Charcuterie making is a hobby that requires patience – hell the whole point is to let time, salt, and fat evolve and enhance over time to create something greater than the sum of their parts. The original intent is to preserve, yes, functionally, but in modern times with all of the tools that come with it, the purpose is now to enhance. It is odd to those who really know me for me to choose a hobby that features a character trait with which I have inherently struggled for decades. I am not a patient person, but project like this one, a long-cured Spanish chorizo, reminds me how patience pays off by showing me that, sometimes, it doesn’t.
Coming off what I consider to be a major victory with the Nduja, I was high on meat life. I felt like everything meat-wise was coming up Millhouse. I had that strut into the butcher shop, the market, and, hell, even the spice shop. It was not like I was neglecting these sausages, but somewhere things went South.
The project basically came about due to excess thawed meat and fat from making the nduja. I truly enjoy fresh sausage and the immediate payoff associated with them, but with a package of bacto-ferm (a starter culture for fermented meats) burning a hole in my freezer, I thought that I’d venture out from the typical and dry cure some sausage. The meat afterthought would turn into chorizo.
The process is not all that dissimilar to making any fermented sausage. You cut, grind, mix, bind, and stuff. Then you start the fermentation process by hanging the sausages someplace warm, I used the oven with the oven light on, for a few days. Once those days are up, you hang the sausages until they lose 30% of their hanging weight.
Since I had already planned to cold smoke some of the other porky products in process, I took one of the three pairs of chorizo links and hung it in the cold pecan hull smoke for 24 hours. Exposing the sausage to smoke, but not heat for that time didn’t change the appearance immediately, but the smell of the smoke reminded me, along with carefully labeling, of the special treatment.
Despite pulling the sausages when the 30% was lost, I was less than pleased with the texture of the sausages. The bind on the sausage was not great and I suspect that the wine fridge keeps humidity too low to dry cure sausages in a way that maintains the internal structure to optimize the dry cured sausages. Not all was lost however, as the flavors were bang on.
The smoky pimenton and funky pork create this amazingly utilitarian product that, once you get it into your rotation, it is difficult to go without it. Considering the texture was less than ideal, I found the best uses for this chorizo was in cooked dishes. From simply rendering a few small pieces, you not only get lovely crispy medallions of smoky pork sausage, but the oil left in the pan is what you really want. That deep red, lush fat which coats even the most boring frozen pea and elevates it to absolutely regal status. It surprises me to no end that in a world where bacon grease has made the transition for poor man’s margarine to rich man’s treat, that chorizo fat has not made the same ascension and is not jarred and sold in luxury food markets. These drippings went to enhancing brussels sprouts along with red wine vinegar and green garlic. It was a colorful, and amazingly delicious, meal onto itself.
Still this project took a little of my swagger back and definitely gave me pause for starting another dry cured sausage project, but it puts patience in perspective to me. Patience is not about waiting for a result that is certain. That is something else altogether. Patience is waiting to see how something turns out and unless results are variable, then you aren’t practicing patience, you are just waiting around.
Adapted from a recipe by The Art of Making Fermented Sausages
- 800 grams pork, cut into small pieces
- 200 grams pork fat, cut into small pieces
- 28 grams kosher salt
- 2.5 grams curing salt #2
- 5 grams sugar
- 6 grams black pepper, freshly ground
- 20 grams smoked pimenton
- 2 grams marjoram
- 10 grams garlic
- 0.5 grams bactoferm
- 15 grams distilled water
Step one: Combine bactoferm and water
Step two: Combine all non-pork ingredients not included in step one.
Step three: Partially freeze pork and fat and grind on medium setting.
Step four: Add results from steps one, two, and three. Mix to bind, making sure to keep exceedingly cold.
Step five: Stuff mixture into hog casings. Prick casings to remove air pockets.
Step six: Hang in oven with light on for three days to start fermentation.
Step seven: Optionally cold smoke for 24 hours. Then hang until 30% of mass is lost.