Saturday, June 26, 2010

Beef Bungs

Even though the sound of it is something quite atrocious, I couldn't resist when I saw it in a sausage making catalogue. I was frankly taken aback when I noticed one end is closed. How does the ordure go through then? I need a little bovine anatomy lesson, I think.

In the meantime, we have serious massive salame. One weighs 3 1/2 pounds the other 5. Luckily I have gotten quite proficient at cutting up pork shoulder with a Chinese cleaver. The key is being semi-frozen (the meat, not you!) and a really sharp blade. The thinnest cuts are a breeze. It took me maybe 20 minutes to cut then chop all this into fine pulp. And no funnel is needed, you just put it in by the handful. Takes 30 seconds. Into the smaller is a combination of salt, maple sugar (which works very nicely for the ferment, easier to break down than regular sugar I think) with sage and thyme. The bigger is picante. Here's the proportions: 3 tbs maple sugar, 3 tbs sea salt, 1 tsp instacure #2, a tablespoon each of chipotle powder and smoked pimenton de la Vera. And on a whim a good handful of tarragon. I was thinking Spain I guess. The best part was tying them up! Seriously.

The cost is really pretty reasonable. The pork was $2.99 a pound, times 8 1/2 lbs of pork, about $25. The bung was $10. So $35 for what will be about 7 pounds of salame after drying is about $5 a pound. Not bad at all, considering real cured salame is around $20 or more. And if I had a bigger "cave" I bet I could have used the whole bung and fit at least 10 lbs of meat in it. Someday. Actually I'm thinking a huge mortadella.

The first image was non-descript and white, so I replaced it with this one. After 24 hours, it is a stunning deep red. Not only did I find the lovely word cul-de-sac, which is what the caecum means, indeed an opening on one end only. But even better, I learned from Joan Alcock's paper for Oxford on sausages that the ancients had a word FUNDOLUS, in Varro especially, which means blind end, dead end, only one opening, The Very Same Bung Sausage Indeed.
The most amazing thing I've noticed after a day: you can clearly see the string support system that I tied. But the beeves have their own internal suports too, beaneath the casing, if you look closely. and nothing to do with mine. Beautiful I think.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Fresh Chickpeas

Have you experienced this strange phenomenon? Someone mentions something to you and then you see it absolutely everywhere. A couple of weeks ago John T. Edge asked me a question about chickpeas. Basically does hummus originate in the Fertile Crescent? Chickpeas of course do. But then I got thinking. Sesame seeds are African. Lemons are East Asian and don't get to the Mediterranean until classical times. So sure, it may come from the Middle East, but probably no easlier than medieval times. (Incidentally I think his article is in the Times now). So it is, here:
Anyway, suddenly I'm seeing chickpeas everywhere. In magazines, in the article on Palestine for my monster encyclopedia. On TV. On the shopping list. "Now get a hold of yourself Brody, you ain't a chickpea." "What's all this talk about chickpeas Doc?"
So there they were in the market. In a neat pile. Fresh green chickpeas in the pod. They look like little green elf shoes with one or two peas "in the pod" as we swamees say. So I gets an idea to make the ur hummus. Blanched briefly and then pounded in a mortar with just parsley and salt. Really quite fetching. Real fresh beany flavor, without the noise of tahini, lemon and garlic.
But the apotheosis is different, shown above. Just rolled the stuff up in little balls and gently pan fried until crisp on the outside, soft inside. Proto-felafel. A little delicate and probably would have worked better as a pancake. But that's another story.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Tonno Sott'Olio

I have so many intriguing pictures of projects in process. I am waiting for the goose parts until they've fully cured. The goose cracklings and rendered fat pictures are seriously sexy. And alas I missed taking a shot of bastirma brought camping this weekend. Fresh sourdough flat breads cooked (ok, slightly burned) on a hot griddle, yoghurt and tahini with cukes, sour pickles. It was nice.
But I came home to this. Trust me, it is worth doing. Go to a good Japanese grocery store and buy a cut of sushi grade albacore tuna. I've never seen it before at our local Sakura. It was labeled ahi, yellow fin, and albacore, though I'm not sure it's really the same species that goes into a can as solid white tuna. We're talking a huge fish, not something you pick up on a fishing trip. Well, maybe you do, and if so, please bring me along.
Take this and salt it well. Nothing more. Leave it for a week. No, I take that back. Look at the picture! Peppered well. And put under weight in the fridge for a week, turned every day.
Then smoke gently over a smouldering oak log for about 15 minutes. Let cool. Place under oil in little glass jars. I know you scientist geeks will tell me to pressure cook at 8,000 pounds pressure in an industrial strength canner. I'm only keeping this for another week, in the fridge, not on the shelf.
It reminded me of two things. Tuna in a can, really incredibly solid and mild flavored. Nothing like good European tuna in a can like Flotta or A's do Mar which is decidedly fishy. And it also reminded me of smoked whitefish, which my mother tells me was my favorite food as a baby. She would break it up, put it on my high chair and leave me for hours to savor it slowly. Apparently kept me quiet! It still would today if I could find anything like it here in the wasteland of the Central Valley. Seriously I've never seen it for sale anywhere in California.
Anyway, this tasted just like it, but not quite as oily. I am about to have it again for dinner right now. I'd give me at least an hour. Preferably in the high chair.