It's that time of year again, when cotechino makes its yearly appearance, in preparation for the New Years feast! I've explained the story of cotechino a couple of times before, both in 2008 and 2009. This year I was fortunate enough to have some concia, or spice mixture, from a fellow Italian in San Francisco. He gets it from his uncle in Italy, and he kindly sent me a pack to try. Sorry, i don't know what's in it, but i think it's the usual spice suspects which you can see on previous years posts.
There was one major change this year. I just recently got a standalone grinder. It a nice #12 electric model. I had had enough of the Kitchenaid not being able to deal with the smallest amount of sinew in the meat. It was taking me hours of trimming. With this grinder I just cut the shoulder into strips and fed it right through. Ground right through it, no problems... nice!
The other reason I wanted a standalone grinder was to be able to grind the cotechino skin without precooking it first, like I've done every other time. I think I've been losing some collagen and unctuousness by precooking the skin before grinding it.
This can be made with a kitchenaid grinder, no real problems, but follow the directions from previous years about pre-cooking the skin.
This year's stack of pig skin. I removed most of the fat attached to it, but wasn't 100% perfect. I figured a little extra fat can't hurt.
I followed by Italian friend's suggestion and cut the skin into strips and froze them almost solid.
I ground the skin through a 3/4" plate first to get it started.
I will say, even with a dedicated grinder (home, not commercial) it was TOUGH getting through the raw skin. The grinder jammed repeatedly and had to be reversed and restarted.
Meat (shoulder) and back fat were cut into strips and put in the freezer until partially frozen.
Here are the fat and meat ground through an 8mm plate.
The skin was then refrozen and reground through a 5mm plate, and added to the meat and fat.
The salt and spice mix.
Thanks again Alberto!
Everything was really well mixed until there was a good bind of the paste. Notice the white film on the sides of the bowl. That's the sticky protein that's pulled out of the meat by the salt, and helps in the binding of the sausage paste.
Not too concerned about smearing the fat, but I tried to be somewhat delicate.
The meat paste was cased in beef middles, as well as a double sides snout.
The sausages were put, uncovered, in the fridge for 48 hours to dry out the excess moisture on the surface. They were then vac. packed and frozen, ready to be cooked in a few weeks.
Come time for cooking they'll be tightly wrapped in foil like giant candies and simmered gently for a couple of hours.
Should be great.