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.

Bressaola – Dry cured beef

I am making the Bressaola from an Eye of Round roast.  This is based on the Bressaola recipe in  Charcuterie by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn. I have converted it to a slat and cure by weight and adjusted the herbs and spices as it is mid winter and my Rosemary and Thyme are only dry now not fresh.

After trimming the roast of fat silverskin and any nicks, it ended up at 1233g.

3% salt = 37g

0.25% cure #2 = 3g

1.5 tsp dried Rosemary

1 tsp dried Thyme

6 Juniper berries

Finely grind the mixture together until powdered in a mortar and pestle. I don’t like dragging out the blender for this and these flavors would not help my coffee.

Divide the mixture in half.

Rub the roast with 1/2 of the mix all over and place in a plastic bag in the fridge for 1 week turning every few days. After 1 week pull it out, drain any liquid and then apply the other half of the spice mix.  Refrigerate for another week.

Remove the roast from the bag, rinse well removing the cure and spice blend. Place on a rack at room temperature uncovered for 2-3 hours. This will dry it enough to be ready for wrapping.

Wrap in 1/2 sheet of collagen, pressing it tightly against the meat and then truss with butchers twine. 2 vertical wraps and 3-5 horizontal wraps.  Make a loop in the twine so it will fit over the dowel in  the dry box.   Prick all over with a sanitized sausage pricker. Dip in a solution of Bactoferm 600 (penicilium mold culture).

Wrapped in Collagen sheet and trussed

Hang in the dry box.    This was taken after 1 week

Here I have it out for weighing after 1 week. You can see mold growth and it is much heavier where it bumped the mold covered pork loin.

Date Weight
01/05/19 1233g Start before cure applied
01/18/19 1250g Ready for dry box
01/23/19 1192g
03/10/19 988g
03/18/19 906
03/23/19 867
03/30/19 822
04/06/19 773
04/13/19 695 tasting
end wt loss 44.40%

Beware this is still an experiment in progress. Get the book while waiting for the tasting post.

 

Sources:

TheSausageMaker.com:  Dry Aging Collagen Sheets for Dry Aging Meats 22″ x 24″ (5 pcs) and Bactoferm Mold-600 (Penicillium Nalgiovense) and Sausage pricker.  You can also order their products via Amazon but it is much more expensive but with free shipping. So if you need several things direct is cheaper.

Dry Cured Country Ham

As I mentioned previously, I really like dry cured ham.  Prosciutto & Speck are great.  However, I am still taunted by my family for the “salt ham” episode where I ordered a “virginia ham” off the internet.  It was not popular.

So, with that lesson and others, I have settled on making my dry cured meats with “by weight” proportions rather than salt box or “cover it with salt” for x days recipes.   The concept is that there is an ideal salt & seasoning to meat weight ratio. This give you lots of latitude  on the curing time vs . immersing the meat in salt and pulling it at “just the right time”.  From the research I have done, the immerse it in salt method seems to be optimized for production curing on an ongoing basis with tons of meat per day. However, at home we are not doing “production curing” we are doing a few pounds per month at most on an erratic “schedule” (try not to run out before the next batch is done) .  So, I want small batch repeatability and the “by weight” salting / curing method wins.

This recipe is for a dry cured, deboned and smoked front leg ham. Yes it is a mouthful. In Italy and Austria it would be referred to as Speck. However the recipe here is not authentic to the region, but is sort of  based on the “Blackstrap Molasses  Country Ham” recipe in “Charcuterie” by Ruhlman and Polcyn . However, I have modified this to my taste (I hope). As I write this the hams are in the dry box. So for all intents and purposes this is an untried recipe as no one has tasted the results so far. That will come in a future blog post.  So for the daring, here is what I did:

Take one fresh picnic ham (front leg) and carefully debone it.  Care must be taken that you are not creating cuts / scars that will harbor bacteria or molds.  The goal is to have a couple of piece of meat with a clean, unscarred surface for curing.  The bone and attached scraps are saved for future goodies whether soups or plain old baked beans. Next, we must cure the meat.  The slat and cure are by weight percentages. The spices assume approximately 1 KG pieces. You should scale up or down accordingly for what you have.

Cure:

  • 3% by weight kosher salt
  • 0.25% by weight cure #2  “pink salt”
  • 2 tsp Juniper berries crushed
  • 2 tsp Szechuan peppercorns, crushed
  • 1/2 tsp ground Coriander
  • 1 Tb grated fresh ginger
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2c cup dark molasses
  • 1/2 cup rum -decent rum

Mix the above ingredients and set aside.

I started with a 8.5 lb picnic ham – skin on and bone in.  The resulting pieces are:

Meat Salt Cure #2
1245g 37.4g 3.1g
1760g 53.6g 4.4g

The boned out picnic ham should yields 2 approximately equal sized pieces (skin on) .  Take 2 large zip lock bags and place the “halves” of the ham in them. Now pour in proportional amounts of the cure in each bag.  Place in the fridge.  Turn every few days (2-5).

After 2 weeks of cold curing in the fridge, the meat should have evenly distributed the cure. Next  the meat is removed from the bags, dried with paper towels and then set on racks in the refrigerator to dry and form a pellicle (thin tacky skin). Now is the time for cold smoking.

With cold smoking, it is important to understand that we are not trying to cook the meat at this point. The goal is to add smoke for flavor and reduce, if not prevent mold growth during the drying phase.     The meat is cold smoked for 10+ hours. The  Big Green Egg was the smoke chamber, with an A-Maze-N  pellet smoker grate providing the smoke.

After smoking the upper edges of the meat were pierced for butcher’s twine to hang in the dry box (smoke aroma is good but a bit harsh about now). I used Traeger Signature Blend pellets.

The meat is then hung in the “high tech” dry curing chamber and now we wait. The white pieces are the dry cured pork loins.

Weighing after 2 weeks in the dry box

Weights of the pieces

Date small lg
01/03/19 1245g 1760g start -wet
02/10/19 1107g 1655g post smoke
2/23/19 1006 1517
747 1056 Target 40% weight loss

Cold Smoking and Frozen Smoker Entry

I like Prosciutto, however it is bit hard to find round here not in a pre-sliced / pre-packaged form. Once sliced it does not keep well oxidizing  and rapidly develops off flavors.  Speck which is a northern Italian  /Austrian version which is smoked and also has great flavor but is not to be found around here. Plus my wife objects to the $70+ dollar shipments from Amazon, which I order in the winter and then UPS then throws in the ditch by the mailbox rather than delivering up to our doorstep (another long story). However I can cut up the chunk, freezing some. I slice off what I need as I need it and retain the fresh cut flavor.

So after reading a few books on dry curing and watching yet more YouTube videos, I decided to tackle making some Country ham / Speck.  The curing chamber was already constructed. So now the problem was how to procure the raw ham and then cold smoke before drying.  The meat was easy as our local grocer – Woodman’s, had the fresh front legs (a.k.a. green picnic hams) on special.

Meanwhile it is mid-winter in Wisconsin, meaning my Big Green Egg was frozen shut (really frozen shut with > 1/2″ ice covering) and I did not yet have a cold smoke generator.  I have smoked a lot of meat on the BGE but it has always been hot smoked (190-230F smoker temp) but for these hams  we are looking for <90F smoker temp. After some research which lead to both very expensive and very simple / inexpensive options I settled on the A-Maze-N 5×8″ smoker which uses wood pellets. Nice and simple, no modifications to the grill or having to connect air pumps as on some of the more expensive models.

I melted the BGE open the night before for a steak dinner (see yet more http://bronkalla.com/blog/2018/12/31/koji-steak-and-crunchy-cheesy-potatoes/)  and then propped it open with a stick of kindling for the next morning (no snow forecast and -10F temps).  It took a few handfuls of kindling shoved in through the ash dump / vent and lit with a propane torch to get the left over charcoal going.  The metal ring I made really speeds up the process taking the heat and applying it to the frozen gaskets.  This has served me well over the last 3 winters. Go get some sheet metal at HD and attack it with tin snips.  Size is not critical.   Thisis 3x faster than trying to just let it warm up in reasonable (>10F temps) and the only way when it gets really cold (-10 to -20F , -20 is my cut off)

Metal ring used in between the gaskets to thaw the egg in winter.

 

Next day I add a few big lumps of charcoal as spacers and place the A-Maze-n smoker with mixed wood pellets and get it lit. Once lit, blow out the fie, add the meat and walk away.  Internal temp of the BGE averaged 46F over 10 hours (that is COLD smoking).

 

Dry cured pork loin – tasting

When doing my research on foods, especially fermented or cured,  I have learned  to look first for the “tasting” post or video then decide whether to look at the preparation posting or video. If there is no tasting video – just assume it did not turn out.   Probably the best that I have seen are Gavin Weber’s cheese making videos. When tasting he tells it like it is – not all turn out and some are interesting surprises.

This experiment started back on Dec 15, 2018 and my first post on it was: Making Lonzino – Dried cured pork loin    (Yes, I waited to see if it was a slimy mess or not before the first posting).

Over the intervening weeks ,I took a few photos and weighed the pieces to track the progress.

Jan 5
Jan 12 – note how the mold has bloomed, covering the entire piece
Jan 12 – Weigh in for the spicy piece
More meat into the chamber. In this case it is some dry cured ham similar to Speck. Smells so good.

Starting at 1100 grams each the target for 30% weight loss was then 770 g. Today the spicy one was down to 789g  and I figured it was ready to test. Besides I had to make room for a Bresaola that was going in. T

he last couple of weeks have not been optimum for drying as I had to move the chamber to the garage as I was doing some wood project finishing in the basement and did not want the fumes to impair the flavor. So I have been shuttling it between garage and basement depending on the temperatures (it reached -30F here) and extraneous odors (garden tractor which I use for plowing stinks on start up). This means the ambient temp has been anywhere form 28-58F depending on where the box was – not ideal.   Plus I have been adding more meat and it may be tasing the little fan a bit with the added moisture.

Now is the time for the unveiling…

Spicy dry cured pork loin 2/18/19
First cut into the spicy pork loin and first taste
More slices. YUM

This is definitely a success. The flavor is just what I was looking for with the pork, fennel and pepper.  It is a nice subtle blend. The outer layer of collagen and mold is discarded before eating (although it is edible).   The texture is nice, but I want to dry it a bit more to get it a bit firmer. At this point is just a bit softer than prosciutto. I will probably trim the fat evenly next time. The meat is a bit softer near the fat layer.  The outer layer of meat is a bit darker than the center which could be a bit of case hardening (outside drying too fast) but the texture really does not vary much.

Weights   in grams

Date Plain pepper Spicy  Box RH
12/30/18 1101 1104  75-85%
01/05/19 1052 1056  75-78%
01/12/19 972 965 75-78%
01/19/19 906 914  75-78%
01/26/19 856 868  75-78%
02/03/19 828 840  75-88%
02/10/19 800 814  75-88%
02/18/19  749 789  80-85%
03/10/19  691 75-78%

Stay tuned . More projects underway. Dry cured ham – similar to Speck, and Bresaola which just went into the box today after 2 weeks in the fridge.

I also brought some in to work and ran samples past a few of my friends.   Overall the rating was excellent. Probably 60% would like it a bit drier / firmer but all want more.  So,  the other piece is going to dry to 35-40% weight loss and I will run another test.  Overall, I am very encouraged by the consensus on the results!

Update 3/17/19   The second (plain pepper) piece was dried to 38% weight loss and the group appraisal was that it has better texture.  However the fennel / spicy flavoring has the taste edge.

You really should not just take my first time experience as gospel. I did a lot of research prior to attempting this and I hope you do as well . Some of my favorite references are:

  • Charcuterie by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn
  • Olympia Provisions: Cured Meats and Tales from an American Charcuterie by Elias Cairo, Meredith Erickson
  • Salumi by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn

Plus a variety of youtube videos. Ignore any that post only a “making ” video but no “tasting” video.

My favorite youtube video is “making capicola”   she reminds me of my grandmother and covers the wrapping in collagen sheets before hanging.

Making Lonzino – Dried cured pork loin

Background

I love dried and cured meats. Unfortunately, Prosciutto is not good for the budget and very hard to make. So I have been researching again, and came across something that appears to be simpler – Lonzino.  This is cured and dried pork loin.  The recipe is based on one in the book: Dry Curing Pork by Hector Kent.   Plus the wrapping technique came from Youtube.

Ingredients

2 KG (about 5 lbs)  pork loin trimmed of all loose pieces and cut in half

The pieces I had came out at 1025 and 1030 grams. This meant I needed for each piece:

  • 30 g salt  (3% of meat weight)
  • 2.6g cure #2   (0.25% of meat weight)
  • These are done by weight percentage, based on actual weight of the meat pieces.   This is much easier doing the weights in metric units – grams than imperial units.

Additionally, there were seasonings needed:

Plain

  • Salt and cure # 2 by weight as above
  • 10 g coarse ground black pepper

Savory

  • Salt and cure # 2 by weight as above
  • 4 tsp ground coriander
  • 2 tsp sweet paprika powder
  • 2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes – no seeds – we grow Super Cayenne peppers
  • 3 tsp freshly crushed fennel seeds

Mixing and refrigeration / curing

For each loin take the salt and cure # 2 and add either the palin or savory spice mix. Rub the pork loin thoroughly with the mixture and place in a zip lock bag in the fridge for 2 weeks turning every few days.    Over this time each piece lost 25 g or so of weight.

Wrapping for drying

After the 2 weeks , the pork is ready for drying.

 

 

Each piece is tightly wrapped in 1/2 of a collagen sheet (from the Sausage Maker on Amazon)  and placed in butcher’s netting. It is then dipped in a penicillium mold solution so that healthy white mold will take over the exterior and out-compete nasty intruders.   The wrapped pieces are hung on a 1/2″ dowel inside a rubbermaid bin that is then placed in the basement shop which at floor level, is about 55 degrees in the Wisconsin Winter.    The initial weights were taken and they were 1001 and 1004 grams.

Drying chamber and fan

The proper environment for drying is around 55 degrees F and 75% humidity. Reading the recipes everyone is talking about keeping the humidity high but my drying chamber is a large rubbermaid bin  and the humidity is too high.  I had sanitized the bin with Star San and left it wet before adding the meat.

So I took a 40mm diameter 12v fan, HEPA filter for a respirator, 12v wall wart power supply and the Inkbird humidity controller as the starting point.

The 3d printed pieces hold the dc power connector for the fan and the filter. I gave up trying to make the “ears” to hold the filter on the snoot and settled for hot melt glue.

You can find the files for the parts on Thingiverse: https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:3329979

So far the humidity level is holding nicely.

When will it be done?

The meat needs to lose 30-40% of its original weight. Maybe a few weeks.

Koji Steak and Crunchy Cheesy Potatoes

 

After the previous success with the Koji rice marinated steak we wanted to try another to see if it is repeatable. The answer in short is that- It Is! The rib steak was coated with seasonings and the slightly crushed Koji Rice  and placed in a bag in the fridge for 3 days this time.  It was removed and the rice scraped off and placed in a vacuum bag for the Sous Vide cooking. Given that this was a nearly 2″ thick piece we went for 4 hours at 130F.  After this it was tossed on the blazing hot charcoal for 90 sec per side and brought in to rest.

Meanwhile there were leftovers to improve. One of our family holiday staples is cheesy potato casserole. Teal makes the potatoes chunky rather than sliced and this is good. I enjoy the crunchy edges but there never seems to be enough.   Given that Teal made an extra large batch for Christmas I had plenty of left-overs but few edges. So what to do?  Here I take a hint from Grandma’s Polenta left-overs.

The potatoes and sauce set up rather firm in the fridge. It was actually sliceable (like cold polenta).    Slice into 1/2 to 3/4″ slabs.  Next they need to be coated:

  • 1 c corn chex – crushed (in your hands)
  • 2/3 c shredded cheese

Mix the 2 together well.

Place the slabs of potato casserole on the Chex & Cheese mix and press into the coating on both sides.

Place in preheated skillet with butter that has already browned and then brown the potato mix on wn both sides. Serve with the steak (or have as a meal all on its own).

 

 

Steak+Koji+SousVide=YUM

I have been doing more research and some of the concepts seem to be a bit more than my wife is likely to handle. However I bought a copy of the “Noma Guide to Fermentation” and it brings forth many great ideas; as should a cookbook from a restaurant that has been ranked one of the best in the world a few times. One top of that as I have been digging around in the University of YouTube searching for ideas, I came across a video on Koji Sous Vide Steak.  While the video is a bit obnoxious, I liked the idea and ordered some Koji Rice on Amazon. It is made by: http://www.isesou.co.jp/kouji/index.shtml

I broke off  1/4 of one of the packages and ran it through the blender to break it up.   I should have worn a face mask, as the dust / spores rose up as I took the lid off, even after letting it settle a couple of minutes. The koji rice has a pleasant sweet flavor as is.

The roughly broken rice grains were then applied to the steak. I had a 3 lb rib-eye with bone (a good 3″ thick).  Once the rice was applied on all sides, it was zip lock bagged and placed in the fridge  for 48 hours (no need for vacuum bag at this point).  It was turned every 8-12 hours, but this does not seem necessary.

 

After 48 hours it was ready for seasoning and sous vide cooking. The rice was scraped off with a chef’s knife. I was wary of undue flavors (for Teal) . Besides at the end of the sous vide cooking, it goes on the charcoal for browning and the rice would get in the way of that. So the rice was scraped off and discarded (maybe another use would be good next time).  However there is is a pleasant roasted/toasted rice aroma added to the beef aroma – very nice. Now it was time for the Sous Vide cooking at 130F for 4.5 hours with Teal’s favorite spice blend — Penzey’s Barbecue of the America’s.

At the end of the sous vide cook, it was removed from the bag, drained and dried with paper towels. At this point, it still looks bland.  The grill was already pre-heated with a pile of lump hardwood charcoal and blazing hot.  The steak was then placed directly on the charcoal (no need for a grate) and moved every 20-30 seconds.  After 90 seconds, it was flipped and again moved every 20-30 seconds. With a hot fire, like this, the fat renders off fast and I did not need to do the edges. However, if your fire is not “burning the hair off of your knuckles hot” then you may need to also stand the roast on edge to get the edges nicely done as well.

Overall, it is a great success. The meat is superbly tender and the added flavor is both mild and welcome.  Not bad for $6.99 / lb rib roast Christmas special . There is a faint aroma of toasted rice added to the meat. This is actually really a nice added fragrance and made it harder to wait for the whole 10 minute hold time after pulling from the grill, before slice and serve. So how are you going to make moldy rice and beef?  This is a great excuse to expand your family’s horizons with new foods.