Lonzino Batch 4

Lonzino at the start of drying in the drying chamber. Note the fan at the left and humidity sensor on the front dowel

Now that the weather is turning cooler, it is time to make a new batch of Lonzino – Dry Cured Pork Loin. Batches 1 & 2 were Fantastic! Batch 3 was a bust, as I rushed the curing stage, and additionally it was partially frozen for much of the time due to a cold snap. So it smelled bad and most of it was brown not pink when pulled from drying.

With this batch it is back to the basics, for a thorough equalization cure. Nice long cure (3 weeks). Flip and massage every 2-3 days . The garage fridge was kept above freezing the whole time (in large part due to our record breaking warm streak here in Southeast Wisconsin). At this point, the meat is fragrant and firm but definitely not frozen. The whole pork loin was split into 3 pieces, each with a different spice blend. The loin has to be cut to be able to hang within my high tech Rubbermaid curing chamber and I like to try different spice variations. The whole pork loin was divided roughly into thirds for the various flavors.

 

Whole pork loin 2900g
3% salt by weight – 87 g
.25 cure #1 by weight – 7.25 g

Juniper and garlic piece (934g)
1% fresh coarse ground black pepper
0.1% freshly crushed juniper berries
0.25% granulated garlic

Cajun spice piece (909g)
Heavy sprinkle (~1%) Penzey’s Cajun spice blend

Hot/warm pepper piece (1124g)
Heavy sprinkle (1.5%) Penzey’s 33rd and Galena spice blend

Place each piece in zip lock freezer  bag (air removed) or vacuum pack and place in the crisper drawer of the fridge for 3 weeks.   I did put the cajun and hot pieces in the same bag but the juniper garlic was segregated.

After 3 weeks, wrap each piece in a single layer of Collagen Sheet. Then either truss with butcher’s twine or #16 netting .  Note that trying to pull the netting over the pieces will be frustrating.   It is far easier if you place the netting over your hand / wrist. Then grasp the meat from one end  with your fingers,. Now slide the netting down over your fingers onto the meat.  Much easier – done in about 15 seconds.  Tie off the ends and make a loop for hanging.   Record the weight for each piece.

It is recommended to encourage a white penicillium mold growth for flavor and to discourage unwanted organisms. I take a loaf pan filled with about 1/2″ of warm water that has been sprinkled with a bit of Bactoferm 600 (~0.5g).   The package will last for many batches. Fold over the open corner a few times, clip and throw in the freezer for next time.

Now prick the collagen liberally with a sterilized instrument (just lightly) and hang to dry. I use my low budget drying chamber which I detailed previously. Currently it is in the garage rather than the basement with a cold pack in it, as I am still waiting for the temperature outside to drop to seasonal levels.   Basement floor is still at 63-65 (too warm).

Please note per recent regulatory changes, I have to state that I may earn money from affiliate links (at least I hope so). 

Spatchcock Turkey v3

This variation has with more aggressive dry brining and more lemon. It is also gluten free. 18 lb turkey (Kroger or Jennie-o). Note that a Butterball will likely end up too salty.

Dry rub blend:

  •  3 TB fine sea salt
  • 1.5 TB Mexican oregano rubbed
  • 1TB dried thyme
  • 1.5 TB dry rosemary rubbed
  • 1 TB Pepper finely ground
  • Fine zest of one lemon

When rubbing the spices grind them in the mortar and pestle and then pass them through a strainer. Teal hates the “sticks” as she calls the woody pieces . Mix the spices and salt well.

Spatchock the thawed bird, cutting down one side of the backbone and splitting the keel bone. Loosen the skin of the turkey (including legs) and then rub the spice blend on the meat under the skin, on both sides of the bird. Rest for 6 to 18+ hours in the fridge. Place the bird uncovered in the fridge for 4-6 hours of this to start drying out the skin.

In the roasting pan, place 4 carrots chopped, 2 medium onions chopped 18fresh sage leaves chopped, 2 lemons cut into eighths, 1 sweet potato cubed, 5-7 cloves chopped garlic, 1 can of beer (gluten free so that Elyse can have some).

Place the spatchcocked bird in the roasting pan breast side up on the lowest rack of the oven so the convected air hits the legs and thighs first.

Convection roast at 375 for  1 hour adding an aluminum foil L shaped deflector tucked under the wings to keep most of the heat blast away from the breasts. Then 275-300 for 1 hour looking for final internal temp of 157F. Then pull and rest for 30 min prior to carving.

This was a winner and is the family favorite so far with multiple questions about what was new. Changes were not huge: put the spice blend UNDER the skin rather than on top for the dry brining stage, add lemons in the pan, leave out the stuffing (to allow for those with Celiac disease). The lemons added a nice flavor and the juices made for great gravy . I used rice flour as the thickener (~ half as much as regular AP wheat flour). Of course, discard the pseudo gravy gunk in the bag in the bird (it just inflates the weight).

To take a look at the earlier versions (and photos), go to: Spatchcock Turkey

Reuben Crisps

Reuben crisps are perfect party appetizer. They have been very popular with our family and friends.   The phyllo dough crust gives a great crunch. It is  a bit fussier to wrap than if using crescent dough or bread dough but you will be rewarded with a prettier and tastier treat.  If you have smoked your own Corned Beef or Pastrami, as I do,  all the better.

Filling

8 oz Thinly sliced and crumbled pastrami or corned beef
12 oz Shredded swiss cheese
12-16 oz Franks Polish style Sauerkraut
3 oz cream cheese
3 Tbsp Thousand Island dressing (Ken’s light)

Mix well with  your hands

Making the crisps

Thaw the phyllo dough,  lay out horizontally and then cut vertically into thirds, cover with a damp towel.

Take one strip of the dough oriented vertically in front of you. Place approx. 1 Tbsp of the filling mixture on the dough and fold in a triangle pattern (like folding the flag) . Brush with melted butter and place on the cookie sheet

Variations

Place a few slices of Cowboy Candy on the filling prior to wrapping.

Pastrami v2

 

We have been pleased with the first couple of batches of home made pastrami  – see: Home Made Pastrami .  However, I am always looking for variations that are (hopefully) better. We would like to lower the salt content and adjust the spices to better match our taste preferences.

Note that this recipe uses  approximately 1/3 the salt vs. the weight of the meat of the starting recipe in: Charcuterie  by Ruhlman and Polsyn, This book is  a great intro to cured meats.

Please do not start with a pre-packaged corned beef and try this. It will be FAR too salty as they are both going for “food safety” and easy factory reproducibility, as well as  assuming you will boil the  meat, which leaches out much of the salt. It is worth the wait to start with uncured brisket.

Prep

This batch started as a whole 15lb “packer” beef brisket.  It was carefully trimmed of excess fat with the flat and point separated into separate pieces. It was then brined for a week (flipping every 2 days) in one of the crisper drawers of the garage fridge.   The other crisper bin coincidentally had a whole pork loin brining for 4 days for canadian bacon which was then smoked as before: Canadian Bacon 

Brine

Weigh your salt, sugar and cure#1 rather than relying on volume as the proportions can easily be way off by volume, especially if changing brand and type of salt, cure or brown sugar. Please excuse the mixed US and metric measurements but the spice amounts are not near as critical as the salt and sugar.

1 gallon (4 liters) water

350 g Morton’s kosher salt

225 g white sugar

80 g pink salt (cure #1)

100 g dark brown sugar

10 green cardamom pods cracked

3 crushed bay leaves

1 Tbsp dried dill weed

6 Tbsp whole black peppercorns

2 Tbsp brown mustard seed

16 whole dried allspice berries

8 cloves garlic – chopped

15 whole cloves

Mix the brine, add the meat and weight with a large plate or platter. Flip every other day.

Final prep

Remove from the brine and pat dry with paper towels.  Sprinkle with 2 tsp ground coriander and 3-5 Tbsp fresh ground black pepper.

Smoking

Place on the smoler with the thicker edges out and the thin edges touching or overlapping in the center. In the BGE (Big Green Egg) , place the conveggtor with the flat side down so that you have indirect heat. Place a tray with 2 qts water on it and then the grate on top of the legs.   Set the Heatermeter temp for 225F (as measured with the probe clipped to the lid thermometer bracket) . Place the meat temperature probes in the thickest parts of the pieces and close for the night.  I typically start at 7 pm for an overnight smoke so I can get up well after dawn to check the meat. The smoke comes from the hardwood (oak and hickory) charcoal and several (6)  chunks of well cured cherry wood (slabs 3-4″ thick by 5-6″ diameter , cut in half).   I greatly prefer the fruitwood (cherry or apple)  smoke vs hickory pecan or mesquite which are too harsh for this meat in my opinion.

Brisket on the smoker and the temperature probes in the center of the thickest part of each piece

Smoker – Big Green Egg with heatermeter

90 min in, internal temp at ~130F

Next morning

The meat should be in the range of 150-170F. Edges will be higher and the center lower.  I slice a bit on the ends to check for color and flavor. It is tasty but still tough at this point (but great for a breakfast omelet).

Pull the meat and put in a large pot with about 1/2 ” of water and place in the oven at 235F.  The meat will be done somewhere between 203 and 206F which should take another 3-4 hours.

It is now ready to serve and /or vacuum pack and freeze.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The slices on the right are from the point. You can see a small tan/ brown area in the middle of one of the point slices. This is where the cure did not completely penetrate. It could have used a few more days in the brine.   The slices on the left are from the flat. At this point it is quite lean.

It all tastes great!

To learn more about smoking brisket and trimming the meat I recommend the Franklin Barbeque book.

If you don’t have a Heatermeter or are not up for building one, take a look at the Thermoworks Signals with the companion Billows temperature control blower. I have been using their probes and Chefalarms for years.

 

Pizza, Pizza on the grill

I LOVE pizza, it is one of my favorite foods and is great hot or cold whether for dinner, lunch or breakfast. I have cooked pizza in the oven , on the grill (weber, gas or BGE) but they have all lacked “something” that you get at a great pizzeria. I especially enjoyed those over 30 years ago when I worked for Philips and stayed for training in New Haven, CT where I became enamored of garlic as a pizza topping. 

I use a Large Big Green Egg for most of my grilling, smoking, BBQ adventures. However, as is for pizza, it is lacking as I would ofren end up with burnt crust and watery or undercooked toppings. So one night while searching for ideas, as I was thinking of making a pizza oven adapter, up popped the web site for the Pizza Porta.  Basically an adapter that turns the BGE into a pizza oven. I ordered one (for my birthday) set up for 2 pizza stones and long handled aluminum peel (I do have to look the part as I attempt to finesse the pizzas).   Apparently due to COVID and lots of folks baking bread pizza stones were in short supply. I have my BGE stone and ordered a Kamado Joe pizza stone form Ace. Don’t even think of using a thin Pampered CHef stone on the grill – It WILL crack after a few uses.

First time use of the Pizza Porta was a circus / carnival of errors.  I threw in a bunch of hard lump charcoal but did not clean out the ashes or remove the cherry log pieces that had been used for a prior roast . LOTS of smoke and being unskilled with a pizza peel coupled with a too wet crust (80% hydration), led to 4 pizzas of fairly weird shapes and a fair amount of toppings being fed to the grill Gods.   This was edible and the kids / grand kids loved it but there was a lot of room for improvement.  The goat cheese , speck (like prosciutto), pistaschios (drizzled with honey after baking) was the best.

Second use was only slightly better. I forgot to place the ConVegtor (head deflector) on the grill under the stones. This meant the bottom pizza (Teal’s of course had a very charred crust (not just black in spots but charred).   Lets not repeat that mistake . However switching to a 60% hydration dough recipe made the dough slide off the peels,  more nicely (but still a bit fussy) and we only lost one slice of pepperoni to the grill . However the dough for mine was underdone (yet not blackened)

I was still worried about getting the dough consistency right for my meager pizzaiola skills and I was also looking for diastatic malt powder for the crust. This lead me to PennMac.com  which not only had the malt powder, but also pizza screens, incredible olives and other goodies (yes the surcharge for perishable goods in summer is worth it.  They do an incredible job packing the goodies).

So now armed with more tools, I made a new batch of dough. 60 % hydration and instead of using a poolish I used sour dough discard (actually most of the starter I had in the fridge).   The dough recipe will be another post.

Pizza Porta in BGE, heatermeter, peel and tools

After an all day rise, we cut the dough into 2 balls which rested on the counter  (80F) for a couple of hours and then formed the crusts. Just gentle pulling and pushing (no need for a rolling pin) . The crusts were placed on the 12″ screens and docked (poke holes to prevent big bubbles).   These were baked at 500F for 2 minutes, taken out and inverted onto another peel, ready for topping . I was having a hard time getting the temp anywhere near  500-600F so I enlisted the help of Heatermeter and the fan helped a lot but still would not go above 500 (need a bigger fan) .

Teal’s was one of our go-to favorites: home made tomato sauce, shredded, slivered onions, shredded part skim mozzarella,  dabs of fresh mozzarella  and turkey pepperoni.

Mine was: tomato sauce (heated), italian seasoning, shredded onions, shredded mozzarella , but slightly sparse, 6 cloves of garlic slivered and pre-cooked in olive oil, sliced black olives and a few pieces of pepperoni.

Each was cooked for a total of 10 min at 500F rotating between bottom and top pizza stones.

Darn good eats. Not perfect yet, but we are definitely  getting closer. Technique still needs a lot of work as I nearly lost a bunch of toppings. The BGE ash clean out tool does work as a great pizza grabber when it just does not want to get on the peel .  Pizza crust is nicely brown with very dark spots but not charred.

 

Just Peachy Pork Loin

We had prepared 3 pork loin roasts in anticipation of a big family gathering next weekend. However, with the Covid-19 lock down, that is not happening.  So I pulled one of the pork loin roasts from the freezer. It was already seasoned with Penzey’s “Barbeque of the Americas” and vacuum bagged, ready for sous vide cooking and grilling. However today it was not exactly great grilling weather with 20-30mph winds rain and 40 degree temps.  I figured it would be better to make something that could be cooked completely indoors.

Roast pork loin with peaches

So I surfed for recipes for pork loin or chops.  One with peaches looked appealing. We had also stocked up on canned fruit at the start of the virus outbreak, so this seemed workable.

Pork loin

  • 3 lb pork loin trimmed of fat
  • Season Liberally with Penzey’s Barbeque of the Americas
  • Vacuum bag and cook at 141F for 4 hours.

Sauce

Toward the end of the cooking time, prepare the sauce.  Later when serving it was clear we underestimated the amount of fruit and sauce needed for the meal and left-overs. So think of the list below as the amount per pound of meat.

  • 1 can – 14 oz sliced peaches in natural juice
  • Drain the juice into a sauce pan and add:
    • 3 finely minced cloves of garlic
    • 1/2 tsp dried thyme – crushed after measuring
    • 1/2 tsp dried rosemary  -crushed after measuring(Teal hates the “twigs” as she calls the rosemary needles)
    • 1/3c packed brown sugar
    • 1/4c balsamic vinegar
    • 6 peach slices finely chopped

Simmer this until reduced by half. Then add:

1 shot (1.5 oz )bourbon  – I use Makers Mark , and simmer for 5 min more

Prepare to brown and roast

Preheat the oven to 500F

Remove the roast from the bag, scrape off  the protein globs and pat dry.

In a large pan , melt 1.5 TB bacon drippings and heat to just under smoking

Brown the roast on the top, sides and ends (about 2 min per side)

Add the rest of the peaches and pour the thickened sauce over the top of the roast

Place in the oven on convect for 10 min. It will get all nice, bubbly and caramelized.   When I pulled it from the oven the center temp was 147F.  This was a bit higher than desired, but still acceptable

Rest the roast  for 10-15 min and carve for serving.

Roast pork loin with peach sauce

Changes for next time

Definitely more peach sauce – as I noted above treat these amounts as “per pound of pork”

Maybe I should have set the sous vide temp to 139 instead?   Maybe it will be a bit pinker but it was definitely juicy and delicious.

Add Cowboy Candy or half a finely chopped, seeded and deveined habanero chili to a batch. I will try this when I am making multiple batches (otherwise Teal would revolt) .

 

Coq au Vin

Perfect cure for a cold almost spring day. It is also known as “Chicken with wine” in English. I have also made this on vacation and notably Caribbean dive trips where we did not have a whole lot of cooking supplies or gear. It is a great 1 pot dinner. The whole house is now fragrant with the delicious aroma.

Finished – ready to serve

8 chicken thighs. We prefer the boneless skinless when available, or just the “family pack” with skin and bones works fine.  Dredge in flour (~1 cup), salt and pepper and  brown over medium heat  in a couple of tablespoons of  bacon fat or olive oil in a large kettle or dutch oven. Be sure to BROWN on all sides. Caramelization is important for best flavor (Maillard reactions are your friend) . You may cringe at the bacon fat, but the original recipes called for salt pork or fatback. This will be lighter if you just use the bacon grease rather than the fatback,  but I if you want to be extravagant, smoked pork jowls chopped and fried would be just incredible. You do need the hint of smokiness which is why the bacon grease is preferred to oils. Keep adding more so that it does not run dry as you fry the pieces. It is better to do the frying in batches than crowd the pieces together.  Drain off the excess fat at the end unless you are browning the potatoes as well (below). 

Some of the browned chicken

Add coarsely chopped:

  • 4-8 potatoes (4 if large, 8 if small)

You can optionally brown the potatoes a bit after the chicken comes out while you chop the rest of the veggies .  Add a bit of olive oil so they don’t stick .

  • 2-3  medium onions
  • 8-10  carrots
  • 3-6 ribs of celery (unless you are cooking for Teal)
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • Tomato paste – small can (4 oz)

Add 2 cups water and 1/2 liter or so of red wine; Burgundy or pinot noir. You want light and fruity, not oakiness.

After 1 hr in the oven

3-4 bay leaves

3 tsp dried thyme (fresh sprigs if summer, but my thyme is buried under the snow right now)

1 tsp chopped dried rosemary    – Teal objects to rosemary “twigs” in the stew. This should be what you grew last summer – fresh dried rosemary is so much better than old stock . If nothing else, make a trip to Penzey’s for the herbs.

Bake covered at 325 for 4-8 hours.  Check every hour to make sure that it does not boil dry . Add more water if necessary.

Uncovered the last hour  and mix in a bag (14.5oz) of frozen pearl onions) . With the top off to thicken up a bit and brown the top a bit.  When you uncover, dig a depression to gather the fat in. This makes skimming the fat off much easier.

Applied time is about an hour. You could cut this to 20 min if you just “chop and flop” all of the pieces in the pan without browning but you won’t win as much praise that way.

Serve with good crusty bread and more wine. Enjoy.

Cuban Style Pork Shoulder

This past weekend we were in Miami, stopping over on what we hoped would be a dive trip to Cayman Brac. Unfortunately, the coronavirus made other plans for us and we ended up turning back. However, we had an excellent dinner at La Rosa and the Cuban Roast Pork Shoulder stole the show and I decided I just had to make some when we got home.

Cuban Roast Pork

A quick web search turned up a recipe on Serious Eats. This is a trusted source for me and proved to be an excellent starting point. As usual, I deviated from the published recipe whether due to ingredients on hand or personal preference. The Mojo sauce is used both as a marinade before roasting and the reserved portion is part of the sauce for the cooked meat.  I had forgotten to pick up fresh citrus when I got the roast, so concentrate was used along with dried herbs (it is still winter here in Wisconsin) .

Mojo Sauce ingredients

8 cloves of garlic very finely minced

2 tsp ground cumin

1.5 tsp fresh (finely) ground black pepper

1/2 cup limeade concentrate  – Minute Maid is our favorite as it has less sugar than many brands

1/4c raspberry lemonade concentrate

1/2 c water

Mix the ingredients well and reserve half for serving later

If you have fresh fruit that is preferable, but the concentrate worked out well.

Prepare the pork

5-6 lb pork shoulder  – a.k.a. Boston Butt

Remove the bone and the larger pieces of fat, slicing along the muscle lines. You should end up with 4-6 good sized pieces with the majority of the fat removed. I pull the fat off as I do not like the consistency of the remaining fatty tissue once the fat renders off.

Add 1/2 of the Mojo and marinate overnight, turning a few times.

Roasting

Place the pork in a large dutch oven with all  of the sauce it was marinated in. Add 1 c water.   Salt the surface with 1 tsp fine salt. Cover and roast at 275F for 3 hours

Uncover and roast at 325F for an additional 2-3 hours. Baste every 30 min or so.  Make sure the liquid under the fat does not all evaporate, add more water if necessary.  The Meat will get nice and brown and crunchy on the surface

Remove from the oven. Remove the pork from the pan and cool for 15 min. Separate the drippings removing as much of the fat as you can without losing too much of the tasty part underneath.   Add the remaining mojo sauce and microwave for 2-3 min.  Add 1 TBsp of red wine or cider vinegar to taste (cust the sweetness and fattiness).

Pull the pork apart and add the sauce, mixing well.

Serve with black beans and rice  and enjoy . If you have some fresh lime to squeeze over it, all the better.

Sous vide Pork Chops

Start with thick cut pork chops about 1.25 -1.5″ thick.

Season liberally with Penzey’s Jerk spice blend and vacuum bag.

Optionally add 1-2tsp honey per chop if you are grilling at normal height.

Cook at 140F for 4 hours.

Grill over a very hot fire or on the coals for 2-3 min per side to caramelize the crust.  If the meat is down on the coals 60-90 sec per side.  If the grid is elevated to normal height, then a light coating of honey prior to grilling will enhance the browning. If it is applied and the meat is down on the coals it will be blackened in 60-90 sec.  A bit too fast for my taste.

Even with the outside being a bit over done / charred, the inside was still moist and delicious.


We served these with: cauliflower with cheese sauce, smashed potatoes and apple sauce.

Tomorrow, I will be shopping for a bit bigger grate to place low but not quite on the coals.

Sous vide Pork Loin

As you can see from my other  recipes, pork loins are a family favorite. They can be a bit touchy to get done evenly without becoming tough. So this made it a candidate for a sous vide cooking experiment.  After some research I decided on an overnight brine and

Prepare the brine

1/2 c brown sugar

2/3 c cider vinegar

1/6 c salt

4 cloves garlic crushed

1TB black peppercorns crushed

2 tsp Colman’s mustard powder

1 TB shaved fresh ginger

1 1/3 c water

 

Mix brine and immerse the roast in it overnight (5 PM to 8 Am).  At this point, the outer 1/2″ of the roast was a much lighter color presumably due to the acid of the vinegar.

 

The next day vacuum bag with :

1/4 c prepared mustard

1TB chopped candied ginger

6 sprigs fresh thyme

2 tsp ground allspice or 10 berries crushed could have gone in the brine instead

3 TB honey

 

Place in water bath at 140F for 4 hours

Brown on grill briefly (very hot fire) . 5 min per side with your favorite barbeque sauce. WIth this attempt the outside is flaking off in the tongs – schnibbles for the chef and helper.

 

Juices from the bag  made an excellent gravy but wold be too hot from the peppercorns for Teal (the black pepper flavor was MUCH srtonger in the juice than in the meat.

Defintely a basis for more experimentation to try to perfect the recipe. The leftovers are going to be great for sandwiches during the week.