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I had a bit of email dialogue with Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn, authors of Charcuterie, to try to solve a problem with my first batch of saucisson sec. The flavor, color, and texture were great. But most of the links had air pockets running through their centers. On each of the three pieces below, you can see how the fibers stretch across the gap, as though the denser areas on either side of the gap pulled away from each other as the top and bottom collapsed inward.

Brian felt strongly that my auger-style sausage stuffer (a KitchenAid attachment) was introducing air into the sausage. He recommended switching to a plunger-style model or pressing the links like one would press sopressata. Since part of my reason for starting charcuterie (and cheese- and winemaking) is to save money, I don’t think i’m going to shell out for a $200 stuffer. I’ll keep my eye on Craigslist though.

Having used the KitchenAid stuffer a few times, I’m stubbornly convinced I’m not introducing air into the sausage. Trying to be scientific about it, I’ve made a second batch, changing only one aspect of my process. The sausages shown above were cured in 25-30% humidity, and I should have had it near 70% for the first week to slow down the drying. I really didn’t think it would be a problem with such small-diameter links.

I hesitate to set up the humidifier in such a small room in case I overdo it, so I’ve set up several large buckets of water and have been misting the room and the links several times a day and have been able to get the humidity to 50%. They’ve been hanging for a week and don’t seem to be shrinking quite as quickly as the previous batch. And no mold from the excess moisture so that’s good. I added a splash of vinegar to the spray bottle to keep the pH down and inhibit any undesirable microbes.

I’ve also started a nice piece of Bresaola. It will be in the fridge for another week before I hang it. The diameter is closer to 3 inches, so I’ll have to get the humidity up near 70% to prevent case hardening.


Just got a rave review of Half Moon Restaurant & Saloon in Kennett Square, PA from my pops. Lots of Belgian beer and wild game. Sounds good to me.

We were heading over to the Regal Cinemas on 248 to see Black Swan last weekend and were looking to grab a quick bite. We stopped for gas at the Wawa just on the other side of Rt 33 and noticed Cici’s Pizza in the little strip mall next door. A couple slices of pizza takes no time at all so we zoomed over. As we walked in we realized Cici’s is a pizza buffet. Perfect! This will be even faster – no perusing the selections or waiting for the slices to heat up!

It wasn’t until after I happily handed over $15 for the two of us that I noticed all the kids. There is generally an inverse relationship between the quantity of children and the quality of the food. Still, as we hit the buffet line, the pizza looked really good (though I was starving). I grabbed 4 different slices and hurriedly sat down so I could get my fill as the movie time ticked ever closer.

The pizza wasn’t awful. But it was bad (which is better than awful in my precise rating system). Spongy and bland are the two best descriptors. Some slices were better than others – the sausage (with preformed meat marbles) and the Sicilian spinach alfredo had a bit more flavor. I know that you get what you pay for and that I shouldn’t expect quality from a cheap buffet seemingly run by 15-year-olds.

My guess is that the company’s goal is to offer pizza that is interesting enough for parents yet soft and palatable enough for kids. We took a chance and now we know better. And so do you.

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    Most conversations about shrubs go like this. “Wait, like the green bushy things that grow in the ground?” “No, it’s a drink.” “A leafy drink?” “No, it’s actually just three ingredients — fruit, sugar, and vinegar…” “Wait, you drink vinegar? Why would you drink vinegar?” “Well, we love sour things like lemon and lime in drinks, they complement sweet flavors… […]

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