Consider this a practice, and I should know not to be afraid to make any cured meat, because the thought of making mortadella at home is frightening. Stuffing a beef bung full of emulsified meat and fat and then boiling the whole thing is intimidating to me, but I will get there. I just needed a little push and a little practice.
What I needed was context. I needed an environment in which I was totally comfortable to make, er kind of make, mortadella. That environment was sausage making. When making sausages, I feel like even if things go sideways, we could grill the hell out the sausages and apply condiments in desperate quantities.
The odd part is how the basic process is the same. The only differences are from which animal the casings come and from which portion of that animals alimentary canal the casings come. You start with pork and pork fat – lots of pork fat. Then add a good bit of seasoning – primarily salt and baking spices.
Here comes the unique part of making the mortadella – the emulsification. The seasoned pork and pork fat are blended in food processor and, as the processor does its magic, ice is added. The resulting emulsified meat product looks like it could be strawberry frosting. At this point, the garnishes of pistachio and diced country ham (fat mostly) are added.
When I make sausages, I am very careful about the temperature of the tools I work with and the meat being encased. When making mortadella, keeping careful about keeping things as cold as possible is even more important, so before I assemble my stuffer and thread the casings, I stuck the mortadella forcemeat in the fridge. Once everything was ready, I stuffed quickly and chilled the sausages again. An hour later, I submerged them in cold water and simmered (NOT BOILED, DO NOT BOIL UNLESS YOU WANT EXPLODED MORTADELLA HOT DOGS, just saying) until the internal temp reaches 150 degrees.
Once the links reach 150 degrees, I iced them down and chilled them overnight. The next day, I heated the sausages gently in a low oven and threw them in a bun with some watermelon rind giardiniera I made earlier this summer. The sausages were incredibly light and had a very smooth texture. The baking spices come through very clearly. This was not a big, savory, heavy sausage. I felt good about these in a hot dog/sausage context.
The next step was testing them as mortadella, so I took one that had not been reheated and sliced it thick, then a few thin. Once sliced thin, it was clear that the basics worked very well. It was mortadella. I might change up the spices a little. I would definitely choose fat back in place of country ham (mostly) fat as it was clearly imparting its awesomeness more than I expected, but this was mortadella and it was a big step in getting up the gumption to make mortadella.
Mortadella Hot Dogs
Loosely based on recipe here
375 grams finely ground pork shoulder
225 grams finely ground pork fat
Pinch of pink salt
18 grams kosher salt
8 grams dextrose
Calabrian chili powder
150 grams ice
15 grams country ham fat, diced into small cubes
15 grams pistachios
Pinch coarsely cracked peppercorns
Step one: In the chilled bowl of a food processor, combine pork, pork fat, salt, dextrose, and spices. Blend for 30 seconds. Measure temp. If above 45 degrees, chill.
Step two: Add ice to food processor in batches. Blend until smooth. Fold in black pepper, pistachios, and country ham (mostly) fat. Chill
Step three: Stuff into hog casings. Chill.
Step four: Cover sausages in cold water and bring to a simmer. When sasuages hit an internal temp of 150 degrees, remove immediately and immerse in ice water. Chill.
Step five: After a night, Slice thin and eat cold or heat gently and consume with pickles and beer.