Remember when pork belly was an off cut? Those days are gone. Long gone. While it is good for butchers and good for hog farmers (and really good for diners) how the belly and other former off cuts have moved closer to the mainstream, it is not so great for home bacon makers. However, our local market purchased a few acorn-fed Tamworth hogs and while the chops and ribs flew off the shelf, the belly was not even put out for sale. Moving to the burbs means living in the safe-zone much of the time, food wise, and the belly has yet to reach full market saturation here. When I asked if they had the bellies from the hog, they commented “yes” and “what are going to do with them?”. I mentioned bacon making and it got their attention enough to wrap a big belly and give me a price that I had a hard time believing. Continue reading
We host a dinner party periodically which is actually just a book club to which my wife belongs. Typically those types of groups are simply drinking clubs, but this one adds food and actual books. About a week before book club, I realized my original plan of serving cassoulet had been done before. By me. Last winter. It seems as when the weather grows cold, I cook beans – large pots of beans with sausages and off cuts.
Actually I should have never been surprised. Beans and meats are fantastic and this weather has forced my hand. Only, I am not a repeater. Knowing fabada is a not-so-distant cousin to cassoulet, I figured there must be more cousins. I just needed to look. Continue reading
With the weather growing colder in the fall, a feature of our new home finally took shape. I would no longer need a curing fridge. I had a garage that, while slightly colder in the deep winter months, could safely cure and dry meats. On the first weekend where temps dropped into the 50s, I grabbed a freezer bag of venison and a package of bacon and go to it. Continue reading
Growing up, we always had a garden and, alongside the garden, we also had an enormous mass of concord grape vines. When we were there in early October, there were pounds and pounds of concords bending the vine, so how could I resist bringing home a bunch? One of my first thoughts was making raisins with the concords, but the problem I found was the enormous number of seeds. Continue reading
We started construction today. Better said, we started deconstruction today. This means we went from having a dysfunctional kitchen to a completely non-functional kitchen. The difference being a single gas burner which is always hot, even when not in use, is no longer at our disposal. Given the relatively limited use we were accustomed to, most of my cooking has been grilling, but when a door closes, others open. We now have a garage and, from an earlier garage project, I have nearly a gallon of magic ramp kraut juice. Like the yogurt whey used earlier this summer, kraut juice works well as a fermentation starter.
In the second of three installations of ham experiments made by hamming non-pork legs, I present mole cured goat ham. This ham was inspired by Goat Boy himself, Jonathan Zaragoza. Zaragoza helms Masa Azul on Diversey just West of California in Chicago, but has been in the goat business since he was a zygote. He is part of the Zaragoza family who runs my favorite restaurant in Chicago. While Jonathan has expanded his reach past birria, he still brings the goat from time to time and when he does, I make sure I am there. Continue reading
For the past three Novembers, I have been bugging my father to get me a full deer to butcher. Oddly, we used to butcher deer together when I was a kid each year, but then it was him both butchering and “butchering” the deer – no care taken to cut the deer into primals – just similarly sized scraps. With the promise of giving him his choice to meats, I asked just to get a whole animal to butcher. Well, not just the butchering opportunity, I wanted a leg. I wanted to make venison ham. This year, I got a leg and I made a ham. Continue reading
There are a ton of limitations to making charcuterie in a non-commercial kitchen. There are even more when you live in an apartment in an urban area, so when you look at projects that you want to try, but have no space to do so, you have to get a little creative. I have wanted to try making speck for some time but the thought of buying and storing another hog’s leg (who in their right mind, would do that?!?) was something that I was not quite ready to undertake. I did have a jowl. While not lean like a leg, it was just the right size and it was beautiful. Continue reading