Wednesday, February 13, 2013



Our adventure with aspiring to make salumi at home started with the magazine Lucky Peach, which included a recipe for mortadella. For weeks Mrs. Monkeyshines babbled about making mortadella and read and re-read the recipe, but somehow we just weren't ready to commit an entire weekend day to putting it together.

Finally, the day came when we were ready to make it happen. So what did we do? Sort of follow the Lucky Peach recipe and also the recipe in Salumi as we saw fit. I know, great idea to not follow the recipe on something you’ve never made before, but that’s how things happen here…

Unlike the capicola, we didn’t go the heritage breed route. Since the mortadella is cooked right away, it didn’t seem as urgent to pay for the good stuff. We cheated on our regular butcher and went to a local Asian market. (Sorry Guerras!) They had chunks of lean pork marked ‘Pork Chowder’. We think they meant ‘Pork Shoulder’ but Mrs. Monkeyshines asked for '”pork chowder” so as not to rock the boat. The nice man behind the counter looked at her as if she were insane.

Anyway, the results were surprisingly good. Next time we’ll add a more salt, but the sausage was really quite tasty and (relatively) simple. In other words, there will be a next time. The homemade version is less fatty than the store-bought kind and doesn’t leave that icky greasy feeling in the mouth.

Here is the recipe for our version:

3 lb lean pork shoulder
2 lb pork belly or pork back fat if you can get it
1 Tbsp coriander seed
1 Tbsp nutmeg
1 tsp bay leaf, dried
9 grams curing salt
9 grams regular salt (we suggest using more, maybe 18 grams, but haven’t tried it)
6 oz white wine
10 oz crushed ice + a bunch more ice for sundry ice baths
1 1/2 Tbsp coarsely cracked black pepper
1 1/4 cups whole pistachios
1 beef middle or plastic wrap or other casing material.


  1. Cut the pork shoulder into 1 1/2 inch cubes and trim off any extraneous fat and sinew
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    our pork shoulder and pork belly, ready for turning into mortadella!
  2. Remove skin from pork belly, if present, and cut 8 oz of it into 1/4 inch dice, the rest into 1 1/2 inch cubes. Place the large cubes in a big bowl with the meat and refrigerate while you get the rest of the ingredients together.
  3. Bring a pot of water to a boil and blanch the small cubes of belly for 3 minutes, then cool down in an ice bath. Refrigerate until you’re ready to use it.
  4. Toast the coriander seed, then grind to a powder. Similarly grind your dried bay leaves (If you only have fresh leaves, you can dry them in the microwave on medium power for 3-4 minutes. it works great!)
  5. Add the salt and spices (except for the peppercorns) and the wine to the bowl of pork chunks. salumi_ 022
  6. Grind the meat and spices using the coarse disc of your meat grinder.
  7. Bring a small pot of water to a simmer – you’ll use it in step 9.
  8. In a food processor, blend the meat and crushed ice in batches until it is as smooth a paste as you can get it. This took us four batches (apportion the ice equally in each of the batches). Refrigerate while you prepare a sample in the next step. 
  9. Wrap a half-cup or so of the meat in plastic wrap to make a small sausage and poach in the pot of water until cooked – 4-5 minutes. Do enough that you can take a few bites and really assess the flavor. Cool completely before tasting, then adjust seasoning as needed.
  10. Stir the small fat cubes, pistachios and the peppercorns into your meat puree until evenly distributed. salumi_ 025
  11. Bring water in a very large pot to a near boil – about 200 degrees F. You’re going to poach your mortadella at 170 degrees, but adding the meat will cool down the pot, so we shoot a little high at this step.
  12. Stuff the sausage meat into your casing. We used plastic wrap, and rolled a third of the mix as tightly and evenly as we could into a compact log about 3 inches in diameter and about 8 inches long. We then rolled it in a second layer of plastic to try to prevent water from getting in and tied off the ends with string. Repeat for the other two thirds of the mix or make whatever size of mortadella appeals to you. salumi_ 030
  13. Poach the sausages at 170 degrees F for approximately 45 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 150 degrees.
  14. Cool the sausages in an ice bath and refrigerate. We’re told they’ll keep 2-3 weeks, but don’t yet have experience on that front. salumi_ 035

Slice and enjoy!

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Capicola or Coppa. Or, as it turns out, spalla

Growing up, my favorite cold cut in all the universe was called capicola. We bought it at Cavaretta’s deli in the ‘burbs of Los Angeles. Later, I moved to San Francisco and that same delectable meat was called Coppa. As it turns out, capicola is the term used in Umbria, where Coppa is Piemontese for this cut of meat that runs from the neck through the shoulder of a pig. Whatever you call it, I was determined to make my own.

I found a few recipes on the interweb, but was daunted by the prospect of hanging meat unattended in the basement for several weeks. What temperature? How long? Really? Can this possibly be safe? Thankfully Brian Polcyn and Michael Ruhlman came to my rescue by publishing the book Salumi: The Craft of Italian Dry Curing. This book details how to create whole muscle salume (coppa, prosciutto, pancetta among others) and also salami or various flavor combinations.

Ultimately, we’ll make them all. OK, well, most of them. I am not sure I am committed to hanging a pork leg for a year in order to get prosciutto, nor am I committed to consuming a whole prosciutto in the time it would be safe to eat, much as I love that creamy sweet meat.

But I digress. We’re talking about coppa. Capicola. Yum. Actually, no we’re not. We went to Prather Ranch to buy a pork shoulder as we knew (and the authors were adamant) that a high-quality base meat is essential in order to get a high-quality cured product. There’s no way some factory-farmed flavorless pork loin is ever going to cure into a rich creamy lonza. Our shoulder, which was boneless came from a Black pig that had fed on acorns and watermelon. Cue all the foodie hipster jokes all you want, but I am happy with our choice. But if you taste La Quercia prosciutto (or Jamon Iberico or a real Italian prosciutto) compared to supermarket prosciutto you’ll taste the difference that breed and feed make in the final product.

coppa 001Our piggy fresh from the market 

Unfortunately, our shoulder also came without the capicola cylindrical muscle. It was the other 2/3 of the shoulder, so we’re calling it Spalla instead. Spalla being the cured pork shoulder, even though ours is missing a bit. Hopefully that means that it’ll cure faster.

coppa 005 Adding the cure to the meat

We cured the meat for 3 days in the refrigerator. The book recommends one day for every 2 pounds/1 kilogram and we started with just shy of 6 pounds. The cure included bay leaves, juniper berries, thyme, pepper, kosher salt (NOT iodized) and curing salt. We’re fortunate to have a wonderful local butcher, Guerra’s Meats, from which we bought curing salt and casings for our Andouille. We weighted the meat during this time to press water out of the flesh and help close up the seams created by boning the shoulder.

coppa 007Weighing it down – flour and a 28 oz can of tomatoes worked great!

After the cold cure, we rinsed the meat, applied a new layer of herbs (the same juniper, thyme, etc. mix), tied it as tightly as possible and hung it to dry in our basement.

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Ready to hang

According to the book, the ideal conditions for curing meat is a space that is between 55 and 65 degrees F and about 70% humidity and fresh circulating air. We’re not exactly sure what our humidity level is, but 70% seems about right. Being the dead of winter, the temperature has dipped a bit cooler than optimal and with rains, the humidity may be a touch higher on some days, though I think we’re in the ballpark.

The coppa at time of hanging and one week later:coppa_one_week

If you look closely (click to enlarge) you’ll see that the meat is drier (though it is still soft to the touch) and that there are a few spots of mold growing. The white mold is apparently good and to be encouraged. In the crack there was a touch of furry mold so we swabbed it with vinegar. The meat has lost 100 g over the course of 8 days.

2 weeks in: we have a fine collection of molds! Some are the nice chalky white molds while others are of more uncertain provenance… We wanted to treat these with a healthy respect since some molds can be harmful: on the other hand, we read of traditional Italian salumi being covered in the allegedly not-so-good blue molds. The Monkey (wearing his scientist’s hat) found an interesting thread on egullet covering this topic, which includes reference to this paper. Basically they find a huge variety of microorganisms in both industrial and artisanal sausages from Northern Italy, however they only exist on the surface of the sausage and can be removed by simple washing. (There is, of course, also the potential for microbial contamination inside the rolled meat, but we took care of that with our curing salt…)

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3 weeks later: We are almost ready to break in to our fine cured pig! Most of the mold at this stage is the chalky white kind. However, the weight was not quite there: we were losing about 100g per week, so figured that two more weeks were needed.

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Finally, time for the grand carving! The first few slices were a bit fatty, but soon we were cutting beautifully marbled slices of tasty cured pork. Marvellous!

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As well as eating plain unadorned slices, we made pasta carbonara (below) and are now trying to figure out how to use up the remaining 2 or so pounds. What a nice problem to have!

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A cure for the Daring Cooks

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Our Daring Cooks challenge for the months of January and February was to make fresh or cured sausage or salumi.  This was a perfectly timed challenge as we had just purchased the book that inspired it:  Salumi: The Craft of Italian Dry Curing by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn and have been fervently paging through the book trying to decide which of the recipes to try first.

Salumi is the generic Italian term for cured meats and includes Salami (salame is the plural here) and also whole-muscle cures such as pancetta, prosciutto and capicola. The challenge also offered the option to make sausage, either fresh or cured.

Talk about spoiled for choice! We wanted to try our hands at all kinds of sausage and cured meats, so for this challenge we made cured pork shoulder, aka Spalla, smoked Andouille sausage and mortadella. We have really been bitten by the home curing bug…

For the January-February 2013 Daring Cooks’ Challenge, Carol, one of our talented non-blogging members and Jenni, one of our talented bloggers who writes The Gingered Whisk, have challenged us to make homemade sausage and/or cured, dried meats in celebration of the release of the book Salumi: The Craft of Italian Dry Curing by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn! We were given two months for this challenge and the opportunity to make delicious Salumi in our own kitchens!

Andouille Sausage


We were excited, but a little nervous about making our own andouille sausage. Excited, because we love the flavor of this smoky sausage in gumbo and other dishes; nervous because the last time we tried to stuff sausages was a frustrating experience – our casings seemed to burst at the slightest provocation. So, this time we invested in a new accessory for our trusty Kitchen Aid mixer: the sausage stuffer! This was a great success and we had a blast making these tasty links of porky goodness.

source: Charcuterie

5 lbs boneless fatty pork shoulder butt, diced into 1” cubes
3 tablespoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons  cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon pink salt, aka Curing salt
1 teaspoon dried thyme
½ teaspoon ground mace - we substituted 1 tsp smoked paprika (and yes, we know that’s nothing like mace but that’s how we roll.. )
½ teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon ground allspice
¾ teaspoon Coleman’s dry mustard
1 cup diced onion
1 tablespoon minced garlic
10 feet/3 meters hog casings, soaked in tepid water for a least 30 minutes and rinsed

  1. Directions:
    Combine all the ingredients and toss to mix thoroughly. Chill until ready to grindandouille 004
  2. Grind mixture through the small die of your meat grinder andouille 010
  3. Mix with paddle attachment or spoon for about a minute until meat has sticky appearance.
  4. Fry a bite size portion of the sausage and taste it – refrigerate your meat mixture while you do this – and adjust seasonings as necessary
  5. Stuff sausage into the hog casings and twist into 6-inch links.
    (Here it is – our new sausage maker in action!)

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    andouille 016
  6. Hang sausages on a smoke stick and let dry for 1 to 2 hours a to room temperature or in the refrigerator to develop the pellicle.
    andouille 019
  7. Hot smoke sausages at a temperature of 180°F/82 °C to an internal temperature of 150°F/65°C. Transfer to ice bath to chill thoroughly, then refrigerate.andouille 022
  8. Refrigerate sausages up to 2 weeks or freeze until ready to use.