Salumi

Warning: if you are a vegetarian, vegan or even a meat eater who would rather not think about the where and how certain items come to table, skip this.

As noted previously I have become interested, some would say obsessed, with the art and craft of curing meats. 

It began with a desire to make a pancetta less salty than some I have purchased.  My online research led me to the book Charcuterie by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn. That in turn has led me to Ruhlman’s blog as well as Bob del Grosso’s A Hunger Artist, amongst others. 

Guided by the info in the book and the experiences of other bloggers I have plunged into the world of curing, drying, smoking various forms of animal protein for later consumption, much to the chagrin of my ever tolerant and patient wife.

 Along the way I have had some successes and a couple of failures.  No matter the outcome, I have pressed on…not in some Julie/Julia parallel, but in an effort to learn more about the foods I like. 

At the very least I hope to deepen my appreciation and understanding of what it takes to make excellent bacon, pastrami or sausage.  And if along the way I produce some tasty consumables so much the better.

Spurred on by the non-toxic results of my efforts so far I decided to attempt larger projects involving longer curing and drying times. 

A sale at the local grocery store prompted me to purchase a piece of beef eye round to turn into bresaola.   

At the same time, I picked up a small pork loin roast to turn into a version of capicola. Commercial capicola is a product that I often find lacking in flavor.  Traditionally, a pork butt (aka Boston butt, pork shoulder butt) would be used, but for this trial, I wanted to try something leaner and a little smaller…hence the pork loin.

 The process for both products is very similar.  After trimming the cuts, a “cure” is applied to the meat.  A second dose is applied a week or so later. After another week, the meat is rinsed of the spent cure and seasonings, dried and prepared for hanging in a cool spot to slowly dry and age.

Photo by Mark Stradling
 

 The beef was trimmed of all silverskin and external fat.

 

 

In both cases, I scaled down the recipes from Ruhlman’s book and set about the process.

For the Bresaola, I prepared a mixture of salt, garlic, and juniper berries that was ground to a paste and rubbed all over the eye round.  I then slipped the roast into a plastic bag and placed it in the refrigerator for ten days.  Every other day or so, I would redistribute the seasoned curing mix evenly over the meat and flip it.  At the end of that period, I removed the meat and discarded the bag and any accumulated juices.  Another dose of the cure was applied to the beef before placing it in a fresh bag and returning it to the fridge for another week or so.  Again, I would massage and flip the roast every other day. 

Photo by Mark Stradling
The cure and seasonings are rubbed onto the beef.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
The copicola was processed in much the same way as the bresaola only the seasonings were added after the curing process but before hanging to dry.  I used  a basic cure of salt, sugar and sodium nitrate. (The sodium nitrate will, over time change to sodium nitrite and provide some protection against the growth of the bacteria resposible for botulism.  It is perfectly safe in the small amounts used in the curing process.

Photo by Mark Stradling

Photo by Mark Stradling

Left: the pork loin has been trimmed and weighed.

Below: the curing mix will be rubbed into the pork.

 

 

 

 

 

Both products were put into separate baggies and refrigerated for a week and half.  Every other day or so, I would massage and flip them to make sure the cure is evenly dispersed.  After nine or ten days, the meat was removed from the bags, rinsed and dried.  Another dose of the seasoning/curing mixes were applied and then the meat went into new bags.  The massaging and flipping ritual was repeated every other day for another week and a half.

After almost three weeks…the meats were removed once again from their respective bags, rinsed and dried. 

Photo by Mark Stradling

This capicola was going to be seasoned according the “sweet” recipe in Charcuterie.  I actually prefer a hot (spicy) capicola, but upon consulting with friend Mark it was determined that the sweet cure would allow a fairer judging of the process than the hotter version. 

Photo by Mark Stradling

After the cured pork loin was rubbed with the seasoning mix, I inserted it into a natural beef casing.

Photo by Mark Stradling

Photo by Mark Stradling

The capicola was then tied and readied for hanging.

The Bresaola was also tied with butcher’s twine in preparation for being taken to the basement to hang in a cool, dark, spot until done (looking for about a 30% weight loss or 21 days, whichever comes first). 

Photo by Mark Stradling

The bresaola and capicola were hung in the basement on December 30, 2009.  It was expected to take about three weeks for them to dry cure to completion.  Upon weighing them on January 12, they showed the expected 30% weight loss.  I let them hang a couple of more days just to go a full two weeks.

The speed with which the meats lost weight was due to the lower than ideal humidity in the drying area.  This was reinforced when we cut in to the bresaola and capicola.  You could tell by the rosier, softer centers that the outside of the meats had dried too rapidly.

Still, the meat was done, and not at all unpleasant to eat.  The bresaola I probably wouldn’t change a thing on except to do a whole eye round instead of the half I used for this trial.

Bresaola anyone?

The capicola was a bit too salty.  I suspect that came from too liberal a use of the curing mix.  Again, the pork loin was smaller and leaner than a pork butt,  I think that usinge a larger, fattier piece of meat, along with a more judicious hand on the curing mix, would mitigate the saltiness somewhat.

 

Capicola sliced and ready to eat.

 

I will definintely work on finding a way to increase the humidity level in the curing area for the next round of experiments.

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4 Responses to “Salumi”

  1. Mark Stradling Says:

    “Natural beef casing.” I love it!

    Thanks for all the photo credits. (Completely unnecessary, BTW.)

    Question: Now what do we do with the other 284 photos?

  2. Kevin O'Connor Says:

    Jim – now that I am living in Seattle, this post reminds me: I need to get myself to Mario Batali’s father’s place here – Salumi – for some Tuscan Finocchiona salami, studded with fennel seeds… gotta go…

    • Jim Carlucci Says:

      Kevin,

      You mean you haven’t been there yet!?!?!?!? 😉

      Funny you should mention the Finocchiona…I may be getting ahead of myself but I was contemplating that as a possible “next step.” But I need to to make some more bacon, another bresaola and real coppa (with a pork butt), first.

  3. Jim Carlucci Says:

    Hey! I was trying to be respectful of the sensitivity of others when using the phrase “natural beef casing.”

    And the photo credits were necessary…credit where credit is due.

    As for the other photos…we may find a use for them yet!

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