Charcutepalooza: Dry Curing

To say this challenge made me anxious would be an understatement. I almost didn’t do this one due to finances and the lack of a controlled environment. While other Charcutepaloozers detailed the old refrigerators and wine coolers they’d repurposed for meat curing or fussed for placement in their neighbor’s cellar, I looked around my apartment in despair. While we might live in the unicorn of NYC apartments we certainly don’t have the room or funds for any of the above. I don’t know if I even know anyone with a cellar. I don’t think I’ve ever lived anywhere where I knew anyone with a celler. Certainly not LA (earthquakes) or New Orleans (floods)  And certainly not in NYC (all the apartments!). At least, none where I’d trust any food. Euch.

So, the music closet got commandeered once more. As with when I made duck prosciutto, I got to utter the phrase “There is meat hanging in the music closet” which amuses me to no end.  My mental visual of guitars and amps and sausage hanging out together is really way more amusing than the reality, but who cares. Hilarious. And it seems to work! We rarely open that closet and it’s really the only place in the apartment that isn’t constantly being accessed. It shall now be dubbed the Meat/Music Closet. Which sounds like a weird band and I’m OK with that.

At the very last minute I decided to suck it up and try this challenge anyhow. While I might not be eligible for the grand prize, due to starting a month late, I want to see this out til the end. And I needed to vindicate myself after the hot dog disaster in July. The Kitchen Aid stuffer attachment is still The Worst and I kicked myself at 1am, after 3 hours of stuffing, for not renting a machine from the Brooklyn Kitchen. Because they do nifty things like that. Also, their classes are freaking excellent. The knife skills classes I took there revolutionized my cooking.  But anyhow. This stuffing process went SO much better than the previous times. So much. I might be getting the hang of this thing.

I decided to do both lardo and saucisson sec for a few reasons. Primarily, because I was cutting the deadline so tight, I wanted to make sure I had something to show for this. Also because I really wanted to be able to eat something from this challenge and trying 2 different methods of dry cure would ensure that at least one thing would turn out, right? And my pig guys happened to have some really nice fat back for me when I went to get the shoulder for the saucisson. And, if it hasn’t become apparent through this process, I want to eat all the things. ALL THE THINGS.

The saucisson sec was the usual slog with grinding and stuffing through the Kitchen Aid. But they got stuffed! And hung! And left to do their thing.

Weight Roundup

round- day hung: 11.8oz (12); end weight: 10.4 oz

2pc with skinny bit- day hung:13.2 oz (14); end weight: 10.1 oz

2pc decent- day hung:15.70z (16); end weight: 13.8 oz

Which means I needed to take them down when they were  about 9oz, 10oz and 11oz,  respectively. Even today, a little over 3 weeks after they were hung, they’re still pretty wet and squishy. So, I don’t have any “ta-da!” pictures for you, but you can at least see where it’s at for now. I might cut into the closest-to-finished one at the end of today and I’ll keep you updated. But for now, there’s no green or white mold  and that’s a win in my book.

The lardo, however, was slightly trickier, First of all the only weights I had were hand weights for working out , so they weren’t exactly the most even of pressure. As I had a small piece of fat, it didn’t seem to matter so much. It mostly just looked silly.  I left the piece in salt maybe a bit too long for its size, but I wanted to be sure it would be OK. Lardo is particularly sensitive to light and I wanted to make sure I didn’t screw it up too badly from the outset. I bought fancy cheesecloth and used herbs from our CSA and, as mentioned above, fat back from Flying Pigs Farm.

But it worked! Hung for 24 days and it is slightly squishy and fatty and salty and everything you want lardo to be. I’m throwing it back in the closet for a few days in preparation for the Feast to come. Yes, I’m cutting everything close, but it’s me. What did you expect?

What did I learn these past few weeks? You can cure meat pretty much anywhere as long as it’s dark and not bothered by people. Is our closet the ideal space? No, but it still worked. As with each and every challenge, I’ve been pleasantly surprised with the success and ease of the process. This whole charcuterie thing isn’t that complicated at it’s core. But while I can make these meats, I am far from being an expert. Real producers of authentic charcuterie have elevated this to an art. Someday, maybe, I’ll grow up and be like them.

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About Wish

A graduate student with two cats and a passion for good food and good conversation, both preferably shared with friends.
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