Friday, September 21, 2007

Farmer pork Vs. Commercial pork - Cacciatorino

There are a number of reasons people choose to buy farmer raised pork instead of commercially farmed pork, but for me, the most important is the flavor difference. Eating a farmer raised heirloom pork chop makes you wonder what you've been eating all these years. It is much juicier, and "meatier" tasting, really night and day. The image to the right shows both types. Right is farmer, left is Costco.

So, I've been wondering if that difference would be appreciable in a salame. It would only make sense that it would be. In order to test this theory I made a very simple salame keeping everything the same except the meat used. For commercial pork I used pork shoulders from Costco, which generally has good meat. The farmer pork was raised by a local farm here in Georgia.

To really taste the difference between the two porks, I decided to make a super simple salame. I would call this a cacciatorino even though it isn't of the appropriate shape for that name. It is made only of meat, fat, salt, pepper, and garlic infused wine (and starter culture and dextrose). The formula I used is as follows. The quantities are for the farmer salami I made, but using the % you can scale as you need.

IngredientQuantity(g)% of Meat+Fat
Pork Shoulder81070%
Black Pepper30.26%
Cure #22.80.24%
F-RM-52 Starter10.09%
Reduced wine363.13%

This time I used a pork shoulder. This one pictured on the left is the one from a Berkshire pig from a local farmer, below that is the Costco shoulder (and their total mangling of it to remove the bone).As you can see the marbling is much greater than in a commercial shoulder.
As usual, this was trimmed, and cubed, removing as much sinew as possible.

I quickly realized that using pieces from the back leg, the ham, is much more efficient. It has less sinew, and the yield is much higher. With this bone in farmer piece my yield of trimmed, ready to grind eat, was low. I only got 45% usable meat. The Costco yielded about 60%.

I used pork belly again. It is really much more convenient than harvesting fatback from the skin portions I buy at the market. If there are large portions of meat in the belly, I remove them.

Using the formula above, I mixed my meat and fat cubes, and put them in the freezer for about 1 hour.

I ground using the 1/4" plate. You can see in the picture that partially freezing the meat and fat will give you nice definition in the chunks of fat and meat. If you don't, there is a chance that the fat will smear, and you won't end up with nice fat globules.

I mixed this on the lowest speed on the Kitchenaid mixer for 1 minute. Added everything except the starter culture. I mixed the meat and spices for about 1.5 minutes. (see finocchietto recipe for reduced wine/garlic info). Then added the starter culture which had been dissolved in 30g of distilled water 10 minutes prior. I mixed for another 30-45 seconds.

This is what the meat paste should look like when the mixing is done. A good bind has been achieved. You can see the white film on the sides of the bowl which is the myosin protein which has been pulled out of the meat by the salt (correct me if I'm wrong, chemists!)

The salami were stuffed into 4 43mm casings and 1 60mm casing. All the farmer pork fit into 2 43mm casings.
They were fermented at 83 deg. F for 26 hours for the 43mm, and 28 hours for the 60mm.

They were then put into the curing chamber held at 54 deg.F and 70% RH.
I'm trying a little higher RH than I have in the past to try to slow down the drying to develop more flavor.

The Kichenaid mixer is great for mixing small quantities for salame paste, pretty much what I made with the finocchietto, that is about 1 KG of meat/fat is the max it can handle. If you have more, as I did when making the Costco pork salame, you'll need to grind into a large bowl, and mix everything with a cutting and folding motion with your hands or a spatula. I'm demonstrating this in the movie below.

Looking forward to tasting these head to head. I'll report on them as soon as I can as usual!


Friday, September 7, 2007

A purchase-able fermentation box? It should work!

The Thermokool MR-138. Happened to find this while reading something else. People have used this for proofing bread dough, and it seems like it is very accurate and settable to temperatures needed for fermenting salamis. It claims to be able to go from 40-140 deg. F. It goes for about $90 + shipping, so it is more expensive, but all the work is done for you. Might be worth a try.

Humidity control shouldn't be a problem as long as it is well sealed (it should be). You want the humidity high when fermenting (80-90%). If it is too low, spraying some water with a spray bottle or putting a small bowl in the bottom should work. You can find it HERE.


Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Salame al Finocchietto - Wow that was quick!

It's only been 10 days since I put this salame in the curing chamber, but it's ready! I kept the chamber at 56 deg. F and a humidity of about 65%.

As of this morning, the weights of the salami have decreased as follows:
Salame A: 566g -> 321g a 43% loss in weight
Salame B: 596g -> 359g a 40% loss in weight.

So I took salame A, the one which had lost more weight, out of the curing chamber. As you can see there is no mold formation on the outside of my salame. I've never been able to figure this out. I have no idea why. I've even tried spraying the salame with distilled water in which I've mixed a moldy casing from a commercial salame...nothing! I must have a magical chamber which doesn't allow growth.

Anyhow, the aroma is very light, I can smell the fennel, and the black pepper, but not really strong. Cut into it:

You can see the medium fine grain, the nice distinct fat chunks and the black pepper and fennel seeds.
Flavor is very good. Very mild acidity, which is what I was going for, nice fennel flavor, but the black pepper is maybe just a touch too strong. I'd reduce it about 20% next time. Texture was good. A bit drier around the edges than in the middle, but this may change as it firms up after a few days in the fridge. I've found that a week or so in the fridge (sealed in a zip lock bag) allows the meat humidity to equalize across the diameter and the flavor seems to increase.

Overall I'm pleased. Simple flavors, good salame.