Friday, April 29, 2011

Everybody hang on to your skin ...

Well, here we are. Kate and William are now married (did you wake up to watch? come on, you can tell me..) and it's you, me and Cotechino. The Cotechino, basically skin sausage, was made by Chad and Leslie the day after the headcheese and the sausage. Thank God. Cotechino dear readers, is a traditional Italian sausage. In some parts of Italy it is served on New Year's eve to bring luck to the family for the upcoming year. It is rich, it is fatty, it is a pain in the butt to make (see below) and it is heaven in a casing.

I am going to get right to it then. So, I do not actually have any shots of the actual making of the Cotechino because did not actually make them. And between this and the laptop expiring, well, picture it...

Time to dish.

Cotechino a la King of Pig

Step 1. Remember these? You're going to skin them.

Check. Remembering.

Step 2. Thank the stars for the book. As in Chad's beautiful hand written cookbook. Which I am now in. And pretty pleased about it.

                                                                 Check. No Shot. Stars have been thanked.

Check. Shot. In the book. Pleased.
Step 3.  Hang on to your skin. Making the Cotechino is the same as making any other sausage except you have to deal with the skin. And what I mean by that is you have to wrestle it off, hang on to it (as if it were your last life line because it's fatty and slippery) and slide your very sharp knife along to remove all the fat. Dear readers I was there for this part and I will not lie, it is a big pain in the butt. There is a reason for the big smile in the hang on to your skin photo ...he knew what was coming ...

Check. Hang on to your skin. Smile because you know what's coming.

Step 4. Slice the skin into strips about two inches wide (the length should be as the original leg because you have to hang on to it (again) when you put it through the grinder. The equation here is three parts skin to one part pork. Yep.

                                                                Check. No shot. Sliced.

Step 5. Take one part of the meat you seasoned for the Italian sausage and three parts of the skin you now curse because it has taken everything you have to get it grinder ready, place the casing on the grinder nozzle and begin.

Step 6. And pull and stuff and grind. And pull and stuff and grind.

                                    Check. Pulling, stuffing grinding. No Cotechino shot but see here.

Step 7. Follow the same instructions for tying and twisting as the Italian sausage.

Step 8. They are done.

                                                         Check. Done. No shot.

Step 9. Beer time.


These amazing little sausages then came home to me and I made my basic staple tomato sauce which I love and then added the Cotechino to it. I let it cook, partially covered on low heat, for about 2 hours. It was to die for.

Adventures in Porkland - The end.

For now.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Everybody into the grinder ...

And the casings ...

Well, here it is dear readers. I present you The greatest Italian Sausage and The ridiculously delicious to die for Italian Cotechino. The original technique and recipe was handed down through generations of a very special Italian family. It was then passed on through Chad by Carmine and very gratefully now from Chad through me. I love links. Thank you.

Time to dish.

Carmine's Italian Sausage and Cotechino Courtesy of Chad

Step 1. Take a breather from the headcheese you just made because it was pretty crazy. Have an Old Speckled Hen.

                                Check. Old Speckled Hen. No photo. Didn't make it. It's beer. It's awesome.

Step 2. Carry the pig leg on your shoulder just because it's cool and fun, place it on a table and admire the meaty glory.

Check. Carrying pig leg on shoulder. Super cool.

Check. On the table. Admiring meaty glory.

Step 3. Listen carefully to instructions from the king of pig, hold in your bubbling excitement & watch your fingers.

                    Check. Listening. Watching. Holding in bubbling excitement. No photo, also perished.

Step 4. Butcher and take a picture of the men you know butchering. It's really special.

Check. Butchering.

Check. Butchering some more. Loving it.

Check. Men I know butchering (one of them is husband). Documented.

Gratuitous butchering shot. Husband doing it. Kinda macho.Very impressed.

Step 5. Make a pile of the butchered meat and separate the skin and fat.

Check. Piles separated.

Step 6. Get ready for the grinder. Slice the meat into slabs so that they fit nicely into your grinder. Your mixture should consist of meat and fat - three to one (the skin is only for the Cotechino which we will get to later). You need two people for this so it is a communal effort. One feeds and stuffs and the other pulls the sausage as the meat fills the casings. If you have a third person they will probably be the one with the filthy mind quipping about what resembles what. Ahem.

                                                                 Check. Getting ready. No getting ready shot. Perished.

Step 7. Everybody into the grinder. Three pieces of meat, one of fat. Once everything is ground lay flat, season with sea salt salt, pepper, chili flakes, cayenne pepper and fennel seeds.
Check. Everybody into the grinder.

Lots of grinding. Big leg. Take turns.

Check. Lay flat and season while king of pig studies recipe for perfection.

Step 8. After the seasoning prepare for round two. Place the casing (with one end tied so everything does not spill out) on the nozzle of the grinder. Shape the meat into tennis ball rounds (easier to stuff grinder). Then, second grinding. Go. And pull. And stuff. And grind. And pull and stuff and grind.

Check. Casing on nozzle and pork tennis balls.

Check. And pull and stuff and grind.

Step 10. Twist into links. They are done.

Check. Twisted into links. Done.

Step 11. Grab another Old Speckled Hen. Phfew.

Step 12. Ice your shoulder. You'll see ...

Once done, you can freeze these little bundles of deliciousness in containers in the freezer. To cook we fried them once and grilled them the second time. They were the best sausages I have ever tasted.

I cannot believe I am going to say this dear readers but I will post the Cotechino separately for the same reasons as the headcheese. Tomorrow. I swear. We will call it the series of three: Adventures in Porkland. **Can you imagine we had delusions of doing all this and the head cheese in one day.**

In loving memory: Carmine died a few years ago and is dealry missed by his friend Chad. His memory and beautiful recipes live on.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Everybody into the pot ...

Well, the laptop expired but some of the photos made it (barely and with hours of work but made it nevertheless so very grateful for at least a few) and I am thankfully able to share them with you.  Hang on to your hats and stomachs (see disclaimer in previous post) dear readers and join me for a step by step guide to making head cheese sausage. Here we go.

A little history. Head cheese is an old timer (middle ages'ish) that is savoured all across the world (well, except maybe North America but for sure everywhere else) . In Romania, we used to have a version of it called Piftie every Easter and on Christmas. My dad made it. I used to look forward to it all year while some of my other family members regarded me with jaws dropped when contemplating what I was about to eat. I love the nasty bits. Best parts.

Okay, time to dish.

Chad's Stupendous Head Cheese

Step 1. Find the person who will share the wisdom, the heart and technique of the art of butchering, curing, stuffing, smoking and drying.

Check. The king of pig ...

Step 2. Find the person who can make it possible to get a whole pig's head in Montreal. It was hard. The king of pig did it.

Check. The butcher of pig ...

Step 3. Say thank you to the pig who gave his (or her) life so you can have something beautiful and yummy.
Check. Thank you pig...

Step 4. Ask the butcher of pig for feet to go in the giant stockpot. They are primarily responsible for that awesome gelatinous texture.

Check. Feet ...

Step 5. Make sure you have a giant stockpot.

Check. Giant stock pot ... I'll explain the paint cans later ...

Step 6. Put everybody in the pot, cover with water, add seasoning and aromatics (see below for what some of ours were), heave ho onto the stove and simmer "until the jaw drops off" (about 4 hours).

Check. Everybody into the pot ...
 Step 7. At the half point, get some paint cans and then stand on some paint cans so you can reach inside the pot, check in, give a stir and see what's going on.

Check. Paint cans ...

Check. Stand on them, see what's up ...

Check. All is well ...
  Step 8. This step is an all in one shot deal because this is where we had to stop and continue with the sausage. Chad and Leslie finished it after we left and we enjoyed it all together a few days later. Okay, imagination time. Once the jaw has fallen off, take all the meat out of the pot and place it into, you guessed it, a giant tray, wait for everything to cool, pick the meat, cartilage and ears out and shred (by hand) and cut (with a knife)  into head cheese'ish pieces until it is a big pile of awesome. In the meantime strain your boiling liquid, check for seasoning and adjust if needed and set aside to cool. Once meat is ready and liquid is cool, pick out the mold of your choice, place meat inside about three quarters of the way through, cover with cooking liquid and refrigerate it until, mhhmm, it's awesome. Then, slice and serve cool with some spicy Dijon mustard and super crunchy cornichons and pickled onions.  Heaven.

Check. A big pile of awesome ...

You know, after giving it some thought I am going to write another post for the Cotechino and Italian sausage. This will be way too long if I continue. What I will aim for is another post tomorrow for all of you eager sausage makers who want to make a last minute Easter bid to impress your friends with your stupendous sausage making skills. Ahem.

**For spices and aromatics we used the following: Salt, pepper, vinegar (a healthy amount), whole onions, whole garlic gloves, bay leaves, thyme, cloves and juniper berries.**

Monday, April 18, 2011

Small windows are sometimes granted ...

Disclaimer: There are (might be, see below) a few pretty graphic pictures in this post so if you have a queasy tummy watch out.

Also: My laptop just crashed and is in the emergency room at the tech shop on the corner. If it does not recover, this story may be another one for the imagination.

It's been a heck of a few weeks dear readers. I've been coping with some health issues so I have not been super well. The thing is though when you are not super well, you notice some things.

Here is what I've noticed so far:

1. No matter how hard I try, I am incapable of sitting in one place, in the same classroom, learning the same one subject, every day, for six hours a day. It makes me loopy.
2. The plants on the sunny side of the street are happier. I think the same might apply to people.
3. It's not fun to be not super well.
4. Yoga helps. A lot.
5. So does sweating your butt off on a bike.
6. Small windows are sometimes granted where you can make head cheese.

**Parenthesis: Well, it was supposed to be head cheese but turned into Italian sausage, Cotechino sausage and dried sausage instead. With the head cheese (and some of the sausages) halfway done and finished - bless their souls - by Chad and Leslie. **

7. And meet really awesome people in the process. Yep, this means you Chad and Leslie.

This won't be a super wordy post but more of a photographic journey (if the laptop makes it) of an experience that I will cherish for a lifetime.

If not, it will be a super wordy post. I expect news tomorrow morning.