Cantucci di Prato

I was tasked with making something to go along with ice cream for Sunday’s Oscar party we’re going to. These are almond and hazelnut biscotti from the Il Fornaio Baking book. They have an orange worth of zest in them and they’re wonderful. Had a little bit of difficulty with them today, but I pressed on and they’re fine. In fact, I’ve eaten too many of them already. I swore I was going to make them on Sunday and get them out of the house as soon as possible. Oh well, the best laid plans of mice and men.

I am an Urban Homesteader

Today many, as a form of protest, are proclaiming themselves Urban Homesteader. I do believe I am one. I have chickens, I grow some food in our yard, like tomatoes and herbs and a bit of lettuce. I can. I make jelly. I make cheese. I make charcuterie.

I don’t believe that the terms Urban Homestead and Urban Homesteader should be trademarked. These are generic terms that have been in use since at least the 1970s. As the controversy gains momentum more references earlier in time are being found.

More information about the trademarking controversy here: Blogher.

Tasso Ham!

I made Chicken Jambalaya for our house (our Urban Homestead) warming a year and a half ago and it called for Tasso ham. Popular in Cajun country, it’s not something I’ve ever seen here, even in this major foodie region. The recipe gave “any smoked ham” as an alternative. So, the jambalaya turned out great even with this alternative.

I have plans to make the recipe again and it just so happens that in the book that is the basis of the #Charcutepalooza challenge I’m participating in has a recipe for it. It’s pretty simple, but requires a smoker. Luckily, I just got one of those too.P1050685

The recipe starts out with one pound slabs of pork shoulder. They’re cured in a very quick 4 hours, slathered with spices and then smoked to 150°F internal temperature. That took a couple of hours on my new Bradley Portable Smoker. Seen on the right.

The hams are super fiery hot spice wise. But the ham taste is terrific. I’ve rubbed some of the spices off and will try it in a couple of weeks with the jambalaya. I’m sure it’s going to be great. Good to know I can make small batches of ham at home.

Kale Chips

Do a Google search for Kale Chips and you’ll get a long list of food bloggers that have been touting this snack. Well, time for me to chime in.
Today when I got back home there was our first CSA organic vegetable box sitting on the front porch. It was nicely filled with good stuff and one thing inside was a bunch of this Lacinato Kale. Perfect time to make kale chips for the first time. All the recipes seem pretty similar, and although some add spices, I stuck to the plain.

They are good, especially if you like the crunchy, slightly bitter, salty combination that they are. Super easy to make too.

Kale Chips
1 bunch of kale (I used lacinato)
1-2 Tbl. olive oil

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Remove kale from the stems and tear into bite sized pieces. Wash and spin very dry in a salad spinner.

Toss the kale with the olive oil, and transfer to a couple of baking sheets that have been lined with a silpat, foil, or parchment.

Bake 12-15 minutes until crispy and browned at the edges.

Note: some recipes have you bake longer at 250°F. I think I’ll try that next time. It may make for a more consistent dryness and less dark brown bitter edges.

The Salt Cure, #Charcutepalooza month 2

charcutepalooza_LogoThe #Charcutepalooza challenge for February is The Salt Cure. The main challenge was Pancetta or Guanciale or Bacon. However, other salt cures like, preserved lemons, are acceptable too. I first tried guanciale last year when a friend got ahold of some very inexpensive jowls from Prather Ranch Meat Company at the farmer’s market. He cured it into guanciale and gave us some. We had two delicious pastas with it. I’ve been swearing I’d make it myself since then. I had not gotten around to it yet. I’ve also long been a fan of pancetta, but don’t buy it often because of it’s price. Feeling like being a little adventurous I made both for the challenge.

The pancetta takes longer, so I started with that. It starts off with a pork belly, just like all bacons.P1050487 - Version 2Pancetta is just an unsmoked bacon that is rolled after curing. The belly I used even had one nipple on it. It reminded me that this was pig not long ago. You can see it in the picture to the right. The skin was removed it and then it was rubbed all over with the cure. The cure has more spices than bacon, like nutmeg, juniper berries, bay leaves and there’s garlic in there too. I sealed it up P1050506with the FoodSaver, but didn’t vacuum out all the air. I thought that I’d like to be able to move the cure around a little. Each day for 8 days I turned it and massaged it a little to re-distribute the cure. After 8 days it was firmer and the color had changed a bit. It smelled great when I took it out of the bag.

After washing the spices off and drP1050513ying the belly is rolled up into what was now looking like pancetta. The book is very specific about tying it up at this point. You want absolutely no air pockets in the middle for bacteria to grow in. You can’t tie it too tight. I may have gone a little overboard as I got this deep blister on my left pinkie. I used a lot of string to tie it up. The ends bulged a little from my tying too.

The pancetta hung in the garage for a day or two, but the humidity wasn’t high enough and we were, and still are, having unseasonably warm weather. Into the mini fridge it went. I hooked up my Ranco ETC controller to keep the temperature at 55°F. I didn’t need to do much with the humidity as the fridge defrosted often enough to keep the humidity up in the right range most of the time.


P1050577By now the pork jowls I had ordered from Marin Sun Farms had come in. Time to make guanciale. Except for the rolling, the process is much the same. The cure is a little different too. So the jowls went into a bag with their cure and in the fridge to hang out a few days. After 6 days the were firm and ready to be hung. I’m not sure why, but this recipe calls for hanging in a cool, dry place as opposed to the cool, humid place the pancetta was to hang. The garage was staying cool enough I thought and I hung them there by making a hole in one corner and using extra pot rack hooks to hang them by.
They hung there for 8 days and seemed to qualify as completely stiff, but not hard as the recipe notes. After cutting I noticed that maybe it could have dried a little longer, but I don’t think it will make a significant difference.

So, what to do with all this luscious cured meat? Spaghetti or bucatini all’amatriciana or Spaghetti alla Carbonara springs to most people’s mind. They can be made with either guanciale or pancetta. Both are wonderful, but if you want to showcase the meat more, I prefer Mario Batali’s spaghetti or bucatini alla Gricia.

Bucatini alla Gricia The way I make it for the two of us:

1 Tablespoon Extra-Virgin Olive OilP1050623
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes 
 (more or less to taste)
3-4 oz guanciale or pancetta diced
1 small red onion or half a large one
1 large clove of garlic sliced
6 oz bucatini or spaghetti
1/4 cup pecorino romano or parmesan
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Boil salted water for the pasta. Put bowls or plates into a 200°F oven to warm. Mine fit nicely in the toaster oven.

Heat olive oil in a pan over medium low heat. Add red pepper flakes and guanciale or pancetta. Cook until the meat has rendered the fat and is crisp. Add the onion and garlic and cook until the onion browns. Turn heat to very low or off. Do not drain off the lucious fat.
Cook the pasta until al dente.

Turn heat up in the sauté pan and add the drained pasta. Toss to distribute everything and then add the cheese and half the parsley, tossing again. Divvy it up between two pasta bowl or plates. Garnish with remaining parsley and optionally with a little more cheese.

Note: I use only 3 oz of pasta per person. That seems to be plenty for us. Most recipes use 4 ounces per person, adjust as you see fit. I love bucatini for it’s texture here, but it can be a little difficult to find.

Recipes for both Pancetta & Guanciale in:Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing By Michael Ruhlman & Brian Polcyn.

These comments are from the previous commenting system.MARDI@EATLIVETRAVELWRITE Hey Scott – nice post – your pancetta is absolutely gorgeous!  I heartily approve of your choices of recipes for using the pancetta in – my list looks very similar!  LOVE bucatini 🙂
Tuesday, February 8, 2011 – 03:49 AMMOSAICA
Hi Scott,It’s beautiful & encouraging to see how nicely your cured meats have turned out.  Boy, the pancetta is just so handsome!  Reading your post helps me pass the time ’til mine is finished :-)Cheers!
Tuesday, February 8, 2011 – 03:26 PMFOONGFEST
Wow, those are some really lovely looking pancetta. Fantastic!
Wednesday, February 9, 2011 – 09:41 AM

Making Mozzarella

All this meat curing for #Charcutepalooza just happened to spur thoughts of cheese making in my head. I already had some parmesan aging. It’s 6 months into it’s 10 month age. It also just so happens that we’re having some friends over on Saturday for some house made pizza. They’ve got two young boys and my thought was to give them something to do. So, I got a couple of gallons of milk and made two batches of mozzarella. It’s one of the first cheeses I made several years ago. It’s quite easy once you have all the ingredients.

I get my cheesemaking supplies from New England Cheesemaking Supply. It’s where I bought my first mozzarella kit. It’s a great source and the owner Ricki Carroll has written a very straightforward book on cheese making. The book, Home Cheese Making is also available there.

For mozzarella you need milk, citric acid and rennet. Oh, and a microwave, although you can get by without it. Optionally you can add lipase powder too. It adds a deeper “cheese” flavor.

The milk is heated in a pot on the stove to 55°F and the citric acid is added and the lipase if using. YouP1050547 keep heating over moderate heat until 90°F when you add the rennet. Then wait until the temperature rises to 100°F – 105°F. After a few minutes it looks like the picture on the right. The curds and whey have separated.

The curds are ladled off and into a microwaveable bowl. Pressing with a slotted spoon the excess whey is drained off. Then into the microwave for a minute. Pressing, folding and draining is next and two more trips into the microwave for 35 seconds. I gets kneading at this point, usually with the slotted spoon as it’s pretty hot. As soon as it’s cool enough to handle though I switch to using my hands. When it’s stretchy form into a ball and voila, it’s done.

It’s used right away or cooled in ice water and then stored in a bath of the cooled whey.
The second batch I experimented with and didn’t squeeze as much whey out of nor did I knead it as much, trying to get more of a fresh mozzarella texture. I’ll see how that works out on Saturday.

I hope to smoke some of it tomorrow or the next day in the new smoker. Although I need to find some other thing to smoke. Can’t fire up the smoker just for a pound of cheese.

Our guests on Saturday include a woman who is from Spain. So, I also had the nerve to make manchego cheese last week. Ricki’s book has a recipe and I learned that there are three types: manchego fresco, aged 5 days or so; machego curado, aged a few weeks and manchego viejo, aged the longest. It’s the latter you see in the stores here. I’m anxious to try it. You can see it in the tub in the picture below, keeping my parmesan and pancetta company in the mini fridge.