Friday, January 29, 2010

Charcuterie in the middle of a storm

It's an El Nino year, the weather pattern that repeats every seven years and brings a lot of water to our otherwise dry coastal desert. The last storm went on for two weeks, with the water pouring down from the sky continuously, the roofs leaking, ponds and creeks overflowing, highways flooded, visibility zero or less, and driving a nightmare. Stay home and cook. I used the time to do more charcuterie.
This time I used lots of herbs and spices on both my duck legs confit and the bacon, with mixed results. The bacon cured for 6 days with sea salt, sugar, a dash of pink salt (sodium nitrite), torn bay leaves, rosemary, thyme, garlic, and black pepper, then slowly oven-roasted at 200 degrees (no smoking), developed a deep and interesting flavor. On the other hand, the same spices (minus sugar) made almost no difference for the duck legs.
After I cured the legs with salts and spices for about 24 hours, rinsed, dried, let rest for an hour at room temperature, then slowly cooked them in mixed duck and goose fat in a Dutch oven for a couple of hours, and then seared them over high heat in a skillet, the confit didn't taste much different from the previous batch made with just salt and pepper. The duck flavor and the salts overpower all the spices.

For smoked beef sausages I used 2/3 beef chuck and 1/3 pork belly, ground through a small die and seasoned with salt, pink salt, sugar, pepper, rosemary, juniper berries, and red wine. Stuffed in hog casing and tied into handsome rings, dried at room temperature for a couple of hours, then smoked in my water-smoker for two hours over apple wood chips. The sausages came out pretty dry, fully cooked, and tasting very meaty and savory.

They are good sliced thinly as a part of our late-night cheese and fruit board. I have also cut them into thick chunks and fried them with bacon and potatoes, and chopped them for a pasta with cauliflower and cavolo nero (drop them in hot water for a few seconds to loosen the casing, then peel it off).

The salted duck breasts hang dry-curing, wrapped in cheesecloth and tied with kitchen string, in my outside laundry closet right now. The temperature in the 50-ies and the high humidity are perfect. I'll try them in one or two days.

Another storm is coming.

1 comment:

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