullepølse ready to cook. Photo courtesy of Lone

As March roared in with yet more stormy winter weather, a series of dismaying events occurred.  First, my beloved truck broke down in a decidedly permanent fashion. As a wheelchair-using person who lives rurally, I spend most of the year out and about, garden-farming, butchering, fly-fishing, kayaking, and participating in our local farmer’s market, and the truck is a vital part of a generally happy and very busy life. Replacing it isn’t at all straightforward.

I also learned rather suddenly that my move to a new flat, which had been planned for some vague future date was happening on the 12th, three days before the March Charcutepalooza challenge was due, and this precipitated several weeks of gale-force packing and general disruption.  Rough seas!

Early March’s wild lion has finally padded away, having inflicted a respectable amount of damage, but as the days pass, all filled with hard work, there is a great deal to warm my heart.. and feed the hungry bellies of family and friends! The truck is still a problem to solve, but the move was a complete success, and March’s Charcutepalooza projects are finished just in the nick of time, and all this goodness is due to the support of family, friends, and a few extraordinary strangers. The cherry atop this ice-cream cone of happiness is that I’ll be driving to Maine in a little over 36 hours to meet Neal, Kate, and Dominic, Janis and David, and other as-yet unknown friends to take part in what will surely be a superb two-day workshop on French butchery and charcuterie.

On to the briny challenges..

When I first read about the March challenges, I was immediately drawn to the corned beef brisket. I learned to love a good New England boiled supper from my old friend Geoffrey, and it was from him I learned to make a really good Reuben sandwich, which I still look forward to each March. So I sourced a beautiful 4lb beef brisket from North Hollow Farm, and mixed up a batch of pickling spices, roughly following the ingredients and proportions suggested by Ruhlman & Polcyn in their Charcuterie book.

An old honey jar filled with home-made pickling spices

Home-made pickling spices before I shook up the jar

I put the brisket in the freezer, because I wanted to prepare it closer to Saint Patrick’s day.

Life was getting busy with the aforementioned gale-force packing, so while I wasn’t exactly twiddling my thumbs, I did spend some time doing some exploratory reading about brining. And lo! One of my new friends, Lone of the excellent Danish-language Beretninger fra et autentisk landbrug blog, uploaded a guest-post by Søren: how to make rullepølse.  Rullepølse!  If you’re a Dane, or a lover of Danish smørrebrød (open-faced sandwiches), then you’re familiar with this classic luncheon meat roulade: pork belly slathered with fresh herbs, shallots, and spice, and then rolled, brined, simmered with aromatics, pressed, sliced, and served on good bread with a bit of meat-jelly and a few slices of fresh cucumber and tomato.  Delicious, and I wanted to try.

I needed a pork belly, and as fate would have it, I was attending the gala launch of my meat-cutting mentor Cole Ward‘s new Gourmet Butcher DVD the next evening, and who was there but my favorite Vermont pig farmers, Walter and Holly Jeffries! I explained what I needed, and Holly and I made a date to meet at the Hartland-Windsor park & ride to exchange one of their beautiful pork bellies for a bit of cold hard cash.

I wish I could have taken more photos of the process of making the rullepølse, but by this time my little home was in a state of advanced chaos, so Lone kindly lent me the photo at the top of the page, which shows Søren’s piece of pork belly, slathered with a mixture of parsley, thyme, shallot, allspice, salt, and pepper.  Notice how beautifully the roll is tied? Distinctly neater than my roll ended up, I can assure you!

Once the meat roll was tied up, I placed it in a doubled ziplock bag with a brine made from a liter of water, 300 grams of coarse salt, 50 grams of sugar, 10 cloves, 10 juniper berries, 3 bay leaves, and a few whole allspice berries, and into the ‘fridge it went on Friday, the day before The Big Move.

A funny moment occurred the next day when one of the most diligent movers, a little girl named Michelle, transported the ziplock bag from the ‘fridge in the old flat, across the parking lot, and into the new flat. She held it up with a frankly revolted expression which morphed into complete horror when I told her it was a giant pickled grub.  Honestly, it looked like the evil get from a love match between a gargantuan Japanese beetle larva and a baby Arrakeen Shai Hulud. And notice the ugly tying job!

Brined rullepølse simmering in a pot with carrots, bay leaves, shallots, and water

The brined rullepølse simmering with carrot, bay leaves, shallots, peppercorns, and water

On Sunday evening I rinsed off my somewhat jolie-laide rullepølse in clean running water, and then kept it at a low simmer for a little over an hour with water to cover, a few bay leaves, some more peppercorns, a few halved shallots, and a chopped carrot.  Søren’s advice on how to discern when the rullepølse is cooked is to pierce the roll with what we call in Danish a kødnåd –meat needle or skewer?  At any rate, a very thin metal skewer; if you feel resistance, the rullepølse isn’t cooked enough. When it is fully cooked the needle will pierce smoothly through the meat. Here’s how it looked when it was finished cooking:

the rullepølse after simmering

The rullepølse after simmering for a little over an hour

Once the rullepølse was cool, it was time to press it to give it a nice dense texture and it’s classic rectangular shape. In Denmark you can find very nice purpose-built rullepølse presses, but people often rig up a DIY solution like I did:

the rullepølse after being pressed overnight

A very MacGyver DIY rullepølse press

I rolled the cooled rullepølse in cling-film, placed it in a glass bread pan, placed a piece of wood on top, and one underneath, and then clamped them pretty firmly with these two C-clamps rustled up for me by Carl. It was quite cold outside, so I rested the contraption (which wouldn’t fit into my ‘fridge because of the one super-long C-clamp) against a slightly open window. By morning the rullepølse was finished and ready to cut up. So exciting!

the rullepølse sliced in half

The rullepølse sliced in half

Of course I sliced a bit off and tasted, and it was delicious. I think my filling could be spread more evenly, and my meat rolled more expertly so the herbs form a nice, thin, and uniform layer, but I consider this to be a good first effort, and certainly a delicious treat for lunch. And mom gets half, which makes for a happy mom 🙂

a rullepølse sandwich on a plate

A tasty rullepølse sandwich

Today I finally got around to finishing the corned beef, and it’s now in the ‘fridge, moistened with a bit of the cooking liquor. When I return from Maine, mom and Carl and I will have our own little celebration with the corned beef, boiled veggies, crispy fried Boxty, and some horseradish-cream sauce.  Mm!

a plate of corned beef brisket

A plate of corned beef brisket basking momentarily in the sun

So, the March challenge really was a challenge, started in my old home and finished in my new one, but everything came out beautifully in the end. Despite a tetchy back and hip, and the month or two of unpacking and settling ahead, I am supported by a kick-ass crew of good friends, a wonderful family, generous online buddies, and a few amazing volunteers who, after the move, are now new friends. Spring is so close that I can almost smell it, and after nine years in a flat without any sunlight at all, here I am curled up with Mouse (my cat), a plate of tasty food, and big silly grin on my face as I watch the warm golden sunlight undulating across the walls of my little home. Life is good in the neighborhood 🙂


About mosaica

Ugly & fabulous, warm & obsessive, brilliant & dorkmeisterish: striving to be a warrior in her little context.
This entry was posted in beef, charcuterie, pork, recipe and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

26 Responses to Brine + Love = (Rullepølse + Corned Beef + Sunshine)

  1. janis says:

    So cool! Glad things settled down and so happy we will be meeting soon. It is going to be so much fun.

    • mosaica says:

      Thanks Janis 🙂 I can’t wait to get to Maine, though I’m already eyeing the 3am departure time warily. So poke me if I start nodding off!

  2. Mark S. says:

    This looks awesome. I love your rullepølse press. You’ll see some corned beef & Guinness sausage as well as some corned beef navel from me soon. Even though I am not a C-palooza participant, I seem to be keeping up coincidentally.

    • mosaica says:

      Thanks Mark! I really like this luncheon meat (just ate a third of my half for dinner with some salted tomato wedges & cucumber slices; simple and delicious), so I think I’ll be making another batch soon. One tip which seems kind of ingenious to me is to use a few sheets of gelatin, soaked & softened, spread over the filling. Apparently it helps bind the filling to the meat nicely, sort of like meat glue. Regarding that sausage: I think y’all should move to VT and be my neighbors 😉

  3. Darlene says:

    I lived in Denmark for nearly 3 years and the three things I really loved were gravad laks, Danish paté and røllepølser. Gravad laks and the paté I can do but I’ve been searching high and low for a rullepølse recipe. Hubby, who is Danish, is also very excited. I will be making this in the very near future! Thank you!

    • mosaica says:

      Thanks for visiting & for your kind comments 🙂 I love the small-world aspect of our online playground. I hope you’ll come poke me when you’ve made your rullepølse as I’d love to see it!

  4. uke mochi says:

    I cannot tell you how beautiful your photos are that would do them justice. I’m in awe… both at what you created and the conditions you created them under. Bravo!

    • mosaica says:

      You, O Uke Mochi, are very good to say such kind things 🙂 I’m delighted, because I think my pictures are so amateurish compared to what I see Out There. Thanks 🙂

  5. Leif Ostberg says:

    Thank you for this, I have made Rullepølse several times, but with mixed results.
    Please let us know how your workshop is; I will be taking the one week course with Kate in France in early April and look very much forward to it.
    Happy moving,

    • mosaica says:

      Our weekend with Kate and Dominique was honestly astounding: wonderful people, and watching Dominique work was a masterclass in butchery. I hope I can emulate just a fraction of what I saw, because I’ll be doing much better work. The thing I want to make first are these little petite fillets (not sure about spelling); a sort of tiny air-cured ham that smelled and looked amazing.

  6. Your rullepølse looks absolutely delicious. Is there a traditional spice mix that is used in the middle of it? Anyway, it looks great. I love your story of telling the movers that you had a giant grub in your fridge! I get some horrified looks at work when I bring back pig innards from the market but I haven’t had the courage to pretend I’ve bought grubs or insects! Maybe next time…

    • mosaica says:

      Thank you, and sorry for the late reply; I’ve been a busy grrl!

      Traditionally the spices which flavor rullepølse are parsley, shallot or onion, cloves, nutmeg, and pepper. I’ve seen variants which add allspice, coriander, and star anise as well, and I’ve seen lamb and venison used as the meat as well.

      The strongest flavor/smell is the parsley, and in fact I think next time I might try using old school Danish curly parsley next time instead of flat-leaf Italian parsley. Also, I’ll squeeze mine a bit more gently 🙂

  7. Funny grub story; your movers will be talking about that for a while, lol. Also sorry to hear about your truck – that can really cramp your style. Yet you pulled through with style once again. Great post regardless of the circumstances :D.

  8. That press is brilliant. I am totally going to steal that idea someday.

    • mosaica says:

      You’re very kind, Jon 🙂 You’re not perchance my old buddy Jon, are you? Regardless: please do steal away!

      • I don’t think we’ve met. Following Charcutepalooza links got me here. To me knowledge, I haven’t met anyone participating in Charcutepalooza first hand, just online. But I love this press and I’ll have to file the idea away.

  9. Both your rullepølse and you corned beef look amazing and I am still laughing at the MacGyvered press 🙂 Love that you managed this in the middle of a big move!

  10. Cathy says:

    A marvelous post! I think I have to make this…

  11. Darlene says:

    Hello again! I made rullepølse using a slightly different salt formulation (with pink salt) and it is being pressed this very moment. I have to work this evening and made Hubby promise he would not touch it. Let’s see how that goes. Just wanted to thank you for posting about it and leading me to the post on Lone’s site.

  12. Melanie says:

    BRILLIANT ! Is all I can say! This website is brilliant, the food…yup, you guessed it brilliant! YOU ARE BRILLIANT! So pleased I stopped by, sorry it took me so long!
    I tried to send you an email but it bounced back, please call me with your email again! Thanks….you totally rock!

  13. Christian says:

    Great recipe. I have never done it with just pork before…next time. I have my Christmas rullepolse brining right now. My wife’s family is of Danish heritage and every year we try some new danish recipe. We really liked the rullepolse though and make it at least once a year. Grandma (in-law) has been helping me with the rullepolse and she likes mine very much. I use a beef flank steak butterflied thin, spice layer sprinkled on (allspice, pepper, and this year I tried ground ginger, no salt because of the brine, and whatever else you like), then thin sliced pork layered on, rolled and tied. Brined for 10 days, then boiled, pressed and sliced. Yum, cooking it tomorrow ready for family get together Friday.


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