Friday, November 29, 2013

Stuffing Meat Into Your Bung (Cotto Salami With Harissa).

Sometimes I get a craving for a bit of good ol' American-style "sandwich salami" of the variety that is mass-marketed throughout the land. I have a weakness for the familiar flavor of the stuff and I don't really know why... Oh yeah, I actually might know why. How is this for some local Albany, NY folklore? -- At the Albany Academy Day Camp Carnival (circa the late 80s when I was a wee 'un in attendance) there used to be a game where you tried to pop balloons with darts. Your prize was a hunk of salami cut from a lengthy chub slapped on white bread with a squirt of yellow mustard... Maybe this craving is a nostalgic taste memory sort of situation resulting from this.

Anyhow, the generic "salami" peddled at the grocery stores (and even at many upscale "delis") is generally of dubious provenance and manufacture. Who knows what nonsense lurks in those perfectly cylindrical lengths of salami languishing in your grocer's cold case? So I thought I would give a try at a homemade example of the form. I decided that a "cotto" or cooked style salami might approximate the familiar texture as opposed to a dry-cured product.

For large diameter salamis I haven't had too much luck with synthetic or collagen casings, so I went with some good ol' beef lung for this recipe. When using bung and writing posts about it you get the added benefit of being able to make numerous childishly naughty references to bungs (see title of post)...

You can get a bung delivered (free shipping!) from the Sausage Maker, Inc. out of Buffalo, NY. 


A single beef bung can be about 4-5" in diameter and you can stuff about 10 pounds in each one. I am using a 5 1/4 pound recipe so I cut the thing in half. You can re-salt the remaining bung, seal an end with a hog ring, and reserve it for a future recipe.

I adapted the following Len Poli recipe for American Style Cotto Salami. I omitted the TVP, utilized dextrose instead of sugar, and substituted equal amounts of allspice and mace for the cardamom. In addition, I added 4 tablespoons of harissa. I like a spicy salami.

Finally, I inoculated the meat mixture with some live culture (Bactoferm FLC) and altered the cooking times to get a slight bit of fermented tang into the recipe.

A note on salami tying. Watch this video on "legatura del salami," that guy is my idle. I try to follow his technique as best as I can. A tip I have is to make a little string spindle like the one pictured below. Makes things a bit easier.

There she is. Not bad, not bad. A little sloppy and lopsided but she will do nicely.

Here is the break down on cooking times. I let the meat paste develop in the fridge for 48 hours. On cooking day I left the mixture out for about 4 hours to come to room temp. Then the chub went into my temperature controlled smoker rig (with no smoke) for 2 hours at 110 degrees. Then I incrementally raised the temperature to 165 and cooked until the salami had an internal temperature of 150 degrees. Total cooking time was something like 12-14 hours.

Here she is after I removed her from the heat cabinet and sprayed with water until the internal temp dropped to 120 degrees. I hung the salami in my chilly basement overnight.

I got impatient the next day and cut into the bottom to see the results. I generally like to leave a salami like this in the vegetable drawer of my fridge for a couple days to develop and dry out a little bit before cutting. But slicing in I found that the color, texture, and smell were all just about right!

Today I thinly sliced a half-pound or so on my trusty meat slicer Lurlissa.

I thought this particular salami came out just right. Just the right amount of "salami" flavor with a nice bit of flat heat from the harissa. The texture was firm and was somewhere betwixt a deli counter "hard" salami and a "Genoa" style. I pretty much hit the nail on the head in terms of what I was going for so I was very satisfied with the results of this endeavor.

I will be munching salami sandwiches (have you tried a salami n' butter sandy? You should.) for some time to come as 5 pounds is a butt-ton (bung-ton, teehee) of salami. I am OK with this. 

There is just something reassuring about having a giant chub of salami floating around the homestead, don't know why... Just think about how much it would cost to buy your own big ol' whole salami from any purveyor. It would cost an arm and a leg. This is how I convince myself that all of the time and money I put into my sausage making is worth it in the end.

In any event, I am chalking up my Cotto Salami w/Harissa as a resounding success. 

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Generally I Eat Like a 1920's Barfly (Homemade Pickled Eggs & Sausage)


Perhaps due to strong drink and excessive hot sauce intake my taste buds have began to die as I approach the ripe age of 34. I am thinking this because it seems that I like to be clobbered over the head by the flavor of my food lately. I have no use (or patience) for bland, milquetoast fair... Give me pickle-y, spicy, sour, salty things all day long!

Due to these strange cravings my diet seems to be morphing into something not unlike the menu of a seedy, 1920s, jakey bum, dive bar (consult this vintage menu I saw at the Allen St. Pub not so long ago). Most recently I have been stuffing my maw with homemade pickled eggs and sausage...

Who likes pickled eggs and/or sausage? I have found that a lot of people dismiss these items with a summary, "ew." But I think that a lot of people should reevaluate their stance on these venerable pickled foodstuffs. I thought we were in the middle of some sort of pickling renaissance for Job's sake... What's more, pickled eggs & sausage are easy to make and are low-cost/high-reward in my opinion.

The eggs are especially easy. For a half-gallon jar -- hard boil and peel about 18 large eggs. I like the flavor malt vinegar imparts so I throw some of this into the mix. A pint and a half of white vinegar and one pint of malt vinegar should be enough to cover the eggs. Then add a tablespoon of salt, a bit of dried hot-pepper, and some pepper corns. I begin to eat these the very next day. I enjoy how the flavors continue to develop over time and I am usually done with this quantity in about a month.

For the pickled sausages you can pick any sort of cooked sausage that you enjoy. I used some homemade venison kielbasa this time. Make a brine with 2 cups white vinegar, 1.5 cups water, 1 tablespoon salt, 2 tablespoons sugar, some chopped onion, and whatever pickling spices you enjoy (I like a lot of mustard seeds in there personally). Boil that up, pack sausages in your jar, and use as much of the brine as you need to cover it up. Pickled sausages need about 2 weeks in the brine (I store them in the fridge) to get the correct flavor.

There you have it. Throw a nice length of sausage and a halved egg on a plate with a goodly hunk of sharp cheese (a little mustard too) and you have a meal fit for a king (or a jakey bum)!

It is also worth noting that the deer and pork in that sausage lived/died in Upstate NY, as did the chickens that crapped those eggs, as did the cows who gave the milk for the cheese. So this is a great, locally sourced sort of home crafted plate of food if that is the sort of thing that tickles you...

So I recommend that pickled eggs & sausage be separated from the ol' timey bar-snack stigma attached to their name and that the whole pickling community embrace them with open arms! They really are a very tasty treat. Go grab a beer and a plate of this and tell me I'm wrong.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Capital Region in Aspic. It Belongs in a Museum!

So, I have pretty much covered the whole "Upstate NY" indigenous food thing, I've done sausage/charcuterie making to death, and I honestly believe people would rather not here me blabber on about restaurants and fast food any more than I already have... So what is a mid-thirties, hack-blogging, overgrown man-child to post about these days on his little-viewed corner of the internet?...

Hot dogs suspended in beer-gelatin, that's what. My blog-title does have the words "ridiculous" and "food" in it. So I have decided to go full ridiculous with this post... As exemplified by my recent meatloafery, a personal interest in food products as objets d'art seems to be increasing. Someone also took the dangerous step of putting the concept of Jell-O molded foods into my head the other day on the tweeters. This is what happens when you put ideas into my low-functioning (I am using a lot of hyphens today. I am in a hyphen-y mood...) mind. 

Anyhow, here it is. My working title was "Albany in Aspic" but it occurred to me that the products used belong more to the Capital Region at large. So I am calling this "Capital Region in Aspic."

I needed to empty my can of v1.0 Stewart's Mountain Brew Ice so I could keep the can (a work of art in its own right) for posterity. I added a bit of water to the brew for clarity.

Then I took some gelatin and geltanized up that there Brew of the Mountains as per the gelatinizing instructions on the wee packages.

Then I took a single Hot Dog Charlie's dinky dog with the works (previously frozen)...

 ... and used the dark, meat-y, unspeakable magic of the true meat-warlock to suspend that little bad boy in the beer-gel!

Then I proceeded to take many, many pictures. Because it is beautiful. This was one of the rare times I wished that I hadn't committed to only utilizing my cellphone camera to take pictures for this hacky blog. This masterpiece deserves better. But we work with what we have.

I gingerly sliced my mold in half as to partake of the beauteous cross section.

The power, the glory.

I think I am going to use the photoshops to blank out the wall and hand and stuff and make t-shirts out of this image...

Anyhow, there you have it. I know I will have some people shaking heads as they become stupefied by this nonsense. But no matter! I believe in the beauty and wonder of a true Capital Region style mini-dog suspended in the most mountainy of brews.

What exemplifies us Capital Regioners more than one of our hot dogs suspended in one of the down and dirtiest of our beers! The products, the idea, the concept... This is us on a plate. I am in love with my own creation. I need to stop now.

I will leave you alone with this. Enjoy.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

To Mayor Jerry Jennings, A True Prince of Albany, I Offer a Tribute! I Have Immortalized You in Loaf! I Give You - Loafy Jennings.

As you may or may not know, I fancy myself something of a Meatloafartiste. That is to say, I take great pride in turning meatloaf and instant mashed potatoes into what I think are veritable works of art. Here are my past creations should you be interested --

Meatloafy the Whale
Meat Romney
Meatloafy Puss
Grumpy Loaf

Onto the matter at hand...

Albany Mayor Jerry Jennings has been synonymous in my mind with the city at large for the past 20 years. Alas, as all things eventually do, his run as the leader of the city in which I was born has come to an end. One of the dominate traits of my personality is that I do not handle change very well and that I am prone to fits of nostalgia. I am already nostalgic for the Jennings era and it hasn't even come to a close yet. So I was thinking of how, in my own small way, I might offer tribute to the man... Maybe even immortalize him!

Of course it didn't take too long to decided on a tribute in loaf form! And on what better day then Election Day to create what I believe is my truest meatloaf masterpiece to date.

I won't get too deep into the methodology of the meatloaf arts as you can read through the past posts for that. 

Needless to say, you start with meat.

You form it into loafs.

You make a big batch of instant mashed potatoes and in this case add two mashed sweet potatoes to add the wonderful tan hue of Albany Mayor Gerald Jenning's storied skin tone.

You sketch out some stencils to use on the loaf.

You trim those loafs down. I have said it before but I will say it again -- meatloaf trimmings are the best part of being a meatloaf artist.

Apply a thick layer of your mashed potatoes and there you have it! A blank canvas. The old masters worked in fresco, I work in taters!

Then you simply bring life to the loaf with the tools at your disposal. In this case a squirt bottle full of my homemade mushroom ketchup, some black pepper for shading, some mozzarella string cheese to imply Mayor Jenning's glorious hair, some sumac for a nice red tie, and a fresh fall flower to grace his honorable lapel.

There you have it. An honest (yes I know meatloaf portraiture may seem ridiculous, but I really do mean it honestly...) tribute a man who is passing into the long, long history of the fair City of Albany.

Again, this might smack of lampooning or making fun but I am really not going for that. Although I don't live in Albany anymore (I live in Delmar which is really pretty close if you think about it) it is where I was born and spent my childhood. I take the city's constants seriously and for the past 20 years Mayor Jennings certainly has been a constant.

I don't have much access to the city at large outside of this blog... So I offer this small homage to the Honorable Gerald Jennings. I wish him well in all of his future endeavors.
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