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Italian Dry Cured Salami

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This is my favorite dry cured salami to make. It is far superior to the commercial dry cured salami you can buy. A lot of salami sold at the supermarket is cured in about a week. Commercial producers use a process called “fast-fermenting” by using a culture that reduces the moisture content and raises the acidity of the meat in a short period of time. This bypasses the aging process which adds a lot of flavor to the salami. I use a slow-fermenting culture, Bactoferm T-SPX, for traditional fermentation profiles. That means that good bacteria has time to work. Fast-fermented salami will always exhibit a tangy and sour flavor as flavor forming bacteria don’t have sufficient time to work with the meat. My salami can be eaten in 35 days which includes the first 3 days fermenting at near room temperature, however, the curing process continues as long as it is allowed to hang in the proper environment. The longer the better.

There are some important guidelines that must be followed to insure a successful outcome when making a dry cured salami. Since it takes a lot of time before you can see the results of your efforts and hard work, you don’t want to come up to the day to take your first taste and find out your salami is spoiled or tainted with bad bacteria. My 6 rules are: 1.) KEEP IT COLD  2.) Use Instacure #2, not Mortons tender quick.  3.) Use slow-fermenting culture like Bactoferm T-SPX.  4.) Mix the ingredients thoroughly into the meat.  5.) Partially freeze the meat before grinding.  6.) Cure in the proper temperature & humidity ranges. If you follow these rules you should be very pleased with the finished product.

Recipe:
4 lbs. pork shoulder
1 lb. beef chuck
4 1/2 Tbs. Kosher salt
1 1/2 tsp. powdered dextrose
1 1/2 tsp. ground white pepper
1 1/2 tsp. whole peppercorns
1 tsp. garlic granules
2 Tbs. corn syrup solids
1 tsp. Instacure #2
1/4 tsp. Bactoferm T-SPX
1/4 cup distilled water
protein lined casings

Directions:
Cut meat into cubes that will fit your grinder. Partially freeze the meat. Place your grinding tools such as the grinding blade, plate, auger, bowls in the freezer before grinding begins. Mix the Instacure and Bactoferm into the distilled water and let activate the culture for 30 minutes. Assemble the rest of the spices in a bowl and mix well. Assemble your grinder and grind the partially frozen cubes using a 3/8 grinding plate. Place the ground meat back in the freezer for 30 minutes. Remove meat from the freezer and mix in the spices and 1/4 cup distilled water containing the culture and Instacure #2. Be sure to mix thoroughly, about 6 minutes by hand, 3 minutes using a meat mixer. Place the mixed meat back in the freezer. If you have a meat stuffer, stuff meat into the protein lined casings in 5 equal amounts. If you are using your meat grinder as a stuffer, clean and sanitize the grinding unit and place back in the freezer for 10 minutes. Re-grind and stuff the meat in casings using the largest grinding plate you have as the whole peppercorns need to pass through the plate. Hang the five salamis in your curing chamber for 72 hours @ 68 degrees and a humidity of 85-90%. After 72 hours reduce the temperature in your curing chamber to 54-60 degrees and a humidity of 75%. Let cure in that environment for 32 days. The salami will lose about 30% of its volume during that time. You will see mold starting to grow on your casings in a week to ten days. This is good mold. If it bothers you, mix equal parts water to vinegar and wipe the mold off with a clean paper towel. I do it a couple of times during the curing process just to avoid the bigger job of cleaning it off at the end. I always take out one salami at the 35 day mark to sample. You can leave the remaining salamis in the curing chamber indefinitely. If you need room for more salamis to cure, you can store the cured salamis in the refrigerator in an unsealed ziplock bag. Be sure to never remove any of the casing from any part of the salami unless you are going to eat it right away. Salami with the casing removed dries out very quickly. Partially open salami can be stored by putting plastic wrap over the cut end secured by a rubber band.

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NDUJA Salami

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Nduja, pronounced “en-doo-ya” is a soft salami, dry cured, from Calabria, Italy. Up until recently it was not available for purchase in the United States. It couldn’t be imported because the salami was made with not only pork, but pork lungs. I know that sounds awful but if you go to your supermarket and look at the Mexican chorizo in the refrigerated section right next to the hot dogs and other packaged meats, you will find that it not only lists its ingredients as pork, but lymph nodes and salivary glands. YUCK!! Anyway, people who traveled to Italy and experienced this spicy hot Calabrian salami wanted to be able to have it here in the US. One such group of Chefs  happen to own the Purple Pig restaurant in Chicago. They produce their own Nduja and serve a killer Pork Blade Steak topped with Nduja and honey. Bon Appetit published a story in 2010 about the Purple Pig and gave the recipe for the Blade steak. That got me interested in finding a recipe and making it for my own use. I found a great recipe by Len Poli, an expert in Charcuterie. That is the recipe I am using with the exception of adding Bactoferm T-SPX as a culture which most people are using now, and using smoked paprika instead of sweet paprika, bypassing the need to cold smoke for hours.

For 5 lbs. salami. 2 1/2 lbs pork shoulder. 2 1/2 lbs. pork back fat. 2 cups Calabrian hot pepper powder. 1 1/3 cup smoked paprika. 3 Tbs. Kosher salt. 1 tsp. Instacure #2. 1/4 tsp. Bactoferm T-SPX dissolved in 1/4 cup distilled water.

Cube meat and back fat and partially freeze. Place Bactoferm in the water and let sit for 30 minutes to activate. Grind meat using a 3/8 plate. Add the spices and mix well. Pour water with Bactoferm into the meat and mix again. Stuff meat mixture into protein lined casings. Let ferment at 68 degrees for 48 hours. Cure in curing box @ 54-60 degrees and relative humidity of 75% for 4 weeks. If you get a formation of mold on the casing don’t worry. It is good mold. However, if you wish, mix equal parts water and vinegar and wipe off the mold with a paper towel. This isn’t necessary but your curing chamber might smell better.

Now, the Calabrians like to put a little olive oil on crusty bread and top with thin slices of Nduja. For me that is a little spicy, but good. Here is the recipe for the Purple Pigs Pork Blade Steak with Nduja.

4 blade steaks. 4 ozs. thin sliced Nduja salami. 2 Tbs. honey. Lightly coat blade steaks with olive oil. Season with kosher salt and coarse black pepper. Sear steaks on griddle or cast iron pan for 3 minutes. Turn steaks over and top evenly with Nduja. Salami will soften. Sear another 3 minutes. Place steaks Nduja side down on plates and drizzle honey over each. Serve with arugula salad.

Smoked Beef Brisket Flat

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When smoking a beef brisket I usually use a “full packer Brisket”. This has two distinct cuts, the point and the flat. They are separated by a thick layer of fat. The point is the thick cut on top, with the flat being on the bottom. The picture above is the flat. You can separate these two cuts by cutting through the fat layer being careful to leave about 1/4 inch of fat on the top of the flat. I use the point to make my burnt ends and the flat for slicing. Today I am smoking just the flat since I am preparing BBQ for just me and my wife. There will be plenty of leftovers since a flat is around 5-7 lbs. raw and will lose about 30 % of weight when finished. That will leave about 3 1/2 – 5 lbs. finished meat. The first step is to prepare a marinade and inject to meat. I use equal amounts beef broth, cider vinegar, and olive oil. I emulsify them in a blender until smooth. For this brisket I used 2/3 cups each. Inject the meat along the grain every inch or so. Be careful because this is a coarse grained cut and the marinade will squirt out in all kinds of places and ruin your shirt! Place the meat in a large ziplock bag and add the rest of the marinade. Place in the fridge for at least 24 hours.

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When you are ready to smoke the brisket, remove from the marinade and pat dry. Apply your favorite rub (or you can use my “Basic Rub Recipe” found on this blog) on the top, bottom, and sides of the meat. Place in a smoker @ 225 degrees and smoke for 6 hours.

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At the end of 6 hours it will look like this.

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I remove the brisket from the smoker and wrap in unwaxed butcher paper and tie with kitchen twine. You can use heavy duty foil if you want but I find that using butcher paper the meat retains the moisture whereas the foil causes a lot of the juices to come out of the meat leaving a considerable amount in the bottom of the foil. There is none in the paper. The smoking process is done but the cooking process is not. You can place the wrapped brisket back in the smoker or place in an oven @ 225 degrees for another 3 hours. I recommend the oven to save on smoker fuel.

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This is what makes it all worthwhile. It is smokey and melts in your mouth. NO KNIVES NEEDED!

Smoked Texas Hot Links

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The finished product
The finished product

Ingredients:
5 pounds boston butt
6 fl oz ice cold beer
1 Cup soy protein concentrate
3 1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
3 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
3 1/2 tsp Hungarian paprika
1 3/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon minced fresh garlic
1 3/4 tsp granulated garlic
1 1/2 teaspoons ground corriander
1 teaspoon ground bay leaves
1 teaspoon whole anise seeds
1 teaspoon whole mustard seeds
1 teaspoon sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons ground thyme
5 tsp Kosher salt
1 tsp Instacure #1
6 ft. 1 1/4 inch natural hog casing

Mix seasonings into ground pork
Mix seasonings into ground pork
Stuff into natural casing
Stuff into natural casing
Link sausage and hang on smoke rack to cure for 12 hours
Link sausage and hang on smoke rack to cure for 12 hours
Apply heavy smoke @ 110 degrees for 2 hours
Apply heavy smoke @ 110 degrees for 2 hours

Raise the temperature to 125 degrees and smoke 1 hour. Raise smoker temp to 155 degrees and smoke until sausage reaches an internal temp of 155 degrees. Do not let the smoker temp exceed 155 degrees or the fat will start to separate from the meat. When 155 internal temp is reached, remove from smoker and immediately shower sausage with cold water until the internal temp drops to 100 degrees. Allow to hang on smoker racks @ room temp for 3 hours to bloom. The complete directions are below.

Hang 3 hours @ room temp to bloom
Hang 3 hours @ room temp to bloom

Directions:
Mix all the spices, cure, and garlic into the beer and place in refrigerator while you cut up the meats into grinder sized pieces. Grind the meat at a small grind. Add the spiced beer into the ground meat and mix it up good. Run spiced meat mixture through the largest grind plate when stuffing into medium hog casings. Allow to cure 12 hours. Cold smoke for 2 hours. Raise smoker temp to 125 degrees and smoke 1 hour. Raise temp to 155 degrees and smoke until sausage reaches an internal temp of 155 degrees.

Bacon Weave Wrapped Mushroom Beef Roll

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1 lb. regular sliced bacon
1 lb. extra lean ground beef
1/4 lb. thin sliced mushrooms
4 oz. cream cheese
2 green onions, minced
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
Cajun seasoning

Bacon Weave

Using 12 slices of bacon create the bacon weave on a piece of plastic wrap.

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On a piece of plastic wrap press ground beef into a square 1 inch smaller on all sides than the bacon weave. Season the beef with the Cajun seasoning. Saute the mushrooms. Mix the cream cheese, green onions, mushrooms and lemon juice. Spread the mixture evenly on top of the beef leaving a 1/2 inch border around the edge. Lift the plastic and roll beef into a roll. Use a fork to seal the beef on the seam and ends using the tines of the fork. Transfer the beef roll to the bottom of the bacon weave. Using the plastic under the bacon weave, roll up the beef roll and fold the bacon over the ends. Place Beef roll seam side down on a baking sheet with a wire rack lightly sprayed with Pam. Place in a smoker preheated to 325 degrees. Smoke until an internal temp of 160 degrees is reached, about 1 1/4 hours.

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Remove from smoker and tent with foil for 15 minutes.

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Slice and serve.

Crockpot Pulled Pork

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I am a big fan of the crockpot for all kinds of dishes. Beef pot roast, chicken & dumplings, soups, stews, chili, and other comfort food. The other day I was in the mood for some pulled pork. Since I am away from my home for the winter, (so no access to any of my smokers), I decided to break out the old crockpot and give it a try. I will tell you right now that it turned out much better than I thought it would. It’s not what I pull out of my smoker after hours and hours of smoking, but I can tell you that this is worth trying.

2 tablespoons paprika
1 tablespoons Kosher salt
2 teaspoons black pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon dried thyme
½ cup honey
¼ cup cider vinegar
1 tsp Liquid smoke
2 onions, peeled and thick sliced
4 Lb. pork shoulder
12 Hawaiian dinner rolls or slider rolls, warmed.

Directions:
In a medium size mixing bowl, mix together the first five ingredients (all of the spices) with a fork.
Pour in the honey, vinegar, & liquid smoke. Stir to form a paste. Season pork with black pepper and brown in a skillet on all sides.
Place the onion in the bottom of the slow cooker. Top it with the pork and then pour the honey paste over all sides of the pork pieces. It’s okay if some of it drips down to the bottom.
Turn the slow cooker on to low and cook for 7 to 8 hours or until the meat is tender enough to be easily shredded with a fork. Strain juice from crock pot and place in freezer for 30 minutes. Pull pork and place in pan covered with foil. Remove pan juices from freezer and skim fat off the top. Pour into a small saucepan leaving as much of the seasoning residue out of the juice as possible. Warm the juice. Pile pulled pork on rolls, top with warm juice and BBQ sauce if desired.

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The resulting product is extremely good. It is smoky, juicy, and very tender. I served it on Hawaiian brand dinner rolls as sliders. Serve coleslaw as a side.

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Pastrami Beef Short Ribs

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This is a awesome recipe. I plan to use it the next time I cure a brisket into pastrami.

For the meat and brine:
4 to 5 pounds meaty bone-in beef short ribs
2 quarts cold water
1/3 cup kosher salt
2 teaspoons pink salt (important for curing and color)
1/4 cup brown sugar
4 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
4 tablespoons pickling spices, roughly crushed
In a large mixing bowl, combine the water, kosher salt, pink salt, and brown sugar and stir until the salt and sugar crystals have dissolved. Place ribs in large Ziplock bag. Allow to marinate 48 hours turning bag to mix brine twice a day.

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Take ribs out of the brine and rinse off any spice left on them. Pat dry with paper towels. Now make the pastrami rub.

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3 tablespoons coriander seeds
3 tablespoons cracked black peppercorns
2 teaspoons yellow mustard seed
1 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 tsp. garlic granules

Put coriander, black pepper, mustard seed, and red pepper flakes into a spice grinder and coarse grind them. Stir in the garlic and mix well.

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Press spice into the meaty sides of the ribs, tops and sides. Don’t bother with the bone side. Place into a ziplock bag, remove as much air as possible and then place a weight on the ribs for 4 hours.

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Place ribs on a grill with smoke or a 375 degree smoker for 45 minutes. Remove and place ribs on a baking sheet bone side down.

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Pour ginger ale into the bottom of the baking sheet and up to the middle part of the bones on the ribs. Cover tightly with heavy duty foil and put into an 325 degree oven for 2 hours.

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Remove ribs from the baking sheet and place on a serving platter. Serve with cole slaw and garlic bread.