Blog Update

After much consideration I have decided that I can no longer maintain the Local Food Heroes Directory of farm-shops and local food outlets in Leicestershire. I will still continue to write about local food in Leicestershire, it's just that I don't have the time or resources to keep the directory up to date.

I am currently going through all my blog entries to delete the ones that are no longer needed: past events etc. I've also moved the Local Food Heroes Blog home-page: it's now the main site home-page at

For the time being, the blog's RSS feed will remain where it's always been.

Pancetta di Thurlaston

The finished pancetta

I wrote before Christmas that I was making a Pancetta and was cutting right back on the spices. I know this because I've just had to look at my previous post to see why I've not included nutmeg in the recipe! My memory's not what it was, it must be my age!

If you make it, try to get a very thick piece of belly pork from the butcher; the one I used wasn't really thick enough because the shrinkage is quite considerable. It looks thicker in the photo than it actually is. What looks like green/black mould is actually beneficial white mould on top of the powdered black pepper that I used because I was too lazy to grind the course black pepper that I included in the recipe!

Trim the belly well before curing - whether you remove the skin at this stage, or after drying, is up to you. Remove the flap where the ribs have been and any pieces of meat that are between the ribs, you'll only end up throwing them away after drying. In fact, it's best to have the bones taken out as a sheet you'll then be able to use the trim in sausage or pork pies and save wastage.

...and so to the recipe:

Click here, there's more to read...

Smoked Cod's Roe Taramasalata


Smoked Cod's Roe Taramasalata

Just a reminder to all you smoker enthusiasts that the Cod's Roe season has started - get it quick 'cos it don't last long!

The Christmas Table

Christmas food

In the three years I've been inflicting my thoughts on the world in general you would have thought that I would have remembered to write down new recipes as I do them and to photograph the results; if I had, you'd be reading about Boned Stuffed Turkey Legs and Chicken Breasts stuffed with Glamorgan Sausage, both dishes that I made over the Christmas period. I also forgot to take a picture of my pork pie. To be honest, the turkey leg dish was because I couldn't be bothered to get up early on Christmas day to cook a whole turkey. By removing the legs, boning them out and stuffing them, I not only got an extra hour in bed but also got something that was simplicity itself to carve. The chicken breasts were stuffed with a mix of breadcrumbs, leek and cheese, and then wrapped in bacon. Both dishes received a good reception from the family.

Well, that's what I didn't photograph, so what about the photo above. Well that's stuff I remembered to take pictures of. The bacon and ham have had plenty written about them. The smoked salmon was done simply by dry curing a 1.3kg fillet of salmon in about 150gm of just salt for 8 hours and then cold smoking it for 24 hours with oak and beech. The sausage rolls were made using my 'roughest' rough puff pastry recipe filled with an adaption of my Thurlaston sausage recipe. I reduced the meat and increased the rusk and water as well as adding a little potato flour. This gives a softer texture to the sausage-meat that is nicer in a sausage roll. The mince pies were made using a pastry made from 8oz flour, 5 oz in total of butter and lard, 1 egg, 1 tablespoon of sugar and a pinch of salt. It was made in the normal way by rubbing the fats into the flour and sugar and then mixing in the other ingredients; a little milk was added to draw the mixture together. I hate to admit it, but the filling was bought mincemeat. The pies were cooked for about 12 minutes at 180°C - this is one of those pastries that you take out before it browns so a dusting of icing sugar neatly hides its anaemic looks.

As mum provided the Christmas pudding, cake and a Pavlova, the only other real dish (other than nibbles) that I made was a lemon mousse - I'll write about that another time.

Cooking Ham

We eat quite a lot of ham in this household, most of it made using the Pauline's Ham recipe. However, over time I've adapted it slightly and I now just inject the ham and then place it in a bag with about 100gm of the brine.

Injecting a ham to increase it's weight by 10% can be a bit of a kerfuffle - getting that last couple of percent in can be like squeezing a 'big girl' into a pair of size ten jeans! I've come up with a different method which I'll try on my next ham, it involves injecting the ham to increase it's weight by 7½% and then dry curing it. I got the idea from a member called Oddley on the forum. You'll probably know the name as Oddley's recipes have already featured on the blog.

Anyway, on to the title of this post - cooking ham. There are no doubt 1001 ways of doing this but for cold eating the best I have found is to put the meat on a trivet over water and cook it, with the lid on, with the temperature around the meat at 75 - 80°C. Cook it until the internal temperature of the meat is 75°C. This will take quite a few hours.

Cooking Ham

Why do it this way? Well, I've found that any hotter and the meat not only loses more weight but there is also a tendency for the individual muscles to separate which leads to problems when slicing it. This method needs meat that is not salty, but that's not an issue as I formulate my hams to be fairy low in salt anyway. For bought hams, I'd use the same temperatures but actually immerse the ham in water. If your oven has low enough settings you could also use this for either method.

For small hams that are saltier, like the Black Ham I made recently, I use my slow cooker. I cook the ham on high until the water temperature reaches about 77°C and then turn the cooker to its keep warm setting. With my cooker this holds the temperature steady for the rest of the cooking. Again, I use the same temperatures as with the other methods.

If you are worried that the ham may be too salty, taste the cooking liquid after about ½ an hour and if it is salty replace it with fresh.

The cooked and sliced Ham

My Pauline's ham recipe wouldn't win any prizes, but it's quick, easy, and yet still makes a better product than you'll buy at the supermarket.

Pancetta - Delays and Drying

The Pancetta that I put into cure on 14th December 2010 got forgotten over the Christmas period. Under normal circumstances I'd have cured it for 7 - 10 days, but this one didn't come out of the cure until 30th December, some 16 days later.

However, this serves as a good illustration of one of the finer points of the method of curing that I use; a method whereby you only put enough cure and salt on the meat to achieve what you want. This means that the extra time has no detrimental effect. Using what some people would class as more traditional methods this wouldn't have been the case, the meat would now be over-cured, too salty and probably containing excessive levels of nitrites or nitrates.

I've rinsed the meat, dried it off and also cut the meat off that would have been between the ribs before they were removed as it would dry too hard; boy-oh-boy does this meat smell good, I'm thinking that a minor adaption of this recipe will make a superb normal bacon. Anyway, the rest of the meat's had 1 tablespoon of ground black pepper and three crushed dried chillies rubbed onto it (although most of the chilli fell straight off!) and is now hanging in my drying fridge at a temperature of 13 - 14°C with a humidity of 70%.

The Pancetta drying

It should have lost around 25 - 30% of its weight in another 3 weeks or so.

Used tags:

/* */