Papa’s Pepperoni

Papa’s pepperoni (or maybe “Paparoni”) is loosely based on a variety of other recipes and adjusted for my taste preference, but it is not too spicy so that Teal and the kids / grandkids will enjoy it as well. I LOVE pepperoni pizza (including cold for breakfast). However, I detest the little pools of grease seen on many pizzas (especially when cold). Additionally, the window for “optimum spiciness” that satisfies both myself and Teal is rather narrow. The first batch was a hit and we have the second batch in the drying chamber. So it is time to publish the recipe. I will add updates with the results of this and later batches.

Take a couple of pork shoulders. Debone and remove the majority of the intermuscular fat as well as any glands or lymph nodes. Once the meat has been cleaned up slice into 1″ strips and return the meat to the freezer to firm up. You want the meat to be partially frozen when grinding. Grind the meat twice – once on the 3/8″ / 10mm die and a second time on the 3/16″ / 5mm die. The grinder below is new (Lem Big Bite #12) and a HUGE improvement on the Kitchenaid or the hand crank grinder

Passing the meat through for the second grind

Weigh the meat (in grams) so that you can calculate the rest of the ingredients.

Weigh out the ingredients, dissolve the culture in 1/2c tepid water and allow it to hydrate for 15 min.

Sprinkle the ingredients over the meat and add the culture. Mix roughly by hand. Mix thoroughly in batches to get the meat nice and sticky. I do this in the Kitchenaid mixer with the paddle on speed 4 for 3 min per batch. Each batch is 3-4 lbs (1.5-2 Kg).

Stuff into the casings. I use a Hakka 11lb vertical sausage stuffer. Tie off the casings and prick all over.

Dip the sausages in a Bactoferm Mold 600 solution (or spray).

Check the initial pH , it should be under 5.9 Incubate / ferment at 70-80F for 15-24 hours. The final pH should be between 5.2 and 4.9. This is a safe range and not too acidic (it can drop quite a bit further if you are not careful). If you are using a different culture, the time and temp may be different. I like the B-LC-007 as it is bioprotective and aids in restraining the growth of harmful bacteria.

Fermenting in the oven.

Move to the drying chamber at 55F and 80% humidity for the first week, 75% thereafter. Target weight loss is 45-50%. At that point it is ready to slice and serve. This should take 4-8 weeks

Finished pepperoni prior to equalization

Note that in the first batch (above) there was some case hardening. These were vacuum bagged and placed in the fridge for a month to equalize and they then were ready and the color was uniform.

The pepperoni is delicious. It is MUCH leaner than store bought (no grease puddles) and is able to be eaten plain / raw or cooked. It is a new family favorite and a lot seems to disappear while we are “decorating” the pizzas.

Fermented sausages are an advanced topic and if not done properly, you can suffer food poisoning. Please do not take this post as the complete story. If you are embarking on making these, I strongly suggest reading:

The Art of Making Fermented Sausages by Marianski

Drying chamber setup

I was able to purchase a “scratch and dent” wine fridge (Frigidaire Gallery 55 bottle) for use as a proper drying chamber. This means that I will now be able to dry meats and sausages year-round. It also means the Rubbermaid bin drying chamber is being retired. Once it warms up a bit outside, I have a left over piece of granite that I will cut and polish to set on top to cover the dents and dings.

The Inkbird humidity controller will be used to control the humidifier and dehumidifier that will reside in the chamber. They will tighten up the humidity swings seen when the compressor of the fridge kicks in to cool it down. The trick is to not have the humidifier and dehumidifier “tail chasing” each other, wasting energy and having the fridge compressor cycle on too often. One thing to be careful of is that you need the humidifier and dehumidifier to have mechanical on / off switches so that they will automatically come back on when the humidity controller re-applies power. Unfortunately most of the models on the market will not (requiring a user to press the power button)

First step is to run the chamber unloaded at the proper temperature to see that it is stable and get an idea of how often the compressor cycles on in the steady state. I am using the Ecowitt sensor in the chamber to monitor the temp and humidity levels and provide the logging via the ecowitt.net website (free service). The initial run of the empty chamber looks like this:

Empty fridge set for 49F

Next I checked the calibration of both the Ecowitt sensor and the Inkbird sensor. Using the damp salt box method (see the end of this page) they were both reading 78% after adjusting the cal offset of the Inkbird.

Once the humidifier and dehumidifier arrived, I then did a test run with them in the chamber but without any meat yet. The temperature plot is a sawtooth curve with the temperature slowly rising and then rapidly dropping as the compressor cycles on , cooling the fridge.

Testing with humidifier and dehumidifier in place.

Comparing the plots, you can see that the temperature cycle (left side) is a LOT faster initially. This indicates that the humidifier is putting out too much moisture and the tail chasing has started. Mid way through the plot, I reduced the output of the humidifier and you can see that the compressor is now cycling much less often (but still a bit more frequently than if the chamber was empty. At this point it is ready for the meat after it gets sanitized with a spritz of Star San over the entire interior.

The first thing to be dried is a new 12 lb (6 kg) batch of “Papa’s Pepperoni”. After fermenting overnight in the oven it was placed in the chamber.

Pepperoni in the drying chamber

The temperature and humidity plots a day later looked like this:

Pepperoni in the chamber

It still needs the humidifier turned down a bit but this is close. The telling sign is the nice mold growth seen at day 3.

Pepperoni on day 3.

The mold is penicillium nalgiovensis (Mold 600 culture) The sausages were inoculated with this prior to fermenting. The mold is important as it helps the flavor and a healthy growth of this desirable mold, should out-compete the nasty wild molds that may come in.

Note commissions may be earned on these items

Calibration of humidity sensors:

The second year I was using the drying chamber, I had a failed batch of Lonzino that took an inordinately long time to dry. Electronic humidity sensors can easily lose calibration over time. So before starting the next batch, I bought an Ecowitt temperature and humidity monitor. The Ecowitt and the Inkbird humidity values were different by 9 points! I had a hunch the Inkbird was off but needed to prove it.

With a bit of research, I found a cheap and easy way to check calibration. If you have ordinary salt (NaCl) that is saturated with water in a small closed container, the humidity will be 75% after a few hours as things reach equilibrium. This is perfect!. I don’t really care about the accuracy over the entire range of 0-100% but want it right when around 75%. It turned out the new Ecowitt was within 1 percentage point and the Inkbird was reading low by 10 points. So now I just set the Inkbird for 85% and it maintains the correct humidity level. I will probably re-check both devices, a couple of times per year. I did another check when setting up the new drying chamber.

A s you can see above, I set up the saturated salt in a small plastic box along with both the Ecowitt and the probe for the Inkbird and it was readily apparent the Inkbird was reading way low.

References:

For an authoritative reference see: https://hal.archives-ouvertes.fr/hal-01434816/document This is a nice scientific reference and provides other options for other humidity levels.

Schweinshaxe part II

This past week I had the opportunity to be go up to Baraboo, WI to visit my Mom (and set up her new iPad ), socially distanced of course. As we would often do on a visit to my home town, I stopped at the Meat Market and picked up a rib roast – for steaks, and a couple of nice looking big pork hocks / shanks.

Since I published the original post on making Schweinshaxe last year, we have made it a few times since with variable results. So, I was determined to address the variability / shortcomings of the original post and make a “close to perfect” example. Problems that we encountered included: skin not crispy enough, meat drying out, the skin sections falling off when transferring from sous vide bag to the roasting pan (not to mention an overly grease splattered oven a couple of times). So there were a few changes:

  • Get BIG pork shanks from the butcher. The skimpy, thin, pre-packaged ones at the grocery store don’t have enough meat to make it worth it and the meat dries out before the skin gets properly crispy (and the skin is really the star of the show).
  • Score the skin PRIOR to sous vide cooking. Be sure to only cut the skin and not go into the fat. It is better to be a bit too light on the cut than too deep into the fat layer. This addressed the problem of the skin pieces falling off when transferring and roasting. Plus itis a LOT easier to score the skin when raw than while it is gelatinous / jiggly after sous vide cooking
  • Sous vide at 160F for 24 hrs (vs 170F for 20 hrs). A bit lower temp lead to the meat and fat being firmer and less likely to fall apart on transfer. When transfering, slice the bag open and slide the meat out and then set it upright (don’t try to lift it out or it may crumble).
  • Salt the skin again after placing in the roasting pan (more crispiness)
  • Roast at 350F for 45-60 min (basically the same) initially then:
  • Convect roast at 425F for 45 min (longer and convect roast works better to crisp the skin than convect bake if you have it).
  • Skim the caramelized crispy goodness from the edges of the baking pan every 15 min initially and every 5-10min at the higher temp and place on the pork shank. If you leave it on the pan it will likely burn and when paced on the meat it also crisps up nicely.
  • Add the beer every 15 min or so to maintain a depth of 1/2 decreasing to 3/8″ of liquid. If you let this get too low, you will have a burnt mess and splattered oven. If too high (e.g. dumpin the beer at the beginning) the skin won’t be crisp enough but instead soggy on the bottom. I used most of a bottle of Leinie’s Honey Weiss. Don’t use an IPA or anything that is very hoppy!

Plate and serve – YUM. Crispy, crunchy, bubbly skin and delectable meat.

Emptying the Drying Chamber

The drying chamber was full with Lonzino, Soppressata, and Pepperoni. Creating the Lonzino was covered in a prior post. This is “simple” dry cured whole muscle meat (pork loin). The Soppressata and Pepperoni are both fermented dry cured sausages. This takes a bit more finesse to ensure food safety.

Before starting on your own, I highly recommend reading: “The Art of Making Fermented Sausages” by Marianski. Pay particular attention to chapter 9 – Safety Hurdles. This book is not so much for the recipes per se, but rather for the background on food science and the techniques for keeping safe. The Facebook group: Cured Meats: Charcuterie is also very highly recommended. However, this is a closed group and you need to apply to join.

I had done some sampling / taste testing a few weeks ago and decided to let the meat dry a bit more.

I pulled the remaining meats today,as they were close to their targeted weight loss and I needed to get them out of the basement before staining the dining table. I did not want to risk the meats picking up off flavors from the oil based gel stain which would soon be stinking up the house (and yes, this is mid -winter in Wisconsin, so I can’t just open all the windows and let in the -10 to +10F winds).

The meats were all improved. I really like them around 45-50% weight loss and the added drying time improved the flavors. My new favorite for the Lonzino is the Pepper / Juniper berry spiced version.

Scroll back for the prior posts with the recipes.

Below is the temperature and humidity plots for the drying chamber while the sausages were drying:

Pepperoni

The overall process for making the Pepperoni is nearly identical to that of the Soppressata, except that it does not need to be pressed.

Pepperoni (started 12/24/20)

  • ~8-10 lbs Pork butts well trimmed of all soft fat and much of the hard fat
  • Salt 2.5%
  • Cure #2 0.25%
  • Dextrose 0.2%
  • White sugar 0.3%
  • Cracked Black Pepper 0.3%
  • Sweet Paprika 0.6%
  • Fennel Seeds – cracked / crushed 0.3%
  • Cayenne pepper – ground 0.15%
  • Gochugaru – Korean red pepper flakes 0.15%
  • B-LC-007 Starter culture 0.02%
  • Water (for the starter culture) 1/4 cup
  • Bactoferm 600 mold culture

Process as above for the Soppressata but there is no need to press. Smaller 32- 45mm or so casings would be desirable, but all I had left were 60 mm.

The first sampling at 4 weeks had hit the low end of the target weight loss (~35%) but were still a bit soft for my liking but made good pizza. This sausage is much leaner than commercially made sausage. There were NO puddles of grease on top of the pizza and it tasted very good.

Later, at 6 weeks (2/10/21) and 50% weight loss, the flavor and texture were MUCH improved for eating fresh. I can’t wait to try some on pizza!



Soppressata

Soppressata is a mildly spicy dry cured italian pork sausage. It is seemingly one of the more common starting points for dry cured / fermented sausages.

Batch 1 was started started 12/17/20

Sanitize everything! I sprayed the utensils, grinder, counter top, hands, etc with StarSan (same as I use for Brewing)

  • ~ 10 lbs Pork butts deboned, and well trimmed of all soft fat, connective tissue, silverskin, tendons and much of the hard fat
  • Salt 2.5%
  • Cure #2 0.25%
  • Dextrose 0.3%
  • Cracked Black Pepper 0.3%
  • Red Pepper Flakes – Korean Gochugaru 0.3% (finely ground and no seeds)
  • Sweet Paprika 0.3%
  • B-LC-007 Starter culture 0.023%
  • Water (for the starter culture) 1/4 cup
  • Bactoferm 600 mold culture in water bath
  • Coarsely grind the COLD pork ~ 1/4″ plate
  • Sprinkle the starter on the water and let rest for~ 15 min
  • Mix meat and non spice ingredients together well for at least 5 minutes. The mixture should be quite sticky due to myosin development when ready. Add the spices and mix for another couple of minutes.
  • Stuff into 60 mm casings (3x 24 inch casings). I use inedible collagen casings and tie mine at about 12″ length so they fit my high tech drying chamber.
  • Up to this point everything MUST be kept cold. Utensils and meat in the fridge or better the freezer to stay <40F.
  • Save about 1/2c of meat mixture and test the pH. The initial pH should be between 5.8 and 5.9.
  • Once stuffed the sausages are dipped in a solution of Bactoferm 600 (penicillium mold) which adds flavor and is a protectant from harmful molds. This results in the traditional white mold covering the casings. I use a bread loaf pan to hold the solution and then dip / roll the pieces in it.
  • The sausages then ferment until the pH drops below 5.3 (or preferably 5.0). Use a small sample of the meat in a cup / bowl for the pH testing. I use my kitchen oven for the fermenting. The sausages are laid directly on cookie sheets (Teal prefers that I do not place them directly on the racks). The light is turned on in the oven as needed (e.g. 15 min every hour) to hold the temp at 75-85F. This should take about 20-24 hours to hit the target pH of 4.8 to 5.0. In order to have a shelf stable final product the final pH must be < 5.3 (coupled with low enough water activity). Lower pH also gives a “tangier” product.
    With my Kitchenaid double oven if the light is left on full time the temp rises to 95F (a bit too warm).
  • Now the sausages are hung in the drying chamber for a week. Temp should be ~55F and humidity setpoint of 75%.
  • The Soppressata then needs to be pressed for proper shape and texture. I used pieces of vinyl coated wire shelving secured with tie wraps for this (yes this is the low budget end of the range / technique). The sausages are pressed for a week or 2 in the drying chamber. Tighten the tie wraps every day or 2 to maintain pressure.
  • Remove the press rack after 1-2 weeks and rehang the sausages to continue drying until they reach the target weight loss of 45-50%.
Soppressata being pressed in the wire shelving. in the middle. Top are Lonzino and below is Pepperoni.

After 7 weeks (2/10/21), the weight loss was 50%. The sausages were pulled and washed down with warm water to loosen the casings. The casings (with the mold ) were stripped off. They were then sliced for a QC check and taste test prior to washing in red wine and vacuum packing.

They taste very good, but I would like it a bit hotter / spicier and maybe some fennel (maybe do Finocchiona next?). I had one stick that had an air pocket and had to be discarded. I need to work on my stuffing technique and will heat to sterilize the spices next time.

My grandson Sawyer absolutely loves it. Here is a video of him helping to grind the meat:

References:

The Art of Making Fermented Sausages – Marianski



 

Spatchcock Chicken with Squash

We have been doing spatchcocked chicken, turkey, & cornish hens for a few years now. This past year we started getting food from Imperfect Foods as an alternative to going to the store. One of the times, I missed that there was a butternut squash on the order and it came. I am NOT normally a squash fan. In my family, it was always sweetened and served as squash mush. However, one day, we had the extra squash, some monster shallots and a whole chicken (and it was decidedly not nice for grilling outside). So I decided to try using the squash as the star under the bird rather than the more traditional stuffing, potatoes or root vegetables. It was a hit!. We have repeated this a few more times to make sure it is a repeatable recipe and we still love it.

The Base

1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cubed into 3/4″ pieces. COmpost the stringy stuff but add the seeds back in with the cubes

2 large shallots coarsely chopped or 1 medium onion and 2-4 garlic cloves chopped

1 lemon (optional) cut into 1/8ths with the skin (you may also want to add a few pinches of oregano in this case as well)

In a bowl place the above items and sprinkle liberally with granulated garlic, Penzey’s Seasoned salt and fresh ground black pepper. Mix well and dump into a oiled (or non stick sprayed) 13×9 or better larger glass baking dish. Keep the pieces towards the center as you want it all under the chicken.

Veggies waiting for the chicken.

The Chicken

Take a 3-4 lb chicken, clean out the cavity, remove excess fat and slice down the backbone and also the keel bone. Flip over and press flat (it should make some vicious crunching noises in the process) .

Place the chicken on the veggies. Spinke with more granulated garlic, Penzey’s seasoned salt, pepper and some rosemary sprigs

About to go in the oven

Bake at 400 F convect for about 45 minutes, until a probe in the thick part of the thigh reads 170F. Pull from the (now well splattered) oven and let rest for 15 min. Beat off the crispy skin thieves with a thick spatula (BTW the skin off an entire leg does not count as a schnibble). Slice and serve.

Ready

Chicken Legs & Thighs – sous vide + grill

The key to this recipe is to use both Sous Vide and grilling. Sous Vide properly cooks the chicken keeping it juicy and tender. Grilling adds the smoke and crispiness.

We started with a big economy family / restaurant 10 pack of legs and thighs. This was split into 3 batches. Trim off any large chunks of fat and tail if present. These can cause flare ups while grilling. I leave the legs and thighs attached, but you could separate them for easier portioning for kids.

Season the chicken generously with granulated garlic, Penzey’s seasoned salt and Italian Seasoning. Place 3-4 in each bag. We kept one out for cooking today and froze the other 2 bags for later.

Sous Vide at 158F for 4 hours. Add 20 min if frozen.

Chill the chicken while still in the bag in ice water or throw in the snow bank for an hour. You could also do this a day or 2 ahead as well and refrigerate.

Heat grill to hot (~350-400 as indicated on the BGE). Too hot, and you just burn the skin off.

Remove the chicken from the bag, pulling off and saving the juice / gelatin. Make sure it is all off or when grilling, you will have an immediate flare-up.

Place on grill meat side down and grill for 3-5 min. Flip to skin side down and grill until crispy – approx an other 3-5 min.

In the winter, don’t forget to re-insert the sheet metal ring when closing the BGE. This reduces the occurrence of the gaskets from freezing the lid shut. If it does freeze shut it helps in melting it open. See: Cold Smoking and Frozen Smoker Entry from more info.

Lonzino batch 4 – first one done

The first of the 3 Lonzino pieces from  Lonzino batch 4, that I started at the beginning of November is ready. For the first 5-6 weeks the drying chamber (Rubbermaid bin with fan for humidity control) was in the garage. Once it dropped below freezing outside, the basement was now cool enough (55-60F) to bring it to the basement.  Initial weight was 1122 g and final was 585g. My target was 45% weight loss.

It is delicious. This is the one that I spiced with Penzey’s 33rd and Galena (by eye).  The spices were applied at the same time as the curing mix.   I think the high humidity of the last couple of weeks, which was due to adding the Sopressata and Pepperoni to the chamber helped avoid any case hardening. 

As pulled from the chamber with a nice layer of mold – Bactoferm 600 culture
Washed with water and then the softened collagen sheet was pulled off. As you can see there was good contact and almost no mold under the collagen sheet
First slices.

The next piece should be ready in a week or so, it is just over 40% loss. The last one is being slow so it may be another 4 weeks.

I started this batch with “recalibrating” / adjusting the target setpoint the Inkbird humidity controller and adding monitoring using an Ecowitt temperature and humidity sensor and gateway to log to the ecowitt.net website. Now I can see how the temp and humidity tracked over time. You can see the temperature shift as I brought the bin ito the basement and then later the humidity shift as I added the sausages just before Christmas. I have more of the Ecowitt sensors in the garage fridge and basement freezer (which is why this is Channel 2).

Temperature and humidity plots captured from the ecowitt.net website
Full drying chamber with the other 2 Lonzino pieces, the pressing Sopressata and the Pepperonis in the front. The small containers (with the lids cracked) in the rear have the test samples of the sausage

Note commissions hopefully earned on the Amazon links

Meat Grinder Tune-up

I have been wanting to get into making fermented sausages such as Sopressata, Pepperoni, Salami and more. My sausage making has been rather limited as Teal is not a big fan of “tubular food” and each time I made sausage (summer, brats, Italians, etc.) it in the past it was painfully slow , so the gear would get set aside for another year or 2. I have both the meat grinder attachment for the Kitchenaid and a Kitchener #10 hand crank grinder. Both are slow to use.

Recently, I was making Sopressata with help from my grandson. However grinding in the hand crank grinder was too much for him this time. However he is a fan of the sausage samples we fried up and commercially made Soppressata.

Even for me it was difficult with the grinder constantly slipping on the counter and the blade and disc/plate getting gunked up. After grinding, I gave up on the hand grinder for stuffing and used the Kitchenaid (slow going). Stewing on this for few days, I was thinking whether I had to get a new grinder and stuffer or does the existing gear just need a tune up? The clue I needed was one of the grinder vendors recommending to send the blades in to them for periodic sharpening. I thought, this would be simple to do myself and then the light bulb came on: I had not done anything with either of the meat grinders! Basically, I was just using them “out of the box”. It appears that this is the primary problem!

I tune up and sharpen all of my knives and hand tools (chisels, planes, jointer, planer, etc). on a regular basis.When I get a new (or new to me- used) plane or chisel I spend the time to flatten and tune up the new tool. On closer examination of the Kitchener meat grinder there is a list of problems:

  • The discs / plates are not flat. Actually both are concave on both sides (how this would happen I do not know). They are not worn by any means, just poorly manufactured. You can see the coarse factory grind marks and no real sign of wear from use.
  • The knife is far from sharp
  • The plastic spacer they provide to go between the feet and the counter is some sort of polyethylene – slippery. We need something that will grab.
  • The feet are far from flat and have a very limited contact patch near the inner corners. This can be seen in the photos with the 2 small wear areas.
  • On the plus side the rear plastic bearing has a reasonable fit and enough thickness to push the blade against the plate.

The first step was flattening of the plates. You can use diamond stones 180 grit and then 300 or silicon carbide (wet or dry) sandpaper on the countertop (or glass plate or table saw or jointer) as shown below. Just wet the sandpaper on both sides and it will stick sufficiently for the flattening. If doing this on the counter, stay away from the front edge which may have some dish to it. It may take 20-30 min to do the initial flattening if they are poorly made (as mine were). However, subsequent sharpenings take but a few minutes.

If you have a hard time seeing the scratch pattern, cover the face of the disk with ink from a Sharpie.
After a few strokes on the sandpaper, you can see the high spots. Note both are concave. Worse yet, they were unevenly concave on BOTH sides with a poor / coarse grinding pattern.
This shows the grinding / honing of the disks on the sandpaper. You may want to try both sides to see which is “flatter” to save some work. You only need one side dead flat.
Getting better
Finished at 320 grit.

With the plates flattened, now it is time to sharpen the blade. For this you need something that can reach all the way into the corners. The diamond plates work well or you can use inexpensive small diamond sharpeners (often sold for sharpening fishing lures) . Aggressively sharpen the bevels, then do the flats the same way as the discs. It now actually feels sharp. So now this is getting promising.

Next was to address why does the grinder slip so badly on the counter? I threw out the stupid polyethylene spacer (which is slippery) that came with the grinder and used a rubber pad of the type for opening stuck jar lids, but this still did not help a lot. Looking more closely I noticed that there are 2 very small wear / contact points on the feet. They are FAR from level.

Note the dull patches on the feet. This is the only area in contact with the counter.

The feet need flattening. Given that this is cast iron, a file will do. Use a 10 or 12″ mill bastard file and carefully file the 2 feet flat. You must make nice parallel strokes or you can easily end up rounding the feet rather than flattening. Check that they are flat with a straight edge such as the blade of a square.

Feet after filing. Note the much larger contact area. More would be nice, but may not be necessary.

When researching other grinders, I saw the LEM #10 had a plastic/ rubber boot over the feet. This makes a lot of sense. So I drew up the foot and clamp pads in Sketchup and then 3D printed them in TPU (Thermoplastic Urethane) which is a flexible filament. I am using EOLAS brand TPU+, one of the softer ones for the foot and clamp pad, which they also claim is food safe (also great for gaskets).

With these changes in place, the grinder works far, far better. It grinds much more easily, does not clog as often, and no longer slides on the edge of the counter at all. I am still thinking about a proper sausage stuffer however.

The sketchup and STL files for the pads and a stuffing spider are at: https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:4695351