Miso Cured Bacon Two Ways

I couldn’t be more excited to be a part of what is evolving into something amazing, none other than Charcutepalooza. The brainchild of bloggers Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s Kitchen and The Yummy Mummy. A project of sorts that has dedicated the entire year to meat and charcuterie…Brilliant! The second project was bacon which is something that I have blogged before. I decided to introduce a twist that has been on my mind and quite possibly yours too…Miso Cured Bacon.

Miso Paste

Miso is said to be an excellent ingredient that embodies the savory or umami taste, literally translated from the Japanese to mean delicious taste. I was introduced to miso upon moving to Hawaii and enjoyed it many different ways. Miso soup is literally the Japanese version of chicken noodle soup and is pretty hard to beat. One of my greatest taste experiences is miso crusted butterfish…if you haven’t you must!

10 pounds O' pork belly

So why not mix miso with what is arguably one of the greatest food groups of all time, bacon. I began the process by making a trip to The Pork Shop. This place is awesome and only fifteen minutes from my house. I had special ordered a fresh 5 pound slab of Arizona’s best. When I got there I was surprised that they accidentally gave me a 10 pound slab which I gladly accepted (and paid for of course).

Just what the doctor ordered

This was great as it allowed me to do a couple other pork belly projects that I have been nagging on me. I decided to make a redo of the maple cured bacon in addition to my miso cured batch.

Coated in dry cure

Both recipes start out with the same Charcuterie dry cure recipes.

Massaged in miso

Once I had the pork belly nicely covered in the dry cure I smeared it thoroughly with the miso and slipped it into a large Ziploc baggie for a 9 day nap in Cureville. I wanted to give it a couple extra days to make sure the miso could work its magic.

9 days later

After the 9 days, overhauling daily of course, I pulled the two bellies and confirmed that they were nice a stiff and fully cured.

Maple cured on right, Miso cured on left

Next, I thoroughly rinse both bellies and begin drying them while I turn the oven to 200 degrees. Once to temp I insert my thermometer and leave it in the oven until the internal temp of the bacon is 150 degrees.

cooking in the oven

I find it easier to cut the skin off immediately after removing from the oven. I of course tried both slabs while still warm and was pleasantly surprised with both.
I decided that I would go healthy being the health freak that I am I decided to do a salad. I used a nice mix of arugula and micro greens and a fresh head of frisee for the greens.

Next, I whipped up the basic vinaigrette from the back of Charcuterie using champagne vinegar and fresh lemon which is abundant in Arizona right now.

Miso cured bacon wrapped scallops

I wrapped some nice day boat scallops in the miso cured bacon and set them to sear in a scorching cast iron pan.

Burn baby burn!

Meanwhile I fried some cubes of the miso cured belly in duck fat as well…what the heck, right? GOLDEN!!! Now that is my kind of health food! I could eat salad like this every day!

Miso cured bacon two ways

Kim Chee Tako Poke

I am on a appetizer kick lately and was jonesing for some good ‘ol Hawaiian style pupus. Poke is without a doubt the biggest thing I miss about the islands and unfortunately have a very difficult getting my hands on any decent Ahi or tuna that would do the dish justice. If you are ever on Oahu and want to try what I consider to be the best poke on the island I strongly suggest you check out JJ’s Seafoods on Kamehameha Highway in Kaneohe. It is run by an elderly couple and these people know their poke. If you stop by tell them Cole sent you and they might just hook you up with a free bag of boiled peanuts, another island specialty. The coolest thing about poke is that there really aren’t any rules. I’ve seen poke made out of ahi, marlin, salmon, mussels, octopus, scallops and even tofu! Normally the main ingredient (any of the above) are cubed into 1/2 inch to 3/4 inch pieces and then mixed with a wide range of ingredients (ie. ogo or limu (crunch seaweed), green onions, sweet onions, sesame seeds and/or oil, cukes, soy sauce, chili peppers, hawaiian salt, kim chee base, etc.). Poke is truly indigenous to the islands and couldn’t go any better with a cold brew. Ahhh…I can almost feel the ocean breeze.

While persuing our local Asian market, Lee Lee’s, I found whole frozen octopus or tako if you are in Hawaii…not to be confused with a taco…big difference. The great thing about tako is that freezing it doesn’t jack it up like freezing ahi does. In fact freezing tako improves the chewy flesh and helps make it a little softer. There are tons of web based suggestions ranging from boiling it in beer or sake to adding a few wine corks to the boil. After deliberating I decided to soak it in some salt water for about 4 hours (changed it 3 times).

Tako Time

After the soak I put it on cutting board and proceeded to give it pretty good pounding with my meat mallet. This is supposed to further break down the chewy flesh. In Hawaii some of the locals that catch plenty tako actually have cement mixer that which they use solely for the purpose of tenderizing the tako. Others place it in a five gallon bucket with some Hawaii salt and use their hands to tenderize it.

Pot 'o Tako

After a 45 minute boil session

After the pounding I put it into a pot of salted boiling water and boiled it for about 45 minutes until it completely changed colors and took on a reddish type color.

Off with 'ya legs!

After removing from the water I wiped it off and began disassembling the legs from the body.

Chopped Tako

Next, I sliced the legs into thinn slices and did the same with the head and body and placed them in the bowl.

Kim chee base, sweet onions and green onions

Then I assembled the ingredients that I was going to add to the tako for my poke. I had some kim chee base which is traditionally used to make Korean style Kim Chee (spicy fermented/pickled vegetables), some green onions and sweet onions. Later I decided to add some sesame seeds and a tablespoon of sesame oil.

Kim chee tako poke...bring on the brews!

After I mixed my ingredients together I added it to the tako and tossed until thoroughly coated. Voila…Kim Chee Tako Poke. Give this dish a shot and I guarantee you won’t be disappointed.

Pickled Garlic Sausage

The Super Bowl is quickly approaching and I thought it would be a fun to try and replicate a classic Mid-West dive bar specialty to go along with my pickled eggs…none other than the pickled sausage. I fondly remember my grandmother’s bar off Route 4 in Ohio where pickled eggs sat on one side of the bar and pickled sausage on the other. Since leaving Ohio back in 1998 I have often thought back on those little delicacies and wished I had a big fat jar of them in my fridge. Well, I decided to take the bull by the horns and take a crack at making my own. I did quite a bit of research on pickling recipes that I thought would come closest to what I remember and finally ran across one that sounded good. Next I began thinking about what type of sausage to pickle and saw the Fresh Garlic Sausage recipe in my Charcuterie book. I already had some pork shoulder on hand and decided that this would do the trick.

I gathered the other ingredients and prepared to proceed with the pickled sausage project.

The fresh garlic recipe called for:

5 pounds pork shoulder, diced
40 grams kosher salt (3 tablespoons)
10 grams ground black pepper (1 tablespoon)
54 grams minced garlic (3 tablespoons)
1 cup good red wine, chilled

After grinding the pork I mixed it with the spices and wine and mixed for about 3 minutes (until the paste looks sticky). Again, I cannot stress enough the importance of temperature. Cold is the key and I like to refrigerate/freeze my grinder blade, plate, stuffer, pork and wine to ensure all remains nice and frosty.

Next, I decided to stuff the garlic sausage into sheep casings which are much skinnier and would pickle much quicker than a sausage stuffed into a hog casing.

After all of the garlic sausage was stuffed I hung it in the smoker at 180 degrees and hit with about 2 hours of hickory smoke and smoke cooked until the internal temperature hit 160 degrees.

Once the garlic sausage was cooked I transferred it to an ice water bath so that I could quickly cool it down and prevent shriveling from occurring.
Last I cut the garlic sausage sticks into the exact length of the jar where they are going to pickle in.

Meanwhile, I prepared my pickling liquid which consisted of:

4 cups White Vinegar
2 cups Water
2 tablespoons Salt
2 tablespoons Sugar
1 tablespoon crushed red pepper seeds
1 tablespoon Tabasco

I brought the pickling mixture to a boil and then chilled it in the refrigerator. While the pickling liquid cooled I stuffed the jars with the garlic sausage sticks and then filled with the cooled pickling liquid.

I waited for about 3 weeks and tried a stick and saw where the potential was there however, disappointed that the pickling liquid had not fully penetrated the sausage stick. I decided to remove all of the sausage sticks and use a needle to thoroughly poke the sausage. I returned them to the jar for another 3 weeks and am happy to report that the pickling liquid had worked its magic. With that said, I am not sure that garlic sausage is the right sausage to use and will try again with something else…most likely a beef sausage style.

On a final note I am excited to report that I finished two batches of what will be my first dry-cured salami. I did a 5 pound batch of the Peperone and a 5 pound batch of the Tuscan Salami from Charcuterie and have it in my curing chamber as we speak. It is only 2 days in and I was happy to see nice solid coating of white mould on each of them today…for those who don’t know that is a good thing! I will put a post up in a few days.

Traditional Dill Pickles

I continue to work my way through Chapter 1, Salt, and decided to tackle the Traditional Dill Pickles recipe. I found some decent Persian cucumbers at our local Asian market. Ruhlman specifically tells you that the quality of the vegetable is imperative. He suggests only pickling when they are garden fresh or abundant at your local famers market. If you do not the likelihood of producing a crisp pickle is not good. While the Persian’s I purchased looked pretty fresh I will confirm that they were not crisp however, they still where pretty darn good. So good that I would definitely do it again. I did some research and there is quite a bit of debate on additives to consider for making the pickle stay crisp. Pickle Crisp (which is calcium chloride) marketed by the people who make Ball jars is one option that appears to be popular.

Pickle Time

I gathered all of my ingredients necessary to make the pickles, recipe follows:
The Brine
5 tablespoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon dill seeds
½ cup white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 tablespoon Pickling Spice
5 cups water
3 Serrano peppers, sliced in thirds (not in Ruhlman’s recipe but I couldn’t resist)

1 bunch fresh dill
10 pickling or baby cucumbers

Boil the brine

Once I had my ingredient assembled I combined all of the spices with the water to create the pickle brine. I brought the brine to a boil and let it go for about 5 minutes.

Let's get pickled!

Next I took my cucumbers, fresh dill and Serrano pepper and layered them into the jar.

Into the fridge for a about a month

Once the brine had completely cooled I filled the jar of cukes with it and refrigerated for about a month before giving one a try. Wow! The Serrano peppers came through loud and clear! If you don’t like spicy pickles I do not recommend using the Serrano’s. Next time I make a batch I think I will add some garlic to see how it goes.

Not too long ago I had the distinct pleasure of trying some fried dill pickles at Hooters. While the jury is still out on their wings I will tell you that their fried pickles are the best I have had to date. With that in mind I set out to make a batch at home for myself less the hooters.

I tried a recipe that I found on the web which used a beer-type batter which I didn’t particularly care for. Hooter’s brand uses more of a flour type breading and possibly some corn meal added as well. I found another fried pickle recipe from Bobby Flay and the Food Network which were much closer.

Pickled and Fried

This recipe called for an egg wash and then flour dip. The egg dip called for 2/3 cup of pickle juice, 1 large egg, a few dashes of Tabasco and tablespoon of flour. To the flour I added a teaspoon of sweet smoked paprika, Habanero pepper, garlic powder, black pepper and kosher salt.

Next, I sliced my dill pickles on my handy dandy Matfer mandolin which has a waffled blade. I think the ridges give the flour a bit more surface area to grab on to.

I added my sliced pickles to the egg wash and then transferred them to the seasoned flour and coated lightly, giving them a tap on the side of the bowl as I removed them.

Fry until GBC

Lastly, I heated my vegetable oil up to 375 degrees and proceeded to fry the pickle slices until golden brown and crispy.

Fried Dill Pickles

The redneck in me said ketchup and so it was…nothing fancy but these guys could make you the MVP of the upcoming Super Bowl party.

Opakapaka wakawakawaka

Captain Rick and first mate Kobe steering the ship

This post is dedicated to my bruddha-in-law, Eric who lives on the Windward side of Oahu. Eric or braddah Rick as I call him is without a doubt one of the most skilled fisherman on the Kaneohe Bay if not island. He is extremely humble and as such will probably not appreciate my saying so but it is true and I have the proof. All of these pictures are fish that he has caught while fishing off the island of Oahu and are just a few of many.

The Yamada's with a huge Marlin

Check out this monster Marlin! The crazy thing about this is that he caught this sucker alone, reeled it in solo, tied it to the side of the boat and hauled it into the pier. I don’t want to make it sound too easy ‘cuz it ain’t, but apparently these fish get so worked up about getting caught they either have a heart attack fighting or dive so deep that they get the “bends” coming back up and die as a result.

Check out the shark bite on 'da belly!

Holy Sushi!!!

This beauty is a tuna that would have been a serious pay day had a shark not taken his share out of the belly as Eric was reeling it in…poor Eric, but his family and friends scored huge on this one.

A mess of Mahi's

All ‘kine fishes!

I was lucky enough to land my first job out of college in Hawaii and ended up living there for 11 years before moving to the desert that is Arizona. One of the greatest parts of Hawaii is the Pacific’s bounty and when your brother-in-law is a fisherman, it wasn’t uncommon to be eating fish that was swimming in the Pacific earlier that day.

Boy do I miss the good ‘ole days…fade to hazy memory effect…ahhh, I remember it like it was yesterday…Eric was generous enough to take my dad and myself out fishing in his boat and we couldn’t have been more excited. It was a typical perfect day in Hawaii as we set out from Heeia Pier in search of some whoppers. I would be lying if I said we were successful that day, in fact I believe we only caught one lowly Kahala aka rubbish fish. What happened next is hard to describe unless you have been there but try and imagine paradise like weather turning into the Perfect Storm in about 10 minutes. What appeared to be a collection of dark clouds far off in the horizon was what I would consider a small typhoon that sent us towards shore in a big hurry…so fast in fact that we forgot to pull up our anchor which literally turned our boat right back around towards the eye of the storm as the rope it was tied to became taunt.

Initially, I had no idea why the boat turned back around and momentarily thought Eric had lost his mind…sorry buddy, I only doubted you for a second…which seemed like an eternity. Once I realized what had happened I felt a little better only to look down at my dad’s foot and see blood pouring from a small cut that must have happened during our abrupt “about face”. My first thought was “perfect…we are total shark bait now” and my second thought was to toss him over board to distract the sharks while I made a swim for shore. Luckily, I pulled it together and Eric dislodged the anchor and saved us from our demise. In all seriousness we were very fortunate to be in Eric’s hands that day as a couple of knucklehead haoles from Ohio would not have been as lucky.

Not only is Eric a great fisherman but also a great cook when it comes to preparing fish…sometimes cooked however, most often raw which is truly the best way to enjoy fresh fish. One of my favorite fish from the Islands is Opakapaka or Hawaiian Pink Snapper, a deep water fish often caught between 30 and 100 fathoms. If you ever get a chance to try it don’t pass it up. I know people who don’t even like fish that love this one.

Hey good looking! Cute daughter too!

A relative of the Opakapaka is the Onaga or Ruby Snapper which you will see proudly presented in picture above. Not too much different in flavor or texture however swims even deeper at around 150 fathoms. Onagas are a hot commodity in the islands around this time of year and as such, I just saw a poke shop on Face book selling Onaga for $70 a pound!

Opakapaka

On my mother-in-laws most recent visit she brought a cooler, as is Hawaiian-style, chocked full of; Portuguese sausage, Char-siu pork and two beautiful vacuum sealed Opakapakas which I left frozen until a couple of days ago.

Whatchu look'n at?

Notice how clear the eyes are…this is exactly what you want to see when shopping for whole fish…if they eyes look milky, cloudy or bloody steer clear. I decided to prepare them the same way Eric always does which is Chinese style, steamed whole and finished with a nice splash of screaming hot peanut oil for some crispiness.

Ingrediments

Above are the ingredients that are typically used for this style preparation:
• Opakapaka or any fresh snapper
• Oyster Sauce, a Chinese brown sauce that really doesn’t taste anything like oysters
• Shoyu or Soy Sauce
• Ginger, julienned
• Hawaiian Sea Salt
• Cilantro, chopped
• Peanut Oil, heated until super crazy hot (a very high smoking point which is perfect for this)

'Paka's post surgery

The first step after scaling and gutting them was to make diagonal incisions across both sides of the fish.

Ginger and Mary Ann

Next, I hit the fish lightly with some of the salt while inserting some of the julienned ginger into the incisions as well as some of the larger pieces into the fish’s cavity.

It's about to get steamy in here

The fish are resting on a pan that is small enough to fit into a larger pan which contains water about a quarter inch deep.

Steaming away

Once the pan containing the fish is placed into the larger pan you seal the two with aluminum foil which will trap the steam and rapidly cook the fish.

Steamed, drizzled in oyster sauce and chopped cilantro and awaiting oil treatment

I cooked the two fish for about 10-15 minutes (slightly above medium rare) and removed the foil. What a beautiful site! While the fish was steaming I put about a ¼ cup of the peanut oil on the stove top on high until it was almost smoking. I squirted the fish with a nice drizzle of oyster sauce and tossed the chopped cilantro on top.

Next, I took the peanut oil and drizzled it over the fish which made a sizzling sound giving the fish a nice crisp exterior and amazingly moist interior. Last but certainly not least I lightly poured some shoyu or soy sauce over the fish which combines with the oyster sauce and peanut oil for a magical sauce that is perfect for spooning over your fish once on your plate.

Half a fish down...guess I should let the family know it is time to eat...hehehe

As you will see the steamed fish literally lifts right off of the bone leaving the type of fish you see in the cartoons…FUN! Keep ‘em coming Rick and MAHALOS!

Corned Beef

When I think of the perfect sandwich the first thing that comes to mind is the Reuben. I will just go ahead and get it out of the way…I am officially certifying myself as a Reuben connoisseur. Albeit self proclaimed and a bit tongue in cheek I can say with confidence that this is by far the granddaddy of all deli sandwiches and the official litmus test for any deli worth it’s salt. I had the distinct pleasure of attending Ohio University in the great metropolis that is Athens, Ohio. Athens was home to Zachary’s Deli who is 100% responsible for my quasi addiction fanaticism for the Reuben. These guys knew what they were doing and effectively combined a wonderful rye bread, ultra thin sliced corned beef, RUSSIAN dressing (not to be confused with it’s bastard cousin Thousand Island aka Secret Sauce), Sauerkraut and of course Swiss cheese. I am sad to say that Zachary made the big jump from Athens to Columbus and has since run amuck however, I am certain it had nothing to do with his Reuben. My good buddy “the Rose” who also knew his way around a Reuben and I would feed our need on a weekly basis at a minimum and many times three or more times a week. I am careful as to when and where I order a Reuben and when I am the least bit skeptical I inquire as to the thickness of the corned beef. In my humble opinion I believe you should be able to hold a single slice up almost be able to see through it. Add another hundred slices or so and you have a sandwich.

Yet another prologue leading into my most recent whack at another recipe from the great book of Charcuterie….Corned Beef. While corned beef has absolutely nothing to do with corn it is all about the beef. The term corn actually refers to the coarse salt that is used in the brine that cures the beef. Corned beef is often associated with one of my favorite holidays, Saint Patrick’s Day, and is usually combined with the combustible vegetable that is cabbage…cheap entertainment to say the least…hehehe. The same passion I have for Reuben’s is shared by my wife and corned beef and cabbage. With that in mind I figured I could stretch this experiment into at least two meals if not a couple lunches as well.

I started off with a very nice 6.5 pound beef brisket. One thing that I have learned through my travels is that a good way to judge a brisket before purchasing it is to grab it by the thick end and hold it out. The ease and degree of bend in the middle would suggest the potential of the beef’s tenderness. With that said a brisket comes from the breast plate of a cow and as such does quite a bit of work resulting in a very tough piece of meat. There in lies the beauty of brisket, as it is the technique one employs that dictates the end result which is what separates the cream from the curd of cooks. Any knucklehead can take a beef loin and produce an amazingly tender dish of beef…the same cannot be said for brisket.

Brisket and brine ingredients

Once I had the brisket I assembled the rest of the ingredients which are remarkably simple. Below is for a 5 pound brisket…I had a 6.5 pound brisket so you will notice I used more garlic and adjusted other ingredients as appropriate.

1 gallon water
2 cups/450 grams kosher salt
½ cup/ 100 grams sugar
1 ounce/25 grams pink salt (5 teaspoons)
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons/20 grams Pickling Spice
One 5-pound beef brisket

Brining Brisket

I combined all of the ingredients (not the brisket) in a pot large enough to accommodate the brisket and set it to boil until all of the salt had dissolved and the fragrance of the pickling spice could be smelled throughout out the house…my kind of potpourri! Once the salt was dissolved, I allowed the brine to cool to room temperature before adding the brisket. A little trick that I often employ is boiling a quart of water with the spices and then diluting it with 2 additional quarts of cold water and then a final quart of water in the form of ice. This speeds things up and I am always in a hurry…bad habit and you DO NOT want to add your brisket to a hot brine…trust me some things should not be rushed and this is one of them.

After the brisket is in the pot I weighted it down with a plate and rock (washed in the dishwasher for the germ police) and put it in the fridge. The book says to let the brisket and brine rest for 5 days. I felt like I would prefer to over brine then under brine and given the 6.5 pound brisket I opted for a 7 day brine. The only adverse outcome would be a saltier than normal corned beef which I could deal with. I am happy to report that the corned beef was not salty in the slightest. In fact, a palate whom I respect offered an unsolicited comment to the effect that he enjoyed tremendously given the lack of saltiness often found in commercially produced corned beef.

Brined brisket 7 days later

After the 7 days I removed the brisket from the brine and rinsed it thoroughly under cold running water and dried it well with paper towels.

Corned Beef cut into two sections

Next, I sliced it in half giving me the point piece with a thin layer of fat and the butt end which was fatter and actually had a second muscle on top. This is one of the tricky parts of slicing any form of brisket. They key is to slice against the grain and NOT with the grain however, when you have two muscles sitting on top of one another this can be quite difficult. Impossible in fact unless you slice the top muscle off and treat them as two totally separate pieces of brisket. If properly prepared it is very simple to separate the two muscles and slice appropriately.

I decided to use the leaner point for my Reuben corned beef and the fatter portion for my corned beef and cabbage given the fact that the fat would liquefy and ultimately flavor the liquor that they all cook in…fat equals flavor.

Chinese style steamer

After a tremendous amount of research I opted to get my Chinese style steamer out and steam cook my Reuben corned beef. I tossed a tablespoon of pickling brine into the water that would be used to create the steam (more flavor) and placed the corned beef on the second level of the steamer.

Steaming corned beef

Next I inserted my thermometer and began steaming the corned beef. After about 2 hours I had the internal temperature of the corned beef up to 210 degrees and I held it there an additional 30 to 40 minutes to allow the beef to become tender. This was not science as I could not find specific instruction as to time or temps for this process however; report that it was as near perfect as I could ask for.

Straight outta the steamer

Once satisfied, I removed the corned beef and sliced a couple slivers to taste and test for tenderness. All was excellent so I began the process of cooling the corned beef under cold running water for about 5 minutes or more.

Corned Beef cool down

My research suggested that this minimizes shrinkage which we all have to agree sucks…right? Once I felt that the corned beef was sufficiently cooled I decided to vacuum seal it with a ¼ cup of the pickling spiced fat infused water in the bottom of the steamer…zero down side and tremendous upside.

Corned Beef vaccum sealed in it's juices

I can’t say what it did as I didn’t vac seal one without the juice however, again report near perfection. Last but certainly not least I refrigerated until the next day and then proceeded to slice the entire thing into razor thin slices that when held up to light resembled meaty stained glass slices of love….YUM!

Reuben time! I stopped by my favorite local beef butcher shop, Midwestern Meats which just so happens to be a bakery as well. They sell an excellent rye bread that they refer to ask Milwaukee Rye which I thought would fit the bill perfectly. I had already made a batch of homemade sauerkraut that I have yet to post however, will do so shortly hereafter. It is from the Salt chapter of Charcuterie as well and certainly exemplifies the power of salt and its transformative impact it has on whatever it comes into contact with. I purchased some Tillamook Swiss cheese and had everything I needed to make the perfect Reuben with one exception.
Russian dressing as previously mentioned is not to be confused with its hillbilly cousin Thousand Island. Don’t get me wrong Thousand Island has its place in the culinary world and being a full blooded redneck I cannot deny enjoying it however, upon the Holy Grail that is the Reuben I do not. The first step was making a homemade mayonnaise, again another recipe from Charcuterie and then adding some prepared horseradish, Heinz chili sauce, minced onion, Worcestershire sauce, salt and black pepper and voila…Russian dressing. I will put this up in a separate post at a later date and until then there are plenty Russian dressing recipes on Google should you get a hankering for the real deal.

Wish you were here!

I slathered both sides of rye with the Russian dressing, piled the corned beef on, added a couple slices of Swiss and topped with Kraut and placed upon my trust George Forman grill and dropped the lid for a brief toasting. Accompanying the Reuben are some fresh cut russets fried in duck fat (recipe from Saveur) sprinkled with some smoked Maldon sea salt and garnished with a dill spear that I made from another Charcuterie recipe that I haven’t posted…I know I know…and let me tell you these pickles rock! I slightly deviated from the recipe adding a few Serrano chilies and the result was astounding.
Last but certainly not least was the corned beef and cabbage with some roasted baby red potatoes. I used my old standby cookbook, The Joy of Cooking, for this recipe and stumbled upon a third alternative that I used that small piece of muscle attached to the butt end of my corned beef, candied corn beef!

Boiling corned beef

For the corned beef and cabbage I took a handful of black peppercorns a few bay leafs and added them to a pot of water (just enough to cover the corned beef by an inch or two). I set the pot to boil and allowed it to do so for about 3 hours or until fork tender.

Cabbage time

Next I halved a head of cabbage and then halved the halves while removing the core from each. I removed the corn beef to rest while adding the cabbage to the pot that I boiled the corn beef in. After the cabbage softened I returned the corned beef and set the pot to low. I also added a link of smoked bratwurst for some nice smoke flavor which worked well.

Corned beef and cabbage finished product

I boiled some baby red potatoes and then quartered and placed them into a dish where I added some minced garlic, olive oil, butter, rosemary, salt and black pepper and baked in the oven at 350 until nice and golden brown.

Before

and after

As mentioned I took the small piece of muscle and went with a candied corned beef which was on the same page as the CB &C in the Joy of Cooking.

Soon-to-Be Candied Corn Beef

A quick and easy recipe using soy sauce, brown sugar, powdered mustard and ground ginger. I made a glaze and placed it in the oven with the potatoes for 30 minutes.

Glazed and ready for the oven

This was a fun little treat for everyone to get a couple slices of and was great. I am not sure I would want an entire slab of it but a perfect use for the lonely little piece of corned beef.

Candied Corned Beef

What a simple yet exquisite dinner! This is a guaranteed repeat given the simplicity, diversity and economicity…I may have made that last one up. Give this a shot and you will not be disappointed.

Knick Knock Knackwurst

Knackwurst
The holidays are upon us and as such it ‘Tis the season to make sausage, which is one of my favorite things to do. Call me crazy but I get a ridiculous amount of satisfaction from grinding and seasoning ordinary meat such as pork or beef and transforming it into a succulently stuffed masterpiece of man food. This will be the first sausage post I have done on the Pickled Pig which makes it that much more exciting. I have been making sausage for several years now and have learned oh so many lessons on what to do and not to do. One of the most painful lessons is to NOT make 15 pounds of sausage before you have tried and tested a recipe and method…what a waste! Go with a 5 pound batch at most.

My hope is that I can pass on many of these lessons to you so that you do not have to make the difficult decision of tossing a bum batch of tube steak. The sausage I am posting today was actually made a few days before Thanksgiving as part of an attempt to produce a twist on an authentic Alsatian dish called Choucroute Garnie. Traditional Choucroute Garnie often consists of sauerkraut, sausages, other salted meats and potatoes. The recipe I tested was again from my favorite magazine Saveur and turned out great. The twist was that it replaced the typical salted meats with a turkey draped in a blanket of bacon on a bed of sauerkraut and onions (follow up post coming soon). This was a perfect opportunity to make two of the recipes from the Charcuterie cookbook. The first is sauerkraut from the Salt chapter that I have been chipping away at and the other is knackwurst.

This was the first time I had made the knackwurst recipe and as such I was sure to follow the directions to a “T”. Knackwurst is a German style fresh sausage that is hot smoked. When translated Knacken literally means to crack which is the sound it makes when you bite into it. It is generally stubbier than a typical sausage and often contains a slightly higher ratio of veal to pork. Below is the recipe that was followed:

3 pounds boneless veal shoulder, cubed
2 pounds boneless pork shoulder, cubed
40 grams salt
6 grams pink salt
15 grams coarsely ground black pepper
4 grams mace
8 grams Hungarian paprika
2 grams coriander
1 gram allspice
140 grams nonfat dry milk powder (optional but I strongly suggest)
1 cup ice water
10 feet hog casings, soaked in tepid water for at least 30 minutes

Crunchy cubes of veal and pork shoulder ready for grinding

The first thing that I always do is cube my meats up so that I can stick them in the freezer for a bit while I gather and mix my spices. If I can stress one thing to you more than any other detail it is to make sure your meat is extremely cold. I like mine to be slightly crunchy however not completely frozen either…somewhere in the middle is just right. If you grind your meat while it is warm it will often smear across the plate and cause the meat and fat to separate giving you tasty meat with a texture of pencil shavings…needless to say, not good! I even like to put my grinder blade and plate in the freezer while refrigerating the grinder and auger. I have found that putting the grinder in the freezer can result in the plastic cracking. I have two small cracks to show for it. My point is that you cannot devote enough attention to the temperature of the meat and equipment. As such I often grind into an aluminum pan that is sitting in a small amount of crushed ice and water to keep the ground meat cold while I finish the process.

Old Yeller, my trusty 70's colored KitchenAid mixer with grinder attachment

After I have assembled the necessary spices and put my cup of ice water in the freezer to chill I begin the grinding process. As instructed I used the smaller of the two grinder plates and proceeded to grind the cubed veal and pork shoulders into the aluminum pan. Once finished I took the aluminum pan and again returned it to the freezer while I broke down my grinder for cleaning. I also took this opportunity to refrigerate the stainless mixing bowl that I will use to merry the spices and meat. I think you are beginning to see how obsessed I am with keeping everything as cold as possible. Toss five pounds of pencil shaving sausage once and you too will understand my attention to temperature. I ground my allspice, black pepper and coriander so that it is fresh and imparts its entire flavor to the sausage. Don’t use pre-ground spices that have been sitting in your cupboard for the past five years…it just won’t be the same.

Spices and such measured and ready to mix

After I have weighed all my spices out I remove the chilled stainless mixing bowl from the freezer and add my slightly crunchy ground veal and pork shoulder to it. I turn my mixer on low using the paddle attachment and begin adding my spices and then the ice cold water so that it all binds and mixes thoroughly. Once well incorporated I kick the mixer up another notch and allow it to blend until it forms what looks like a sticky paste. I totally forgot to photograph this step however, it is pretty straight forward. I do want to endorse the idea of adding the nonfat powdered milk to the sausage mixture. Initially I thought this was weird and would give the sausage a milky flavor which didn’t sound too exciting to me. After research I found that this product aids in helping bind the sausage while enabling the mix to retain its moisture during the smoking and cooking process. This stuff worked awesome and I strongly suggest you’re considering it.

Meat Pudding ready to rest for 24 hours

Once fully mixed I used a rubber spatula to remove the soon-to-be-sausage into an aluminum pan and cover tightly with plastic wrap pressing firmly to remove as much of the air that may be trapped inside. I then put the pan into the refrigerator for about 24 hours to allow the spices to work their magic and permeate the entire meat mixture. As mentioned this fresh sausage is smoked and as such we are using pink salt which is important to prevent botulism from rearing its ugly head. The pink salt will give the sausage a nice pinkish color similar to what you would expect from a cured ham. The 24 hour rest allows the curing process to run its course.

Sausage stuffer is stuffed and casings ready to roll

The next day I put my 5 pound The Sausage Maker sausage stuffer in the freezer so that it can get chilled. Then I took about 10 feet of el-natural hog casings, nothing but the real deal here, and began soaking them in tepid water. I have a perfect little reverse osmosis water dispenser that I slip the casing onto and turn the water on. This does a great job of thoroughly rinsing any of the salt solution the casings are stored in. Once finished I remove the sausage stuffer and transferred the pan of sausage into it. I then assembled it and loaded up my hog casings to begin the sausage stuffing process. The key to stuffing is a nice steady flow of sausage which you can stuff evenly by applying pressure to the casing as you allow it to slide off the nozzle. I tend to do this on my granite counter top and actually make it a little wet so that I can coil the sausage during the stuffing process.

Sausages stuffed and linked and ready for a smoke break

Once finished, I begin the process of linking the rope. My technique is to tie a knot on the end and begin measuring out the desired length and then pinching the sausage rope. Next I roll the link away from me and then move down to the next pinch and roll in the opposite direction. Each time I rotate the process of pinching and rolling a few times away and then towards me as I produce each sausage link.
After the sausages are linked I dry them off with a paper towel and use a sterilized needle to prick the sausages in an effort to remove any air bubbles that were trapped inside the casing. After that I return the linked sausages to the refrigerator while I ready my Bradley Smoker.

Smoked sausages hanging on smoke sticks

I set the smoker to 180 degrees and allow it to get up to temperature. Meanwhile, I break my sausage rope of links into groups of six and allow them to hang in the smoker from a wooden dowel rod that I use to smoke with. After about 2 ½ to 3 hours the sausages reach an internal temperature of 150 degrees.

Fresh out of the smoke shack and straight into an ice bath

The next step is equally critical and that is to ice water bath the sausages shortly after removing them from the smoker. If you do not and simply refrigerate the sausages you will be disappointed to find that they have shriveled up into a raisin sausage which doesn’t look too cool.

The sausage is fully cooked and can eaten cold if desired. I have since sliced the knackwurst cold onto a meat and cheese platter which was good as well as adding a few to my previously mentioned Choucroute Garnie dish for Thanksgiving (post and photos to follow shortly).

These sausages are awesome and can also be poached to temperature in some simmering water, almost how you would heat up hot dogs. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did! Guten Appetit!!!

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