I'm sort of busy at the moment so will post in a couple of days. In the meantime here's a few of the things you can find elswhere on the blog.

Various products on this site

What a week!

It's been a funny old week; we're having the bathroom refurbished so it's been plumbers, tilers et al.

Added to this mayhem, Don "had a pig 'coming back' on Monday, so did I want half?" Well it's true that we are about out of piggylicious delicacies, so I accepted. Of course I should have realised that it probably wasn't the best timing; plumbers tend to require the water turned off on a regular basis!

No photos I'm afraid, it's hard enough for me to do the necessary without taking pictures. My left hand isn't as strong as it should be, so skinning the meat and fat for sausage is a particularly difficult and sometimes painful job.

I made the brine for the ham and hocks on Monday morning, the curing salt was added just before use as it reacts very quickly. I injected the meat with 10% of its weight in brine cure - purists will scoff at this method but in my experience the result is no different to just immersing the meat in the brine - I don't of course use the chemicals that are often used commercially to hold water in the meat - so it absorbs no more than it would by soaking naturally.

Next was the loin, dry cured in two pieces, one for smoking and one for 'green' bacon. The belly wasn't very thick, so one piece was kept for eating and the other made into pancetta. The rolled collar, minus its fat and skin was put into dry cure to be made into Coppa (or Capicola), an Italian air-dried meat. Unfortunately, I made a big hole in one of the layers of meat when taking the fat off, so it'll be slightly lacking in the diameter department. Oh OK, keep it simple; it ain't goin' to be as fat as it should be.

So far so good, now we come to the sausage. I keep promising my chutney crunching nephew, Mickey, some chorizo, and 'cos he's bigger and stronger than me, and 'an all around good egg' - coming to tinker with my smoker every-time I change my mind as to what design will work best - I thought I'd better make some. The rest of the meat was going to be made in to two or three different types of sausage, but as I had used the collar for Coppa there wasn't enough meat, so I stuck to just my 'signature sausage'; the newly renamed, 'Thurlaston Sausage'.

All went well until we stuffed them; the sheep's casings for the Thurlaston sausage had more holes than a tramps vest! So now I've got to find something to do with the 2 kg of sausage meat that didn't get stuffed. I can feel some Scotch eggs coming on.

Well that's the sausage done, but what of the chorizo? Now, a quick lesson in stating the obvious; for the normal horseshoe shape chorizo in the supermarket you don't start of with a casing that size; it needs to be a lot bigger as the casing shrinks as the sausage dries, losing up to 40% of its weight, and of course reducing in diameter. So I buy 'extra wide' hogs/pigs casings, they start off at about 40 mm. Wrong, the last batch I bought must have got swapped with something else; if I'd used them, the chorizo would have ended up like those Peperami snack-sticks you get in the supermarket. On to plan B then; the chorizo are now fermenting in 60 mm collagen casings; somewhat annoying, as I like a traditional look to my chorizo; not chorizo that looks as if it's come from a massive factory. It'll also take a lot longer to dry which means that Mickey'll have to wait just that little bit longer.

As for the offal, I decided to make the lot into Pâté and added a small amount of cure and vitamin C to preserve the colour. Pauline's just tasted it and says it's bloomin' awful; fortunately others haven't got her fine tuned taste buds (honed by years of smoking roll-ups), and like it!

I'm going into hiding now 'cos when she reads this she'll kill me! In the meantime, I love this uniquely Italian answer to the credit crunch; it's the thought of British banks doing the same thing and ending up with freezers full of ready-meals that amuses me!

Flamin' Smoker

I've been tinkering with my smoker set up for a couple of years now and it's just about getting to how I want it: or so I thought until today when the wood chips burst into flames!

Anyway, the partridge I was smoking seem to be OK, but what should have been a simple job became an absolute pain.

Smoked Partridge

The problems are basically my fault, the original sketches I did have a metal plate between the burner and the smoking chamber:

Smoker drawing

The burner in the filing cabinet to the left is for cold smoking

The burner set-up for hot smoking:

Smoker detail

Regrettably we failed to install the metal plate. Not only would it physically stop the flames from igniting the wood, but it would also restrict the air supply to the wood, meaning less chance of ignition. I also thought that the pebbles on a mesh shelf, which spread the smoke so successfully, would be sufficient to stop any fat dropping onto the wood. Oh, how wrong can you be? A good drip tray will be simple to install, I can do that myself, but the metal plate will have to wait until my Nephew, Mickey, can get time off from refurbishing his house to do it.

Why the apparently over elaborate set up, when you can hot smoke easily in a barrel or metal drum? It's true you can, or even a biscuit tin and a small burner. The reason I do it this way is because I smoke sausages. These have specific temperature control requirements that would be very difficult to achieve using a less controllable system.

Bresaola - Finished

The bresaola that was based on a recipe from Jason Molinari has now finished drying; it's lost a total of 38% of its original weight.

The finished bresaola

It tastes as good as it looks.

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Lonzino - Finished

Today I've sliced some of the lonzino that I started back in June. Getting to this stage has not been without it's problems, what with a new fridge set up for the drying, it's been a case of juggling things about to get the humidity at the correct levels - not helped by the weather we've been having recently!

The sliced Lonzino

It's a little dry around the edges, surprising as if anything the humidity was a little high in the early stages of drying. I dried it to a 36% weight loss, next time I'll dry it less and test for water activity to make sure it's safe. I don't think the drying was helped by the small size of the loin, nor the fact that I de-cased it after about 20 days as some undesirable moulds were starting to form under the casing - I obviously hadn't got it tight enough around the meat. The mould? I brushed that off, rubbed the area with wine vinegar to kill any remaining nasties, and sprayed the meat with Penicillium Candidium - the white mould that is seen on Brie and Camembert cheeses. Within a few days a nice coating of white had appeared:

The white mould

Pauline really likes its fennel overtones; I'm not as keen. Yes I like it, but think I will do a Lomo next time - basically Lomo's the same thing but with paprika flavours - Spanish as against Italian. That said it'll make a nice addition to the growing charcuterie store.

Others posts about this Lonzino are:


Lonzino Drying

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Apricot Jam

The Apricot JamI was luck enough to be given quite a quantity of locally grown apricots; they came from a neighbour of Mum and Dad's. The best were devoured in minutes but I decided to make jam with the others.

Now jam making and me make uncomfortable bedfellows as my previous blogs on the subject show. So it was to the Internet I turned for advice. Some chance! I found recipes with more sugar than fruit, less sugar than fruit, every permutation possible, and some that I'm sure aren't! Ah well, I tried. Back to making it up as I go along.

Firstly, put a plate in the freezer. Then chop the apricots off the stones which I you tie in some stockinet or similar. Weigh the flesh and put it to cook down in the minimum amount of water necessary to cover the bottom of the pan - about ½ a pint - add the juice of a lemon. When the flesh is soft, but still has pieces of apricot still visible add the same weight of sugar as fruit and dissolve it over a low heat - you need to stir it regularly as the apricot pulp has a tendency to stick to the pan. Add the stones to the pan and when the sugar is fully dissolved turn the heat up and bring it to a good rolling boil - again stir regularly to avoid sticking.

It's at this stage that you wish you had a 3 ft long spoon and were 7 ft tall; a shortish wooden spoon and face at eye level with the pan is not good when it decides to spit out boiling sugar! (Fortunately, it only landed on my shirt, but it could have been nasty.) After about 10 minutes slide the pan off the heat and put a little bit of the jam on to the, now very cold, plate. Leave to cool a little and push the side of it with your finger - if the top of the jam 'wrinkles' slightly it's done, if not put it back on the heat and boil it some more testing regularly; I may take 15 - 20 minutes. When it's ready leave it to cool for 20 to 30 minutes and pot in sterilised jars.

Many recipes actually break the stones, remove the kernel, boil it, and add it to the jam; if you ever try this you'll realise that life's just to short for this sort of thing!

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