You are currently browsing the monthly archive for December 2010.

Weighed the cheeks today and they’ve each lost about 15% of their weight after hanging for 6 days. I also made 12 links of saucisson sec, a basic French dry sausage, on Saturday night. Simply seasoned with black peppercorns and garlic, Ruhlman describes it as tasting “like the French countryside.” Sold.

I picked up 4 pork cheeks (along with some shoulder, fatback, and sausage casings for my next project) from Baringer Bros. meats at the Allentown Farmer’s Market last week. I’ll do 2 cheeks to start and the other 2 in a couple months. Apparently the flavor is intense and a little goes a long way. Here is a condensed version of my prep. Consult Ruhlman’s Charcuterie for detailed instructions.

Step 1 – The obligatory and clichéd wearing of the cheek on your face like Hannibal Lecter.

Steps 2-4 – Trim off the skin, any stray sinew and fat. Combine with salt, sugar, garlic, pepper and fresh thyme. Refrigerate for 6 days.

Steps 5-6 – Remove from fridge, rinse off seasonings and pat dry. Punch a hole near the top and loop a string through for hanging. I had seen a preparation where the cheek was trussed with a sprig of rosemary so I copied it. Looks nicer and smells better. You can see that they’re firmer as they’re not laying flat onto the cutting board. Each lost an ounce of liquid during the curing. We’re looking for an overall loss of 30% of the starting weight.

Step 7 – Hung in the cellar. I attached tags onto which i can write the weights every 4-5 days. The aroma is a little pungent right now but it will get better as the water leaves. I’m hoping these are edible by New Year’s.

I really appreciate the drive to DIY before reaching for the credit card. There are certainly plenty of house/yard projects I have to hire someone for, but my first thought is always “Can I do it myself?”

When it comes to food, I understand my limitations and have enormous appreciation for skilled chefs and a good restaurant experience, hence this blog. That being said, I’m also somewhat frugal and am always looking to have a home dining experience that feels a step above the norm. It’s not only the result that I love – enjoying the process is key. And while cooking and baking can take up to a few hours per recipe, long-term recipes offer a whole different level of satisfaction.

Three time-intensive foods – wine, cheese and cured meat – also happen to be our idea of a heavenly meal. And I’m excited to say I’m close to achieving that trifecta at home.

I started winemaking a few years ago and have made cheese the last couple summers. Wines take a good two months from fermentation to bottling – plus at least 6 months of aging if you so choose. I’ve only attempted fresh cheese so far (mozzarella, chevre, feta and ricotta) which take a few hours to a few days. The next step would be aged cheeses (maybe brie or bleu) but the kits I’ve seen are a bit pricey. So I’m skipping ahead to salted, cured meats – aka charcuterie.

Inspired mainly by watching too much Anthony Bourdain, I started some research a couple months back and found that my basement conditions in winter are close to perfect. It’s an uninsulated stone foundation and sits right around 57º through March. We have a tiny room in the basement that had once housed a toilet and maybe a sink. The room had been partitioned with paneling that had taken on a fair amount of water damage at the base over the decades. We knew the whole setup was a mess but hadn’t touched it since we moved in almost 5 years ago. Now I had the perfect motivation.

I tore the walls down and poured a concrete slab on top of which the new walls would sit. This is the lowest spot in the basement and I don’t want any leaks damaging the new walls or spawning mold or mildew. I put up new studs and concrete backer board, and painted the brick wall and floor with mildew-resistant masonry paint. The new walls are covered in glossy white tile. The ceiling was the challenge. I originally wanted to enclose the pipes to keep the room as clean as possible. I decided the pipes were OK and hung a pine ceiling in 3 pieces to fit snugly around them. Twenty steel hooks were the final touch and I’m ready to hang some meat. I received Michael Ruhlman’s Charcuterie for my birthday last month and have decided to start with guanciale.

RSS Go feed yourself

  • hummus heaped with tomatoes and cucumbers
    Like clockwork every summer, I decide that the only thing I want to eat, maybe forever because when it’s warm out I completely forget winter is coming (I’m sorry, I had to), are variations on tomato-cucumber salad. We did a world tour of these last year and it might take me another decade of Smitten Kitchen-ing but I will get to them all. Left to our own dev […]

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 5 other followers