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 which 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 3 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 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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

Schweinshaxe – crisp pork shanks

On many of our trips to Baraboo, WI to visit my Mom, we will stop at the Meat Market by the fairgrounds (It was Mueller’s way back when I was a kid). While waiting for a rib roast to be cut, which I will later cut into thick rib-eye steaks for sous vide cooking,  I was looking through the meat case and saw these gorgeous pork hocks which were calling my name.

Memories of many trips to Germany and Karl Ratzch’s restaurant in Milwaukee came flooding back. So I bought a couple. I have never cooked these before, but they turned out great.  I wish I had tried this sooner.

Roast pork shanks

I searched for recipes and there seems to be no general consensus on the method. There are 3 camps it seems: boil and bake, bake, boil or confit (cook immersed in fat)  then deep fry.  I did find the Karl Ratzch recipe  but that is one of the deep fried variety.   There were also few sous vide variants with the water bath ranging from 150F for 48 hours to 170F for 8.  I was looking for fall apart tender so we went with 170 for 20 hours (basically put it in the water bath the night before).

Sous vide at 170F for 20 hours. Be sure to cover the pot or you will wake up in the morning with the cooker screaming and wondering how long has it not been cooking.  Use either no seasoning or some salt and pepper. You want the pork to shine in this recipe with very simple accompaniment.  Once the sous vide time is done, remove form the bag, reserving the juice.  Score the skin and fat and then carefully move into a baking dish. The meat will be soft and gelatinous at this point. It can easily fall apart, so use a spatula underneath.   Oil the baking dish (I used a 9×9 glass pan) and add 1/2″ of sweet beer (nothing hoppy). The reason for the oil is that there will be a lot of gelatin coming off the meat quickly and it can bake onto the pan as a miserable to clean, hard mess.

Place in the  oven at 350F on convect for 60 min and finish at 425F for 20 min. Keep adding beer to the pan so the drippings don’t burn!  There  will be a lot of gelatin and fat released in the cooking process.  We ended up with a 1/4″ layer of dark brown crunchy goodness on the bottom, floating on the fat. Delicious!  Better than cracklings and just as crispy.

This is like having a pig roast in the winter. Skin is crispy and the meat is unctuous, fall apart tender and juicy. Plus, we have more for left overs, such as black beans, rice and pork burritos.

Back when Karl Ratzch’s was open, if you finished one (and they were bigger than these), they brought out another for free. I did that once, but can’t imagine doing that now.  Yes, I took one bite and asked for the rest to be wrapped up to take home.

Pork shank, sauteed onions and cabbage, sourdough bread

And by the way, the cost of the 2 pork shanks was just over $6.   These were originally “working class / peasant food”. You pay a high premium in a restaurant for something that is very easy to make from low cost materials.  Budget food greatness.

Home Made Pastrami

Why settle for pre-packaged pastrami when you can easily make your own with superior flavor, lower sodium and no strange preservatives?   This is another slow food recipe. Elapsed time is 4-10 days, but the actual applied time is quite short, at 1-2 hours including packaging and clean up.

Small chunk of the pastrami

 

This recipe is based on the one in Charcuterie 

The meat is brined for a week, smoked overnight and the finished in the oven.   For cured meats I prefer to use metric measurements and work by weight rather than volume .   I use a full size “packer” brisket (12-14 lbs)  I cut the flat in half and remove the heavy surface fat as well as that between the flat and point.  So now you have 3 approximately equal sized pieces that will now fit in a refrigerator crisper drawer with the brine as well as on the smoker.

Brine

1 gallon  / 4l water
300 g kosher salt (Mortons)
225 g sugar
35 g pink salt  (Cure #1)
1 tbsp / 8 grams Pickling spice (make your own or get Penzey’s)
90 g dark brown sugar
1/4 c 60 ml honey
5-8 garlic cloves – thinly sliced

Mix the brine making sure the salt and sugar are dissolved.   Place the brine and the meat in a crisper drawer or suitable container in the fridge. If you have room, place a heavy plate on top to keep the meat submerged.   Turn the meat every 1-2 days.   After a week remove and rinse well.

If desired, cover with 1 tbsp /8 g crushed coriander seed and 1 tbsp fresh ground black pepper.   I usually halve this or skip it as Teal does not like the heat of the pepper.

Smoking

Place the meat on a rack, pat it dry  and allow to come up to close to room temperature. The reason for this is to form a pellicle on the surface – a tacky coating that better absorbs the smoke. By warming it up you will also avoid having the smoke condense and make a sooty mess on the surface of the meat.

Smoke at 220- 225F for 14-16 hours over hardwood charcoal and cherry wood chunks (branch slices 3-4 ” diameter and 2-3″ thick are perfect).  I start in the late afternoon or evening and then can pull it off the next day.  This is where the Heatermeter comes in handy which provides perfect hands free temperature control.    You are looking for an internal temp of 160-165F . There should be a nice bark on the surface.   It will taste great but still be too tough.

Now moved to a covered  dutch oven with 1/2″ of water in the bottom and place in the oven at 275F for 3 hours. Final  internal temp should be about 200-205F.  At this point it will be nice and tender but firm and dark pink throughout.

If you have any brown or light pink areas in the middle it was not brined quite long enough or froze while in the brine (this last batch froze as the fridge is in the garage and temps dipped to well under freezing too early in the season).

Serve and enjoy.  We vacuum pack chunks and freeze for later (and raiding by our kids).

 

Dry Cured Pork Loin Batch 2

After the success of the first batch. I decided to make another larger one. This started with one of the big economy sized pork loins.   With this round, I wanted to try more seasoning variations.  So I cut it roughly into thirds, each seasoned differently.

Otherwise the preparation was the same as the first batch:  http://bronkalla.com/blog/2019/01/02/making-lonzino-dried-cured-pork-loin/

Italian Cajun Pepper
03/14/19 Weight 1392 1121 1068
salt 42 33 33
Cure 2 3.5 2.8 2.7
4 tsp Ground Coriander 2tsp Penzey’s Cajun blend 5g Black pepper
2 tsp Sweet Paprika 1tsp Sweet Paprika
2 tsp Red Pepper Flakes – no seeds – Super Cayenne
3 tsp freshly crushed fennel seeds
03/31/19 Initial fridge cure 1456 1171 1108
04/06/19 Dry box weight 1369 1085 990
04/13/19 1190 955 903
04/21/19 1057 863 826
04/27/19 1012 811 764
05/05/19 951 747 702
05/31/19 579

As before, after apply in the cure and spices, the meat went for 2 weeks in the crisper drawer in the fridge. Then it was wrapped in collagen sheet and trussed in butcher’s twine.

Dry box with ham, Bresaola (top right), and lonzino

The meat was pulled from the dry box in early June and portioned out. Each stick was cut in half for freezing or eating.

Pepper blend 5/31/19

Aging for another month in the fridge in a plastic bag, the color variation evens out and the flavor mellows even more.

Yesterday we had a party,  with this thin sliced and served as one of the appetizers. After the initial fear of trying meat that had not been cooked subsided, the vote was unanimous – MAKE MORE!  With the extra 6 weeks in the fridge, the flavors are even more mellow with a slight buttery note.

Absolutely delicious.

Next batch, I will probably dry to the 40-45% moisture loss point. At 50% it is a bit hard to cut and a little chewy.    I will also up the seasonings for the pepper and Cajun by 50%.

Bresaola – Tasting

Today the Bresaola had lost enough of its weight to be ready for tasting.  This is a continuation of my previous post on making the Bresaola .

Started 1/5/19,  tasting 4/13/19    The process took just over 3 months.

The meat was curing in the dry box in the basement with the dry cured ham and more dry cured pork loins (Lonzino).

Dry box with ham, Bresaola (top right), and lonzino

The bresaola was weighed and pulled today . It had lost 44% of its starting weight.

The meat was covered with an even coating of the mold until I dropped it. So then I wiped it off with a damp towel and vinegar. So you can now see some of the surface texture.

First cut. You can see how dark the meat is.

A bit closer and you can see that the coloring is even across the meat with little extra darkening at the edges indicating that the drying was fairly even. Feeling the meat, the top end is a bit firmer and presumably drier than this which is at the bottom quarter point.  The collagen is very well adhered to the meat, more so than with the pork loins.

Tasting – delicious if a little bit salty. Saltiness is comparable to commercial prosciutto.     There is a hint of the rosemary and juniper flavors but very mild.  The meat is very tender and almost a bit too soft yet.  Hint of a “minerally” flavor which is I guess to be expected with the eye of round roast.  Meat is very dark red as you can see and slices nicely.   This has a much stronger “meaty” / “minerally” flavor than the pork loin.

Putting the large piece back in the box for another week.  Small piece into the fridge to eat.

Next time, I will rinse thoroughly before applying the collagen to get more of the salt off to see if I can reduce the saltiness. I had not rinsed much so that I would not wash all of the spice mix off.

I would rate this one also a success.  However I much prefer the dry cured pork loin.