Lamb Kidneys

The butchering season is upon us here in New England, and I’ve been out a lot with my farm-butcher mentor Chet and his son Nick. Yesterday we slaughtered 9 lambs and one beef, and I came home with a bucket overflowing with gleaned treats. From the lambs: liver, heart, kidneys, and nearly all the caul fat.  From the one beef we butchered, a gorgeous chocolate-brown Devon, I had time to harvest one fat cheek.

Kidneys are a favorite, and I wanted to try roasting the little nuggets encased in their own flare fat, as Jane Grigson suggests for pork liver. Which, essentially, is confit’d lamb kidneys! So, minimal work –just a good rinse in cold water, into a roasting pan, and into a moderately hot oven, which I guesstimated at 400°F.

Roasting lamb kidneys encased in their fine fat

Roasting lamb kidneys encased in their fine fat

In the photo above, there are a half-dozen kidneys still enrobed in their fat jackets on the left, and on the right are some of the fat jackets which I’ve gently peeled off the kidneys, and all of it is nearly submerged in the fat which rendered out. This rendered fat is equivalent to what in pork is called leaf lard, and it has a similarly fine character, though with a faint but distinct fragrance of lamb. I’m hoping to do some neat stuff with this rendered lamb lard once I’ve strained it.

So last night’s dinner (oh I was tired) was this:

Confit kidneys, boiled, parslied & buttered aspargagus potatoes, and a carrot salad.

Confit kidneys, boiled, parslied & buttered asparagus potatoes, and a carrot salad.

The carrot salad was especially delicious: shredded carrot tossed with dried cherries, crushed pistachios, toasted cumin seed, fresh-squeezed juice of half a Valencia orange, a bit of Dijon mustard, and a bit of Greek honey, salt, and pepper. And parsley. Bright and sweet and sharp, complementing the dense richness of the confit’d kidneys.

And then a favorite Danish breakfast, very hearty as I’m off to butcher pigs shortly: biksemad, essentially the same as a hash here in the states, I think. I used sliced leftover kidneys, chopped red onion, leftover boiled potatoes, chopped, and a big handful of chopped parsley. It would have been nice with a fried egg on top, but I’m hurrying, so just a bright squeeze of ketchup, a few shakes of Worcestershire sauce, and a few pickled baby beets. Otherwise known as YUM!

Confit kidney hash, or as we Danes call it: Biksemad. With pickled baby beets :-)

Confit kidney hash, or as we Danes call it: Biksemad. With pickled baby beets 🙂

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Posted in kidneys, lamb, nose-to-tail, offal, recipe, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 10 Comments

Everything Is Just Ducky

Whole steam-roasted garlic

Whole steam-roasted garlic

Okay, not really. This month my Charcutepalooza projects have been all about how good food –dreaming it up, cooking it, talking about it with friends, sharing it with friends and family, and (not least) eating it– sustains the spirit as well as the belly during some less than fabulous times. Have I mentioned that by the end of December I will have moved FOUR times in less than a year? I know I’ve cried & moaned about this in previous posts, but this month and the most recent move were especially brutal, and the sheer uplifting and nourishing power of food was profoundly evident. Food had a big job to do, and it came through like a champion.

I started by making two versions of rillettes. The first was a classic French pork rillettes, and for guidance I looked to Jane Grigson’s Charcuterie And French Pork Cookery as well as Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn’s Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking and Curing.

On the left is the pot with venison & pork belly rillettees and on the right are traditional French rillettes

On the left is the pot with venison & pork belly rillettees and on the right are traditional French rillettes, each cooling in its own fragrant bath of broth and fat

The second was inspired by Brad Farmerie’s recipe for pork rillettes with an Asian twist which was published in the excellent Primal Cuts: Cooking with America’s Best Butchers by Marissa Guggiana. I tweaked the recipe in that I used a blend of venison (thank you Larry) and pork belly; otherwise I was pretty faithful to Brad’s recipe.

Rillettes packed into 8oz widemouth jars before cooling in the 'fridge and before being sealed under 1/8 inch of warmed lard

Rillettes packed into eight-ounce wide-mouth jars before cooling in the 'fridge, and before being sealed under an eighth of an inch of warmed pork lard which I'd rendered the day before

I’d had small nibbles of each of the rillettes while I was cooking them, but I really wanted to taste them properly on freshly baked bread with various pickles, so I baked a loaf, distracted myself with chores until the bread had cooled, and then dug in:

Super-seedy bread, jars of pickles, and jars of rillettes

Super-seedy bread, jars of pickles, and jars of rillettes. Must taste now!

Oh, hey, what a surprise: I love my rillettes 🙂  I liked them with this year’s cornichons:

A slice of bread with rillettes and slices of cornichon pickle

A slice of bread with rillettes and slices of cornichon pickle

..and I loved ’em with this spring’s pickled ramps:

A slice of bread with rillettes and pickled ramps I made this spring

A slice of bread with rillettes and pickled ramps I made this spring

I tried the French rillettes with cornichons and the venison rillettes with ramps, and then I tried the venison ones with cornichons, and the French rillettes with ramps, and I determined that there didn’t seem to be a bad-tasting combination in the bunch.

Thankfully I made the rillettes a little week ago, because my second project was fairly involved and demanding: a roasted roulade of duck with lentils and mixed boiled & buttered beans from this summer’s massive bean harvest. I thought I might have served it yesterday to mom & Carl, but ended up breaking the tasks up over three days and serving it today, deadline-day, once again right up to the wire!

I really enjoy cooking with duck, particularly the full-utilization aspects. Thrift at its tastiest.

Breaking down the duck: skin off in one piece, breasts removed & diced, and the carcass trimmed of every morsel of meat, all sinews & tough bits set aside with the carcass, wing tips, neck, and gizzards for making stock. All fat and skin not part of the large rectangle of skin was reserved for rendering, and the liver was added to the forcemeat scraps.

Breaking down the duck: skin off in one piece, breasts removed & diced, and the carcass trimmed of every morsel of meat, all sinews & tough bits set aside with the carcass, wing tips, neck, and gizzards for making stock. All fat and skin not part of the large rectangle of skin was reserved for rendering, and the liver was added to the forcemeat scraps.

Here is the skin before it was frozen flat and trimmed of yet more fat:

The whole duck skin will be the outer wrapping for the finished roulade. Here it is before freezing & trimming

The whole duck skin will be the outer wrapping for the finished roulade

The breast meat was cut into large dice and browned quickly in a very hot pan:

Frying the duck breast meat

Frying the duck breast meat

I made a rich and delicious-smelling reduction of shallots, the fond from frying the duck breast, and a cup of Calvados:

Reduced to a loose paste, and smelled fantastic

Reduced to a loose paste, and smelling fantastic

I should note that the method for steam-roasting garlic to make garlic paste is brilliant; it works much better than dry-roasting, and produced a super-creamy garlic-y paste. The photo at the top of the page shows a half-dozen heads of garlic after steam-roasting and before slicing and squeezing.

I prepped aromatics and herbs for the bed upon which the roulade would rest while roasting. This photograph shows them before they were braised in a whole lot of butter:

Aromatics and herbs await braising in butter

Aromatics and herbs await braising in butter

We had a bit of warm sun this morning, and it was a pleasure to sit half-blinded and cozy whilst shelling these outstanding pistachio nut-meats:

These are the sweetest and most pistachio-y pistachios I've been able to buy in years, and so green!

These are the sweetest and most pistachio-y pistachios I've been able to buy in years, and so green!

Next was to grind the cold bits of cleaned duck meat, along with some fatty pork and the duck liver:

Grinding the forcemeat for the roulade

Grinding the forcemeat for the roulade

To the ground forcemeat I added the shallot reduction, the salt and pepper, garlic paste, and herbs. I mixed this by hand and folded in the cooled diced duck-breast meat, the pistachios as well as some roughly chopped dried cherries. I would have liked to add some truffle peelings, but I have never had a truffle to cook with.. yet! Still, even without the truffle, the forcemeat looks (and tastes) delicious –even before roasting:

The ground duck and pork with a smattering of chopped pistachios and cherries

The ground duck and pork with a smattering of chopped pistachios and cherries

After trimming the inside of the duck skin of excess bits of fat and tissue, I mounded the forcemeat down the middle, wrapped the skin around the filling and tied it up neatly:

The roulade all bound and ready to roast after an hour or two in the 'fridge to dry the skin a bit

The roulade all bound and ready to roast after an hour or two in the 'fridge to dry the skin a bit

Once mom & Carl arrived, I placed the roulade on its bed of butter-braised aromats & herbs, gave it a liberal sprinkling of salt and pepper, and placed it in the oven to roast for around an hour. I basted it every 15 or 20 minutes with the butter from the roasting pan, and it kept on getting more glossy and golden. Mm!

I also made a pot of lentils with carrots, onions, leeks, thyme, and lots of fresh parsley added at the end:

French lentils simmering with aromatic veggies & herbs

French lentils simmering with aromatic veggies & herbs a lá Mr. Henderson

Carl finished putting my spare tire on my truck (thank goodness for spare tires) (and for Carl!) in the cold and rainy dark, and when he was settled on the sofa,  dry-ish and warm, I brought out a sliced-up baguette:

Really good baguette I made this morning

Really good baguette I made this morning

..and the two flavors of rillettes accompanied by cornichons and ramps I pickled this spring:

Tasty bits to start with

Tasty bits to start our meal

Soon the roulade was roasted and rested, and it was really pretty, and very very good to eat:

Roasted roulade of duck on a bed of French lentils

Roasted roulade of duck on a bed of French lentils

..along with some green and yellow beans from the Great Bean Harvest of 2011, drizzled with a bit of the duck roasting butter and a sprinkle of salt and pepper:

A plateful of happy

A plateful of happy

Once again, good charcuterie saves the day.

P.S. Check out this charcuterie kismet: So, my uncle Stephen mentioned on a recent QI that Columbo was, in his opinion, the greatest-ever TV detective. I’ve liked Peter Falk ever since I saw him play himself in that great Wim Wenders film, Wings of Desire, but I’d never actually seen a Columbo episode. So I’ve been watching the the old shows, and today when I working on my roulade, I was watching Season 7 Episode 2 called Murder Under Glass, and the whole episode was about chefs and cooking and suddenly there was a galantine right there onscreen and Columbo was, like, ecstatic about it! That was amazing.

Posted in alternatively sourced meat, charcuterie, duck, liver, nose-to-tail, pork, venison | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 17 Comments

Gala Pork Pie, Oh My!

A spiky tan and brown mushroom

A spiky tan and brown mushroom --can you identify it?

Despite having been born in England, I had never tasted even a modest shop-bought pork pie, much less the festive Gala Pie. I had seen mention of these savory meat pies in books, had re-wound a few British television programs and films to catch a glimpse of one, but somehow, improbably, I hadn’t actually eaten one. As a girl who appreciates arcane, extravagant, and tasty pig parts, I’ve been planning on embarking on a pork pie adventure for a while now.

Around the time I was pondering this pastry-clad porky project, I also discovered journalist Tim Hayward, who writes about food for the Guardian, as well as publishing Fire & Knives, a food magazine that I’d really love to read. And at the Guardian web site, I found exactly what I was looking for: a beautifully photo-illustrated set of instructions on how to make a really special version of the pork pie, called a Gala Pie.

Skip ahead to September: my life is in turmoil, as it has been for a year or so now. Moving twice since March, with a third move planned for the end of December; a renovation project on the building I live in which has swung between nightmarish and exhausting; and for the second year in a row –enough farm and garden commitments to keep me from my favorite pastimes of fishing, fly-tying, kayaking, silver-smithing –namely: of anything that smelled even remotely like smelling the roses. The farm and garden overbooking is entirely my own responsibility, and I wonder if in fact I could have handled it better were it not for the renovation and moving madness. I do really love growing stuff.

Okay, enough grousing, on to the pie. I was determined to not be rushing trying to get in just under the wire for the Charcutepalooza part of the pie project, so I made plans to start the pie project on Saturday, and finish on Sunday morning, and then I’d take the pie out along with my excellent farmer goddess friend for an afternoon of mushroom hunting and pie eating. That would give me four whole days to put together a good account of the pie adventure. I’d be grateful for the extra time more than once!

Sunday night I made a nice savory pig’s foot jelly:

Pig's feet, aromatics, herbs, and water simmering on the stovetop

Pig's feet, aromatics, herbs, and water simmering on the stovetop

The pig’s feet, aromatics and herbs were kept at a bare simmer for around three hours, until the flesh was falling from the bone.  After straining and cooling, I put the sticky fragrant liquor into the ‘fridge. One note: don’t be tempted to season (salt) your jelly until you’ve established that your piggy liquor will in fact stiffen into a proper wobbly jelly. I salted mine as I warmed it up just before use.

In the morning I started by making the forcemeat. I followed Tim’s recipe with a few tweaks; I ground all my spices fresh, and tossed in some dried sweet shishito peppers. They were right there next to the spice grinder and seemed a good idea, and I expect they did add a subtle sweet pepperiness. At the very least, the little red-orange flecks looked pretty in the finished product.

Forcemeat for the Gala Pie is mixed with a blend of spices

Forcemeat for the Gala Pie is mixed with a blend of spices

Where Tim ground half of his forcemeat blend and kept the other half as 1 centimeter dice, I blitzed three quarters of mine and left the rest as 3 centimeter dice.  After blending the blitzed and diced meat well by hand, I set the forcemeat aside to assimilate all the spicy and salty goodness, and set about making the pie crust.

Disks of pie crust for the body and lid of the Gala Pie

Disks of pie crust for the body and lid of the Gala Pie

This was also my first time making hot water crust pastry. I used lard and bread flour (our strongest locally available flour), and it turned out pretty well. It wasn’t as smooth as I thought it might be, from looking at Tim’s photograph, but I was able to roll it out and line the pie dish satisfactorily. Speaking of the pie dish: I did try to find a pork pie dish (via FreeCycle), but got no bites, so using the measurements given in the recipe as a guide, I settled on a small springform pan: 7 inches by 3.5 inches; it worked great.

Once I had lined the pie dish, I put 3/4 of an inch of the forcemeat into the bottom. Then, and I’m sad to say that I didn’t remember to get a picture of this part, I nestled four peeled hard-boiled eggs atop the forcemeat, arranging them neatly so that they formed an eggy cross. Tim has a great picture of this accompanying his recipe. Oh, and don’t forget when you put the eggs in to make marks on your pie dish so you can cut the Gala Pie open to best effect!

I continued to carefully add more forcemeat, a spoonful at a time, keeping the eggs in their cruciform arrangement and lined up with their marks, and trying to keep from creating air pockets.  Even with shaping a slight mound, I still had a bit of forcemeat leftover, which made a delicious brunch when fried for a few minutes on each side and accompanied by a fried egg and a slice of toast.

The pie filled with forcemeat and eggs, the edges of the pastry brushed with beaten egg

The pie filled with forcemeat and eggs, the edges of the pastry brushed with beaten egg

After rolling out the pastry lid, and brushing beaten egg around the periphery, I pressed it into place. I cut a hole in the center of the lid, then used a pair of scissors to trim the edges of the pastry seam, and then shaped a nice crimped edge with my fingers, and finally brushed it all over with beaten egg.

It was handsome, but I’d been dreaming of adding a bit of fancy to this pie, so I used the leftover scraps of pastry to shape some leaves, vines, and berries, which I affixed to the lid of the pie with extra beaten egg.

The top of the as-yet unbaked Gala Pie

The top of the as-yet unbaked Gala Pie

Oh, it’s already so fine!

You can see the marks I made on the side of the pan with a marker in this view

You can see the marks I made on the side of the pan with a marker in this view

I baked the pie in a 350° oven for 90 minutes, and it came out looking impossibly, deliciously beautiful:

The Gala Pie finished baking

The Gala Pie finished baking

By now it was early afternoon, and my mushroom-hunting plans involved a long drive, so I gave up my plans to finish the pie and take it with us. I set the pie to cool, and left for a deeply pleasurable meander in one of my favorite old woods with my farmer-goddess friend, and we found that the rain-washed forest was full of mushrooms. A beautiful pile of chanterelles, and a whole variety of boletes to spore-print and identify, and farmer-goddess found her very favorite prized chaga mushroom! A long, sweet drive home, and we agreed to meet for our Gala Pie picnic the next day.

Can you identify this handsome burgundy mushroom? We think it's a type of bolete.

Can you identify this handsome burgundy mushroom? I think it might be a young bolete of some sort..

By the time I got home, late, the pie had cooled completely, and it was time to unlatch the springform and look at the whole pie.  I found that the crust inside the pan was still a bit pale, and so I put the naked pie in a very hot oven for around 20 minutes; this crisped and colored the crust nicely. I set the pie to cool again, and went to bed.

The next day was busy. Upon waking I heated up the pig’s foot jelly and found a small funnel, then carried out the painstaking last step of filling the gaps inside the pie with jelly. Into the ‘fridge to set, and the work day commenced.  Once all the packing, chores, sundry appointments and such were finished, farmer-goddess arrived and we once again set off, this time with a picnic cooler full of savory porky extravagance along with some beers, pickles, mustard, and cider. And chocolate. And fruit.

One funny thing: before we headed to the spot I’d thought of for our picnic, I had a last appointment to see about temporary housing. Remember I said I need to move on the 27th of September? We got to the office of the woman in charge of these house rentals, and I had a great meeting with her. We discussed the particulars, exchanged contact information, and shook hands. I was leaving, and suddenly I turned back and asked her in a rush: “Wanna see my Gala Pie?” It’s a testament to what an excellent individual she is that she grinned and answered, “Yes!” So we went out and I showed her the pie all fine in the picnic cooler. She was really impressed, and I was beaming. Another round of hand-shaking, and the goddess and I were off.

While we hadn’t planned on more mushroom hunting, we found some really interesting specimens as we drove to the meadow where we’d be having our tailgate pie picnic, including one giant bolete, which I’m almost certain was a king bolete.

Could this be the prized king bolete, the cep, the porcini, or as we call it in Denmark, the Karl Johan?

Could this be the prized king bolete, the cep, the porcini, or as we call it in Denmark, the Karl Johan?

Turning down a dirt track and driving through a high meadow filled with a profusion of late summer wildflowers, lots of goldenrod, milkweed, and purple aster, we finally got to the perfect spot and set up our picnic on the tailgate of my truck.

The Gala Pie, along ith mustards, pickles, beer, cider, along with some fruit and a bit of chocolate

The Gala Pie, along with mustards, pickles, beer, cider, as well as some fruit and a bit of chocolate

Now came the moment I’d been looking most forward to, cutting into the pie. Would it look as splendid as I imagined? Would it be tasty? Would farmer goddess like it?

The Gala Pie sees first light! Sliced in half, the eggs look fantastic, and the meat looks yummy.

The Gala Pie sees first light!

We were both on tenterhooks as I sliced, and when I pulled the pie apart we both made happy exclamations of amazement. Farmer goddess breathed, “Wow.” I was enthralled and giggling.  I cut one of the halves in half again, and then cut one of the quarter pies in half again, giving each of us a slice.

These slices resemble alien anime pork pie beings, n'est-ce pas?

These slices resemble alien anime pork pie beings, n'est-ce pas?

The pig’s foot jelly sparkled in the late afternoon sun, and we each took a few of last year’s cornichons and some mustard.

How great is the pickle lifter? Even though Maille-brand cornichons are a bit spendy, the jar with pickle-lifter are worth it

How great is the pickle lifter? Even though Maille-brand cornichons are a bit spendy, the jar and pickle-lifter are worth it.

We decided that next time we’d bring forks, but this time we just used a knife to cut each of our slice into bite-sized pieces, and our fingers. The sharp English mustard was my favorite, while farmer goddess preferred my own home-made Dijon with green peppercorns. Both of us agreed that the pickles were the perfect bright foil for this splendidly luxurious pie.

We kicked back for a little while, munching on grapes and chocolate, quietly marveling at the glory of the pie, as the full moon rose.

Cheese shmeese. The moon is clearly a shining golden Gala Pie.

Cheese shmeese. The moon is clearly a shining golden Gala Pie.

Posted in bacon, charcuterie, pork, trotter | Tagged , , , , | 43 Comments

Chicken Liver Pots & Three-fish Terrine

The last week, in fact –this whole summer– has been intensely busy. This past week was made super sparkly with the added pleasures of good company from NYC and a few fun day trips on top of seemingly endless harvest and veggie prep, baking for market, etc. All this fun meant that once again I’m right up to the wire: 34 minutes left to post! So let’s get right to it.

A bowl of pumpkin seeds (pepitas)

A bowl of pumpkin seeds (pepitas)

I decided to make pots de chicken liver mousse, essentially Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s chicken liver and apple terrine in little ramekins, or pots. I also decided to make a seafood terrine with three fish: salmon, shrimp, and cod. And to enjoy these tasty bits with, I made a good crusty baguette from local Vermont wheat and oats as well as a batch of Danish hazelnut & pumpkinseed crackers.

The first thing I did this afternoon was to invite my pals Jenn & Mandy for dinner.  To make this all mousse-making and terrine-building happen in a timely fashion, I’d need the added inspiration that inviting good friends over always brings to a task.

The second task, pictured above, was to shell a half cup of pumpkin seeds, since the local store doesn’t carry the already shelled kind! It was worth it as the crackers turned out wonderfully: crispy, nutty, and particularly nice with the chicken liver mousse, along with either a bit of cornichon or a bite of pruneaux à l’Armagnac.

In between mousse and terrine making, I baked a really good baguette, as well as the crackers.

Home-made hazelnut & pumpkinseed crackers just out of the oven

Home-made hazelnut & pumpkinseed crackers just out of the oven

Then I started on the three-fish seafood terrine.  First I blitzed each of the three main ingredients: the salmon, the shrimp, and the cod. To the cod I added a bunch of parsley, and each one was blitzed for anywhere fro 3 to 4 minutes, and the salmon and shrimp each became smooth and pasty, but the cod never did break down as smoothly, perhaps because it was a piece of previously frozen fish?

Blitzing the salmon

Blitzing the salmon

Here are each of the seafoods after being blitzed, and with the addition of salt, white pepper, and part of the whipping cream:

The three bowls of blized fish/seafood puree

The three bowls of blized fish/seafood puree

Then the other half of the cream was whisked until just before it could form peaks, and this was added to the fish purees as well. Each was layered into a well-buttered loaf pan, covered with tin-foil, placed in a bain-marie, and then into a 300° oven for approximately 55 minutes.

Finally I tackled the little pots de chicken liver. As I mentioned above, I followed Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s recipe, and it was both straightforward to make and delicious.  I started by frying the livers and then the apples in butter.

Chicken livers patted dry and fried in butter with chopped apple

Chicken livers patted dry and fried in butter with chopped apple

I continued to follow Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s recipe, adding spices and seasoning to the mousse, a bit of Armagnac, along with gelatine and lots of sweet cream butter. I decided to chill and ultimately serve these in little ramekins. Next time I might try to unmold them from a fancy form, but today it was ramekins.

My friends arrived just after the seafood terrine went in the oven, and when I checked the little pots of chicken liver mousse, they were firmed up!  We took are first taste and agreed it was a very smooth and yummy liver mousse, and good with both the prunes and the cornichons.

Dinner of chicken liver mousse, cornichons, prunes in Armagnac, with a freshly baked baguette and home-made crackers

Dinner of chicken liver mousse, cornichons, prunes in Armagnac, with a freshly baked baguette and home-made crackers

Soon after, the seafood terrine came out of the oven, and we decided to taste some warm. It tastes excellent, and the texture was really superb and light, but it didn’t hold together well at all. I need to work on my seafood terrine technique!

My three-fish seafood terrine didn't hold together well but tasted fantastic

My three-fish seafood terrine didn't hold together well but tasted fantastic

I just had a second slice, cooled somewhat, and it still doesn’t adhere together, but holy moly it’s tasty! I really want to try this again, and get it right.

Altogether it was a more hurried and last minute project than I’d like, but it’s what I could manage this month, and I know the leftovers will be making my mouth & belly happy for a few days to come.

This chicken-liver mousse is so delicious!

Posted in charcutepalooza, charcuterie, liver, nose-to-tail | Tagged , , , , | 6 Comments

Hot Dog Days of Summer

I’m from Denmark, and in Denmark we really love our hot dogs. There are pølsevogn –mobile hot dog stands– sprinkled around in cities and big and small towns. My old favorite used to be two reds with two rolls on the side, with ketchup, both strong and sweet mustard, and crispy fried onions. Reds are really long, skinny, and, as the name implies, dyed a delicious shade of red. They’re wonderfully crisp and juicy, and make a perfect on-the-go meal anytime.

a danish hot dog stand

A typical Danish hot dog vendor, this one parked in the Nørrebro section of Copenhagen

I was looking very forward to this challenge, but it nearly got the best of me –a lot of family obligations and farm-garden work, so the days slipped by very quickly and all of a sudden it was two days before the ‘palooza deadline, and when I finally got around to starting the project, a perfect storm of other tasks dropped in my lap, and I felt so overwhelmed by it all that I nearly gave up. Actually, I sort of did: hot-dog making day was planned for Thursday and after getting my workspace in order I despaired and took to my sofa, certain I couldn’t get it all done. However, Friday morning dawned and I got up an hour later than usual, but feeling much more positive, and so today I got a dozen loaves of bread baked for market, trimmed and blanched five quarts of snow peas, and two quarts of spinach, got to market on time and sold out of bread, AND I made hot dogs, and I think this blog post will be done before midnight 😉

So summer has been hectic. I’d originally wanted to make the Chicago-style all-beef dogs from Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing, and then a Danish-style pork dog –maybe even a bright red one! And I also wanted to order a huggable kissable beef bung and make mortadella in addition, but with one thing and another I’m only making these Chicago-style beef dogs, and I’m right up to the wire at that.

set up for grinding beef short rib meat

The new meat-grinding & stuffing set-up

I made a small but significant adjustment in my grinding and stuffing station by placing the KitchenAid about a foot lower than it had been. This made a huge difference in my comfort level; since I do virtually all of my work from a seated position, feeding the grinding and stuffing tube was making my shoulders hurt. The new setup allows me far better and more comfortable access.

beef hot dog forcemeat emulsion

The emulsified forcemeat for Chicago-style beef short rib meat hot dogs

I’ve made emulsified forcemeat before, and the only tricky bit is making sure that you’ve got adequate freezer space to chill ingredients, and in general that your workspace is super organized before you start.

Stuffing the meat emulsion into lamb casings using a KitchenAid stuffer attachment

Stuffing the meat emulsion into lamb casings using a KitchenAid stuffer attachment

The picture above looks so neat and pristine; I snapped the picture before I actually started the stuffing process. I can tell you that stuffing sticky meat emulsion into lamb casings using the stuffer attachment to a KitchenAid is a bona fide pain in the ass: the forcemeat is super sticky, you’re trying to work fast to keep the forcemeat chilled so it doesn’t break, and I found that I needed a good narrow spatula in addition to the wooden stuffer tool, and I needed to bring all of my deftness to bear, and even then it was dirty, sticky, painstaking mess. Worth it, but one of these days I’d like me one of those proper sausage stuffers!

The hot dogs twisted into pretty links

The hot dogs twisted into pretty links

After all the forcemeat was in the casing, I twisted the slim sausage into links, and put them into the fridge. Then it was a quick shower, and dashing off to market to sell bread.

French-style 10-grain loaves for market

French-style 10-grain loaves for market

I got home from market at around 8pm, and got the chilled hot dogs into the smoker, which I’d prepped with hickory sawdust before I’d left.  The internal temp of the dogs reached 140° F in a generous half hour, and then into an ice bath to chill quickly, and after setting a few aside to cook for dinner, the rest are bagged and in the freezer.  Success!

Dinner of hot dogs, bread, ketchup, mustard, and minced onions

Dinner of hot dogs, bread, ketchup, mustard, and minced onions

And so a bit of delicious dinner was had, and this post is nearly done and it’s only 11:13! One nifty feature of this dinner is that I’ve made everything on the plate: I baked the bread, made the ketchup and mustard, made the hot dogs, and grew the onion!

Okay, time to proof this one last time, hit publish, and curl up with Mouse (my kitty).

Posted in beef, charcuterie, sausage, Smoke | Tagged , , , , , , | 15 Comments

Merguez: Sausages & Stories

Spices on offer at a North African market

A dazzling display of spices and herbs at a Maghreb market stall

The June Charcutepalooza challenge involves stuffing ones choice of sausage forcemeat into casings, and I’ve chosen to make merguez since I have an inordinate fondness for the strong taste of mutton, particularly when it is combined with the richly spicy and fruity-peppery flavors of North Africa.

When I say mutton, I mean mutton, not lamb.  Lamb is very nice, but I tend to prefer more mature meats in general.  Mutton is meat from an older sheep and has a stronger and more delicious sheepy flavor than milder-tasting lamb. This particular mutton comes from my old friends Mary and Bob Pratt at Elihu Farm, two of the smartest, warmest, loveliest farmers I know.

Merguez, for which there are several spellings in Arabic (mirkas (ﻤﺮﻛﺲ),  mirkās (ﻤﺮﻛﺎﺱ), markas (ﻤﺭﻛﺲ) and mirqāz (ﻤﺮﻗﺲ) is a mutton or mutton and beef sausage made and eaten all over the Maghreb, and is especially popular in Tunisia, where it is thought to originate, and Morocco.  Though the first written recipe for merguez sausage is in an anonymous thirteenth-century Hispano-Muslim cookery book, I chose to make this first batch according (roughly) to the recipe in Brian Polcyn and Michael Ruhlman’s Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing.

During the last month or so, I’ve been thinking a lot about the stories which are associated with the things we do, particularly with the things we love to do.  For instance, knitting.  When I knit a sock or a hat or a beautiful scarf, whatever I’m thinking about or watching or listening to while knitting gets incorporated into the garment, so that when I pull on, for instance, my lovely green Hedgerow sock, I recall the apartment where I lived, the Anne Linnet CD that I was listening to, and my then obsession with David Tenant in his role as Doctor Who, all of which formed the context in which I knit that specific sock.

It’s the same for me when I prepare food which will be stored, either in vacuum sealed jars in my larder, in my freezer, or in jewel-like bottles containing liquors, vinegars, and flower and herb-scented syrups.  All of these are created within a context which can include delicious novels, New Yorker articles, Star Trek episodes, early music programmes, conversations with friends or family –any number of events can form a distinct provenance, memories simmered or ground or stirred into a dish –become part of a little narrative– which later I might recall as I eat or share the food.

Piles of spices: salt, sugar, green pepper, paprika, marjoram

The spices & seasonings for my Merguez sausage: salt, sugar, paprika, green pepper, pepper flakes, and marjoram

This batch of sausage will be eaten over the next several months, and when I eat it I will surely think about the peonies which are currently exploding over at Harmony Farm, the home of my largest garden (not to mention my dear friends). And I’ll think about the adventure-filled road-trip I just took to hear the Russian quartet at my beloved monastery, New Skete, about the pomegranate liquor which Brother Marc sent home with me –delicious!

My sausage making setup with a bowl of stuffed merguez

Stuffing the merguez forcemeat into lamb casings

So, as usual I tweaked the recipe a bit: I used a mix of sweet and half-sharp paprika, with a bit of smoked paprika as well. I think I tripled or quadrupled the amount of paprika overall. The marjoram & oregano in my gardens are still small, but I have a nice large bag of dried marjoram from last year’s garden, and that worked fine.  I also added a bit of harissa for heat and flavor, and a bit of lemony sumac for brightness. I used store-bought roasted peppers, and more garlic than the original recipe called for. Also, I scaled the recipe up for 5lbs of meat, since that’s what I had.

The meat and spices spent the night in the refrigerator to give the flavors plenty of time to permeate the meat. In the morning, after frying off a little rissole and tasting, I added a bit more harissa and pepper, and then proceeded to stuff the forcemeat into lamb casings using my KitchenAid sausage-stuffer attachment.

A bowl of merguez forcemeat stuffed into lamb casings

A bowl of merguez forcemeat stuffed into lamb casings

After finishing the stuffing, I twisted the sausages into links, and bagged them in meal-sized portions for the freezer.

Merguez sausage twisted into links

Merguez sausage twisted into links

I’m at mom’s now, and the charcoal is settling into embers out in the grill.  I’ve made a beautiful big bowl of tabouleh salad, and I have a mess of green and red sweet peppers which I’ll be grilling, along with the sausage.  My brother and I are sitting in the cool dim dining room, sipping iced coffee and each tending to our digital bits.

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Green and red peppers roasting on the grill

Green and red peppers roasting on the grill

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San & mor cleaning the grilled peppers

San & mor cleaning the grilled peppers

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Merguez sausage cooking on the grill. They're perfect in this photo ..

Merguez sausage cooking on the grill. They're perfect in this photo ..

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Dinner: tabouleh, grilled peppers, over-cooked merguez sausage and mom's bread

Dinner: tabouleh, grilled peppers, merguez sausage and mom's bread. The sausage is *just* overcooked ..

P.S. Giant love to my bulky, cheesy, winey sweet-hearts at the Co-op 🙂

Posted in charcuterie, lamb, nose-to-tail, sausage | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 18 Comments

Master Butcher Cole Ward Offers A Meat Cutting Workshop *Updated*

Hands-On Class for Meat Lovers!

                      Master Butcher (and my meat-cutting mentor) Cole Ward

New  dates –see below!

Renowned butcher, culinary mastermind, and my teacher Cole Ward is sharing his coveted butchering skills with fellow meat lovers June 25-26 during an informational and hands-on two-day seminar in Enosburg Falls, VT

Ranked among the top 50 butchers in the United States, Ward’s master butchering technique has played a pivotal role in the craft’s re-emergence onto today’s modern culinary scene. 
Vermont’s own Gourmet Butcher will get up close and personal with registered guests as he teaches participants how to master the art of butchering beef and pork. During the two-day seminar attendees will divide their days between preparing sausage, butchering pork and both beef hindquarters and forequarters into primal, retail and gourmet cuts.

Honing his craft for the greater part of the past four decades, Ward began his impressive career at the tender age of 14. Working part-time in a butcher shop stuffing sausages for 20 cents an hour, it wasn’t long before Ward began apprenticing full time.

His passion for butchering has led to a highly publicized and rewarding career, recently releasing a highly acclaimed DVD series The Gourmet Butcher: From Farm to Table which walks viewers through the butchering process from primal cut to gourmet meal.
As an increasing number of Americans seek out the provenance of the meat they consume, there is no greater transparency available today than butchering meat oneself.

Don’t miss out on this unforgettable seminar which will take place at 6235 Chester Arthur Road, Enosburg Falls, Vermont. With only 40 slots available, spaces are limited. Secure your place today by registering via email at thebutcher@thegourmetbutcher.com and please include your name, address and phone number.

Where:
6235 Chester Arthur Rd
Enosburg Falls, VT 05450

Cost: $250.00 prepaid.  Check should be sent to:

Cole Ward The Gourmet Butcher 
P O Box 18 
Johnson, VT 05656
Registration will be confirmed once payment is received.

Class Schedule:

Saturday June 25th: 
Morning Session: Butcher Pork into primal, retail and gourmet cuts 
Afternoon Session: Sausage preparation
Sunday, June 26th 
Morning Session: Butcher Beef Hindquarter into primal, retail and gourmet cuts 
Afternoon Session: Butcher Beef Forequarter into primal, retail and gourmet cuts.

Do bring a small cooler as cuts of beef and pork will be divided among those in the class.

For more information on the Gourmet Butcher, check out Cole’s Blog here!

You can also reach Cole by phone at:
(802) 933-5811 or (802) 881-1468

If you would like to schedule butchering or a meat cutting class at your place, contact Cole for details. He has the equipment, the skills, loves to show how he does the art of meat cutting and will travel to your farm or home.

For those of you who are too far away or can’t make it June 25th and 26th, check out Cole’s excellent Gourmet Butcher DVD series about meat cutting.

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