Christmas is coming, and yes the goose is getting fat.
This year the goose is going to be stuffed with a chicken and stuffed into a whole pig, smoked and roasted.
However for now:
Christmas is coming, and yes the goose is getting fat.
This year the goose is going to be stuffed with a chicken and stuffed into a whole pig, smoked and roasted.
However for now:
One of the things we are very keen on here at KaC HQ is using the animals we kill as holistically as possible. Not in a trendy Fergus Henderson shock value way – I have to say that whole hip Hoxton or wherever it is thing of saying “Oh, you’ll never guess what we ate! It waas so daring, darling, we had trotters with crispy ears!” really rather pisses me off. That rather seems to be food as freakshow, rather than a genuine attempt to avoid waste or utilise the whole beast.
That may sounds rather disingenuous, given some of the posts that appear on here from time to time, but whilst I may play up the humour aspect of some of the more bizarre animal parts we cook from time to time, the aim is to find ways of using every bit of our animals that fit with every day eating.
so, having got that of my chest (actually that was a rather truncated version of a rant i may return to at a later date), you can imagine how excited I was to come across a mention of crispy chicken intestines.
Chicken intestines are not something I had considered as a potential ingredient previously. We use a lot of pig and sheep intestines as sausage casing, obviously; We use ox bungs, beef bladders, pig stomachs and sheep stomachs; We eat the testicles and pizzles from a variety of mammals, but although we gut a lot of chickens (and ducks and geese and many more), and keep the hearts and livers and gizzards, the guts themselves get swept as quickly as possible into the bit bag with the feathers and heads (the heads! more on these later). Not without good reason, to be honest. Intestines tend to be rather pungent, which is not altogether surprising, considering they are full of, not to put too fine a point on it, shit. They are also alive with microbes and bacteria and unpleasantness.
So what better to experiment with for a savoury snack?
Very popular as street food in the Philippines, I understand. I never came across it while out there, although I was rather tied up with other matters at the time. According to Fuchsia Dunlop, also a Sichuan speciality. Have to give it a try really. If it is, indeed, as delicious as it is claimed to be, it would be great – we would be using pretty much as much of each chicken we kill as we do pigs. There would be nothing thrown away except the feathers, which would be good not only in holistic terms but also in reducing the amount of bags of stinking bowels we have to dispose of. In summer this would be a huge boon.
So, starting at square one, we take a chicken. This is one of the Sasso birds, a male, that we bought as week-olds in the summer from Smart Chicks (www.smart-chicks.co.uk ).
Sassos are a French breed of meat chickens that are, to my mind a perfect compromise between fast-growing and free-range high welfare. they look just like ‘normal chickens’, unlike Hubbards or Ross Cobbs or any of the regular steroidal mutant meat birds, and while they are not as fast growing, do not go off their legs or suffer the same health problems as those overbred hybrids. They are also the best tasting birds, bar none, that I have reared.
The crop removed. This fellow was a trencherman, there is no doubt about it. Not that there is anything wrong with a chap who likes his food. Au contraire, as Monsieur Sasso might have said, had he not been decapitated, and been capable of speech in the first place.
And at the other end, we cut carefully around the anus to remove it from the body of the bird to minimise risk of faecal contamination of the meat (although there is a certain irony in that on this occasion given we will be eating the very tubes that faeces is contained and produced in, but let’s not dwell on that.)
Out of respect for the more sensitive souls who frequent Kill and Cure and are troubled by scenes of evisceration, I have fast forwarded to the bit where everything is out and on display. Suffice to say, M. Sasso did not cry “Freedom!” in the manner of a half-cut anti-semitic Australian dressed as a Scot twice his height as his innards became outards.
Which was just as well, really. I think that would have distressed even me.
It is a shame the fat is rather over exposed in the arty ray of sunlight there, as you don’t get quite how richly yellow it is, which is a sign of the huge amounts of corn this fellow has been scoffing. No commercial pellet feed for these babies.
So, the bit that interests us today: the intestines.
They were all bundled up in a protective coating of caul fat, which I have carefully sliced apart to extend them like this. You can see the caul still adhering all along the length of the intestine – the knobbly/stringy yellow part.
The anatomy lesson for today starts at the lower left/centre of the picture. this end is where the duodenum has been cut off the gizzard. The duodenum is the pinky part that curves round to roughly directly above the start. You can see the colour changes here to a more creamy/greyish colour. This is the small intestine, which continues all the way around to the three-way junction. The branch that comes into the centre is the large intestine, and the lump on the end is the anus that we sliced around earlier. The two greenish tubes that branch off from that junction are called the ‘caeca’, and I have to confess I was not really aware of their existence before today. They are sort of pouches which contain undigested matter for microbes to be working on breaking down. I presume in some similar way to the multiple stomach thing in ruminants.
They smelled more ghastly than the rest of the intestines by a factor of many. Unsurprisingly, given their function and contents. I ended up throwing them away, as no amount of cleaning, turning inside out, scrubbing etc would remove the deep green staining and vile smell from them and I figured for the sake of a couple more inches of intestinal tube I could always kill another chicken if I was really desperate.
Well, okay, complex it may not be, but shitty and endless it is. “flush through” may be understating it. Flush through, squeeze out the liquid shit and semi digested matter for the length of the intestine, do it again. do it some more. squirt some in your eye on the wall, at the cat, flush with more water, open all the windows and doors, puzzle as to how such a thin tube can conceivably contain so much of something so hideously unpleasant.
Repeat until such point as you decide food poisoning os probably preferable to cleaning chicken intestines any more.
Do it one more time to be sure.
Okay so here’s all the elements for the chicken that aren’t actual ‘chicken’ in the roast dinner sense, but nonetheless destined to be delicious dishes:
The head, which we shall further break down into comb and wattles and the rest.
The guts, which we have just cleaned.
The feet, which we will save until we have a sufficient quantity of.
The heart, liver and gizzard, which could be used on their own, with a salas, in soup, or stuffing etc etc…
The intestines go into a pan of boiling water with a quarter cup of rice wine vinegar and a chuck of salt, and are held a a steady simmer for 20-30 minutes.
At one point I came in to check and found they had been turned back up to a boil. I think this may have had a negative effect on the final texture.
Drained and allowed to cool. The intestines have plumped up from their former slimy tiny condom consistency to more of a miniature inner tube texture. The ammonia/poo odour which so beset them before has subsided somewhat and a vinegary tone had taken over, which frankly is not a huge improvement.
A slosh of vegetable oil
About half a tsp garlic powder
A slosh of black vinegar
Another slosh of Shaoxing cooking wine
and a good dash of light soy sauce
I did also add a squirt of tomato ketchup as well at the last minute, as much for viscosity as flavour.
The intestines sit in the marinade for an hour at least. Mine stayed for a bit over two as I was making super for the non-believers. They got a regular stir and agitation to try and get them coated inside and out as much as possible.
Then removed and threaded onto skewers. Or toothpicks in this instance, as there was not really that many. If you were eating this on its own you would probably want at least two or three chickens worth of intestine (you may be thinking otherwise).
Into the pan. Ideally they should have been grilled over charcoal, but that was not an option so panfried. They do look quite attractive at last. Almost like hanzi or kanji characters. they cooked surprisingly quickly and crisped up quite nicely where they were in direct contact with the heat. The smell, at last, was lovely
They don’t look too bad at all, in my opinion, and I suspect if you were served this at a Chinese buffet, you would neither immediately realise what it was, nor be offended by it, were you not told it was a chicken’s poop-chute.
So… what were they like?
Well, not at all bad. Certainly not remotely poopy or tripey or reminiscent of the earlier stages of the process. There was not any great discernible flavour to the intestines themselves, just the marinade. Which was very nice, so that was okay. So effectively I suppose it boiled down to the texture and what the Chinese refer to as ‘mouth-feel’.
Sadly i think this was rather compromised by the temperature accident while cooking them. They were a not chewey exactly, but not entirely tender either. There was a slight crumbliness, like one might find with overcooked liver, but I am quite sure that was error. Panfrying rather than grilling may have been partly to blame, but I tasted a bit after they had cooled from the pan and that texture was already there.
I will certainly give them another try and perhaps look for a different way of finishing them. For the amount of work involved in cleaning and rendering them edible , I can’t say it warranted it particularly for a single chicken, but we usually tend to slaughter chickens and ducks several at a time, and it would not have taken a great deal longer to do half a dozen as one.
I was not able to persuade any of the rest of my family to even try one, which was a shame, but next time I will not mention in advance what it is, and perhaps serve them, sneakily, with some noodles.
Not an resounding success on this occasion then, but no disaster either. Will come back to this at a later date.
I’ve been wanting to do something with a mouflon for a long time – not in a weird way (although it is amazing how tossing a phrase like ‘Wild Sheep sex’ into a post here gives an instant boost to the day’s ratings. It never ceases to amaze me how every time I make a post about ‘sliced sauteed testicles’ or refer to ‘cutting carefully around the anus’ in a description of dressing out a carcass, the stats triple for that day. Looking at the Search Engine terms that drive traffic here ‘skinning testicles’ is by far the highest. The interesting thing is how many of these people then become subscribers. It’s like ‘You’ll come for the genital mutilation, you’ll stay for the food!’
However, enough digression, back to the mouflon)
… but in a culinary way. The mouflon, for those of you unfamiliar with the beast, is a horned and hardy (43 more hits right there) wild mountain sheep. They originate from Cyprus and Corsica, where there numbers are quite low now, and consequently they are a protected species, but they have long since been introduced to mainland Europe, where they are quite plentiful. They are believed to be one of the two ancestor breeds of all modern domestic sheep.
Today our sheep is the ur-sheep.
The one in the middle at the back with the curving backswept horns is the mouflon, although not the one we will be processing today. Frankly I find their habit of climbing up onto the kitchen cabinets and encouraging their horny cousins into similar behaviour to be both inappropriate and potentially dangerous, so converting them into charcuterie of some nature seems an extremely good option.
Mouflon spend their lives bounding around above the treeline and doing that crazy goat-thing of adhering to the sides of seemingly sheer cliffs. Consequently, mouflon meat is much leaner than that of their tubby pasture-dwelling descendants, much denser grained and stronger tasting.
I have had a mouflon in the freezer for a few months now, and have thought long and hard (going for a record number of hits today) about what best to do with it. Simply roasted or stewed seemed a bit of a waste, really, as it would not be that different to strong mutton, and, whilst my family have quite a high tolerance of gamey mutton, it would not be their favourite dish. Straightforward fresh sausage was out for the same reasons, so some form of charcuterie it was, then. I wanted something that would support a strong base flavour though. I toyed with the idea of doing another air-dried mutton ham, and still may have a go at this, as I have a hind leg left -the curing would really intensify the gaminess so it would be absolutely only for the headstrong.
For my first experiment though, I settled on trying another recipe I had been wanting to do for a while: Boerewors, and its air-dried relative, Droewors.
Boerewors is a South African fresh sausage (presumably it has some Dutch origins, but I know not what), usually made of beef, and strongly flavoured with coriander seed. It is a magnificent barbecue sausage. Technically,as we are not using beef, what we are making is not Boerewors (I am aware of this, before you feel the need to point this out), but I am using a bit of charcutic licence here.
Droewors is more or less the same thing, but air-dried until quite hard, in the manner of biltong.
Everything else will become clear as we go along.
So, our starting point. Two biggish slabs of mouflon, direct from the slopes of a Slovak mountainside, via a slight chillout in one of our freezers. The piece on the left is hind leg and rump; the one on the right is the loin and centre.
We are only making relatively small batches today: 5 kilos of each type, which makes a very pleasant change from our usual semi-industrial quantities.
First of all we trimmed out the ribs from the centre section, and popped them in a brine, to be used later for other purposes.
Then trimmed and sliced up the meat for the mincer. You can really see here how close the grain is, and how rich and deep the colour. This is really lovely meat.
Through the mincer it goes. Still blown away by that colour.
the basic spice mix for these (to 5kg total of meat) was:
Black pepper 50g
Coriander seed (toasted) 100g
Brown sugar 30g
The coriander is the key ingredient in both of these wors, as can be seen by the quantity relative to everything else. The smell it gives off as the seeds are toasted is quite mouth-watering.
The other ingredient that is less common in most of the sausage mixes we make, is vinegar:
125ml of vinegar. This was the only liquid added. Normally 10% by weight of water goes into a fresh sausage mix, but not on this occasion.
The mouflon was left to rest with the spices for an hour, while we tackled the venison.
To balance out the strong flavour of the mouflon, we are adding about 30% venison. Venison is not a bland meat, by any stretch of the imagination, but this deer (well these deer, there were two used,in the end) was only a couple of days dead and certainly not going to overpower the curled-horned sheepgoat.
We are just going to strip the meat from these forelegs.
Just for the purposes of illustrating the colour of the mouflon, here it is (at left) by comparison with the venison (this is from the meats for the second batch, before anyone comments on continuity errors).
The mouflon was left to rest with the spices for an hour, then we added the venison, and rusk – 10% of the meat weight in breadcrumbs.
Mixed well, until ‘gluey’, then stuffed into hog casings.
The finished Boerewors were hung for a day to dry off then coiled into Major, Minor and Minimus portions.
Ideally I would have grilled the Boerewors, but alas, the English weather in November does not lend itself to firing up the barbie so often, so ‘pan-fried’ it had to be.
My trusty taste testing team trying out their Boerie rolls:
The verdict was overwhelmingly positive. I have to say, I had my reservations on the day I was mixing and stuffing. I taste the raw mix as I go along to make sure the spice levels are correct, and then fry up the end bits from the sausage stuffer afterwards to sample, and I was a bit concerned that they would be a bit overstrong, but, having hung for a day, the flavours had really settled down and it was a really nice sausage. The coriander and the mouflon itself were the dominant notes. It would have gone nicely with a sharp salsa or something as a counterpoint. I will definitely be making more of this. I imagine it would work well just using older mutton too, although the mouflon does have a unique and very agreeable taste of its own.
Right, so much for the Boerewors, now on to their drier sibling, the Droewors:
In terms of the basic process, meats etc, it was absoltely identical to the Boerewors, but with the following slight deviations:
I added more salt to make up to the 2% by weight mark, and a little saltpetre just to raise the blood pressure of the health police who endless email me demanding to know why I use nitrates. When I say ‘a little’, I mean about 5g in a 5kg batch of sausage, not the 50g in 2kg as recommended by certain 2 Michelin starred chefs who shall remain nameless. Whilst I may shrug off the risk of using minute quantities, using 50g would be enough to kill a man, so exercise caution, folks.
The saltpetre is a slight break from the traditional method of making Droewors, which does not involve any curing agent, but as I was maturing in the somewhat cool and moist late Autumn Somerset climate, rather than the warmer, drier conditions common to South Africa, I felt this prudent.
Obviously, no rusk went into the dry sausage mix, but I did add about 500g of diced backfat from a Mangalitsa pig. The fat was part frozen beforehand to keep it nice and firm while cutting it up. It is amazing how quickly the friction from slicing warms pigfat up. As always when making sausage, the cooler you can keep the ingredients throughout the process the better.
… and that was it, in terms of how the procedure differed from the fresh variant. By preference I would have used wide sheep casings, as the final sausage should be quite thin, but we didn’t have any on hand, so the Droewors was packed into the same hog casings as the Boerewors, only less densely stuffed.
The wors spent 72 hours in the curing chamber to get their ferment going, then moved outside to air dry in the breeze. They developed a good white mould very quickly. There are a lot of types of mould. A good white mould culture is of great benefit to your sausages. Pretty much any other colour, not so good. Black or green, disastrous. Fortunately, at this time of year, we usually have a pretty strong mother culture established.
They hung outside for a little over two weeks, in which time they firmed up nicely, shedding about 35% of their starting weight (I rather wish I could shed 30% of my weight in a fortnight, sometimes). Usually 30% is about right, but we were going for a drier final product here, so 35-40% was the target.
The finished article. I am extremely pleased with the way this turned out. Texture-wise they are firm and chewey, but not jaw-numbingly so. It is is easy to end up with a sausage that is like a tube of biltong with these lean game meats, but this is just the right balance for me.
In taste terms, the strong gamey muttoniness of the mouflon comes through really well, which is, after all the whole point of the exercise in using such a ‘rare’ meat. The venison balances it out nicely, so it is not overwhelmingly rank and muttony, and the spices give it a nice tang but the essential mouflonity is still unmistakably present. I don’t think you would mistake this for any other meat. How authentic a Droewors it is is another matter. Proper South African Droewors is made with beef rather than mutton or game, so it isn’t going to be identical in taste, but hopefully in style and spirit. I shall send a couple out to friends more experienced in such matters and see what their verdict is.
Only in KaCHQ does a week have 8 days. It certainly feels like it most of the time. And in further logic-bending rifts in the time/space continuum, those days are spread around the year in non chronological order.
Our pigs are now almost all accounted for. All that is left is the ‘other bits’ – the heads, tails, inner organs and remaindered parts that have no other use.
It is a special feature of KaC-bred pigs that they actually have two sets of internal organs: two hearts, two tongues, two livers etc. So, as you see here, three pigs yields six hearts, six tongues etc…
We still have a good quantity of Brawn from the last lot of pigs, as documented previously (I think. This hopping through time business plays havoc with keeping track of what has happened and what has been published. Perhaps I haven’t made that brawn yet? ) so today we are going to use all these elements to make Hurky.
Hurky is a traditional and very popular (in Slovakia at least) Slovak dish. It is not dissimilar to haggis in a sausage or andouilletes. Basically, all the leftover bits minced up together and mixed with rice or barley, and stuffed inside a skin.
That description does it a grave disservice however. Hurky, despite its challenging description, is a really delicious dish. Our children, who are now going through the picky phase of food, always love it and left not a trace on their plates.
Yes it has headcheese, ears, lungs, tongues and all sorts of bits that make people squirm with horror in it. But all that prissy horror squirming is based on prejudice pure and simple. People say “Ugh I could never eat lung/snout/brain/whatever” without ever having tasted it. Try a hurky. You will love it. I confess that I have eaten some andouilletes that have been on the challenging side – usually because they are absolutely honking of ammonia, which is a tad offputting, but this dish has nothing to with that. This is super tubes of concentrated holistic nose to tail (quite literally) yumminess.
So without further ado, let’s get into it.
First some head. Always a good start to the day.
Look at that grin. This piggy appreciates my humour, even if nobody else does. But our Hurky endeavours require rather less of her cheek, so off it comes to be put aside for guanciale. Then into the pot go the head parts. You can either slow simmer them for several hours or pressure cook for about 30-40 mins.
until everything is thoroughly cooked through and falling off the bone.
Here’s that head again, (or possibly a different one, as the cheek looks intact on this one) still more or less intact, a little bit of chin loss notwithstanding.
But, as you can see the meat is just coming off the bone like butter. All the cartilaginous bits have soften to a jelly-like consistency, literally oozing yummy goodness. It’s all good. The only bit I tend to discard is the nasal cavity lining ( but the snout gets chopped in). Some people are squeamish about using the eyeball, but y’know, once its been through the mincer, who’s going to know?
Next task is to get your ears on.
On a gentle simmer for about three hours in fact. Still in the same liquor that the heads cooked in. We will be using it for all the cooking, and each time it will be becoming more and more gelatinous and flavour rich. So good.
It is worth giving the ears a good clean out with some cotton buds before you start cooking them. There is very little about the pig that I will not eat, apart from nose lining and spleen (and I may even have found a use for the spleen), but ear wax is really a bit beyond the pale.
And so to the hearts and tongues. Looks like an out-take from Alien. Or… no actually let’s not go there.
I do like tongue. A much overlooked piece of meat, much of the time. I think most people associate it with potted tongue, if at all, and very few of those under the age of 70 are fond of potted tongue. Which is a shame, because potted tongue can be quite nice, if made well, and also there is a lot more to tongue than just potting.
Take a look at the size of that tongue. Never mind the length, just feel the girth. Tat is a massive slab of meaty muscle right there.
After long slow cooking the tongues have contracted a bit, but are soft yet frim to the touch.
All that remains is to trim off the tough outer membrane and we have beautifully tender peeled tongues, bursting with flavour and taste buds.
Now onto the inner organs.
Not Captain Beefheart but major porkheart nonetheless.
In go the hearts, again slow and low wins the day. That liquor is getting really rich by this stage.
Now we need a sensible quantity of liver, for iron and goodness’ sake. This is a sensible quantity of liver. Powerful aromas of porcine functions ahoy!
Away, sac of vileness! Out, out, core of gristle!
And into the pot. The liver does not need so long, but it does need a lower simmer. Barely tremulous is the watchword here.
and finally to the lungs. This is a slight variation on the traditional Slovak recipe, which does not use lung, because they don’t like the sponginess it gives to the texture, but I like it precisely for that: the spongy texture, particularly when the lungs are inflated (see next pic) makes the whole thing lighter – with all that offal and headcheese it could otherwise be a rather dense proposition. The airiness of the lungs makes it like a giant Aero bar or Malteser, just made out of internal organs.
The funny thing about cooking lungs is that they immediately inflate like a lifejacket in the Hudson Bay. But there’s that light texture we were just discussing. Lung soufflé.
Which just leaves… this. Oesophagus and soft palate and general matter. You could use this, or not. You can dehydrate the oesophagus and use it as a storage tube. I am sure I have seen someone who makes knitting needle cases out of dried goose oesophagus.
Today we have no shortage of ingredients so this can be donated to the ever patient, well, ever-present at least, kitchen cats and butcher’s dog.
A bowl full of mixed pig parts: lungs and hearts and liver and ears and fat and snouts all together. I tend to mix it together in smaller batches before mincing to give a head start on incorporating it all.
And through the mincer it goes on a medium plate.
I will confess, there have been staged during the cooking of the above organs that have smelled less than appetising, even to my educated nose. My wife refuses to be in the house when I am making this. But now, this combined organ product both smells and tastes pretty good.
Having worked everything through the mincer, we have enough to fill a large garden trug. to which we add 3kg of diced, sweated onions.
and last but not least, 5 kilos of cooked rice and a good kilo or three of lard, just to keep it lubricated.
Somehow the photography ran out at this point. I am not entirely sure why. It was all over bar the stuffing into casings by this point, which we have surely seen many many times on here, and the subsequent poaching at low temperature for 90 secs or so and crying, screaming, swearing and chucking stuff about the room as some of them split, burst and otherwise disintegrate.
Hmmm. not sure this was my finest ever tutorial. May have to revisit this with more coverage of the latter steps at a later date. But you get the idea.
Hungry yet? I know that some of are probably pulling O faces and making gagging noises at the very thought of the ingredient list, but it really is just the thought of it, rather than the reality that is troubling you. My children are now of an age where they will not eat anything that is put in front of them (until they have been threatened enough), and tend to greet every meal I have slaved half a day over with a blanket “Uuurgggh, don’t like that, what is it?” as a default position, but they always clear their plates of hurkey without needing any encouragement.
Right so now we have worked our way through the inside parts of the pig (or maybe not, I have rather lost track of the chronology of this year long hogweek), and are left with the outer casing. The skin and the subcutaneous fat. The big slabs of back fat have already been carved off for other things, so this can be rendered down for lard and the remaining solids from the skin baked into pork scratchings.
As porcine products go, these two have to be right up there alongside the bacon in terms of importance, for where would be without lard, and who doesn’t love to pig out on pork scratchings?
So how do we make them?
First off, the skin has to be cut into thin slices.
In order to be fed into the mincer. However much you sharpen your blades, the machine will inevitable jam up a few times during the process, so be prepared for much dismantling and declogging.
You may wonder why we are mincing the skin rather than just cutting it into larger chunks – you may be thinking that we are going to end up with very small scratchings. This is true, but the principal object of the exercise here is to render off all that lovely lard, and the scratchings are a delicious byproduct. The smaller the pieces, the greater the surface area and the quicker the lard renders down. We used to make scratchings of pub scratching dimensions – an inch by two inches or so, and it took almost forever. four hours or more per batch for the rendering and an hour to crisp up the scratchings at the end. There is a different method of making large scratchings which involves keeping a much thicker fat layer, and I will demonstrate that next time around.
To be honest size isn’t everything when it comes to scratchings, and I suspect if it came to it, I would probably come down on the side of preferring these smaller peanut sized pieces. You have to eat them by the handful, of course, but all the better for that.
The business end. the best thing is to chill the skin as much as possible prior to mincing to keep it as firm as possible, but even still, just the heat of the motor is enough to start it melting as your grind.
Once you have a workable quantity (this is about 3lbs), put it into a large heavy bottomed pan – we are using a jam pan for this exercise today.
Add enough water to just cover the minced fat and skin and begin to slowly simmer. This takes time, and you will need to keep an eye on the pan to make sure it does not catch or boil dry. The water will need topping up from time to time, and several times before the fat is all rendered off.
after an hour or so the liquid will be looking milkier and milker and the solid parts will be reducing down to mainly skin, as in this picture. There is still a way to go though. These are perhaps at the halfway mark.
The rinsed solids are spread in a thin layer on a roasting tray. The thinner and more spread out they are, the better. This obviously takes more time/oven space, but is vital. If you succumb to the temptation to pile them all in at once it will take much longer for them to dry off and you will end up with a huge coagulated mess where they melt together.
Then into a hot (220c) oven. 30-40 minutes is usually about right, but check them after 20 and move them about a bit to keep them from sticking together.
Mmm, crunchy and delicious. Bear in mind this was only a very small quantity of the skin we have to deal with from a single pig. This process gets repeated a dozen times or more. And yet never have the resulting scratchings lasted more than 3 days in our household. Even when you have eaten so much pig fat you feel nauseous and your heart is about to burst, you simply cannot resist eating more. Washed down with a glass of lard.
And this is the lard that you are left with after all the water has evaporated. Pure, brilliant white lard. Delicious spread on crusty bread, supremely valuable for cooking anything that requires fat, from pastry for pie cases to roast potatoes to rubbing on the children’s chests in cold weather, and so on. And the taste is much cleaner than commercially bought supermarket lard. What wonderful stuff it truly is. People don’t enough lard these days, and that is a shame.
This doesn’t look a lot from this batch, but bear in mind that is a 15l mixing bowl, and as mentioned, we will be repeating this whole process perhaps a dozen times for each pig, so there will be plenty of lard to last through the winter. It is simply bottled up in canning jars – no need to pressure can – and stored in a cool place until needed.
It’s Autumn. It’s chilly. It’s time for hearty foods that stick to your ribs.
And what better in terms of hearty foods on a chill autumnal afternoon than Pie?
And what better to put in pie than whatever you have lying around that needs using up?
Which today happens to be a saddle of venison.
First off, the venison is injected with brine. This may be a controversial move with some game ‘experts’, but it is going to keep the venison incredibly tender and juicy through a two stage cooking process. How to tenderise venison and keep it moist during cooking is a contentious subject, and there are all sorts of methods people swear by, many of which diametrically opposed, and many of which are utter nonsense. Marinating is the conventional wisdom in many recipe books, usually in red wine or other alcohol. For a meat that is extremely lean and prone to drying out, I cannot remotely understand the logic in this.
A glass of red wine, a handful of crushed juniper berries and some black pepper over the top of the venison.
Twenty minutes at 220 and an hour and a half at 180 and the venison is cooked to perfection. The smell of this is overwhelmingly delicious. In fact we ate one side of the saddle pretty much immediately.
The spine from the saddle, broken up into manageable sized pieces goes in to the stock pot with the meat juices from the tin and a litre of venison stock and so on to cook down.
Meanwhile we turn our attention to the pheasant part. The pheasant meat will balance out the venison nicely, and the two flavours will fit together nicely. We take a brace of pheasant, skinned, rather than plucked. We don’t need the skins. We don’ need no steenkin pheasant skeens, ese.
The pheasants are roasted quickly. Just 25 minutes. They have, of course, been brine injected to keep them moist.
Broken into quarters, they go into the stock pot, which is brought down to the merest tremulous simmer for another 45 minutes.
At this stage we break out the secret ingredients. First of all, a good dash of Pontack sauce. This is an elderberry based concoction that adds a huge whack of oomph to game-based stews and sauces. It takes literally only a few drops. It is difficult to explain exactly what it does, tastewise. You don’t taste it, but it brings out the depth of flavour in rich meats.
It being elderberry season I really need to be making some more of this, and should write it up when I do.
This is from the 2009 batch. Sadly, pretty much the last of the 2009 batch. It is said that Pontack sauce improves with age and is at its best after seven years. I think this comes from River Cottage originally. I have no idea if it is true, as I have never managed to keep any that long. Still the Five year vintage is pretty good stuff.
This is the mix after the Pontack sauce has been stirred in. You can see the difference in colour. It has gone from a pale brown to a deep, dark, almost burgundy. The flavour has enriched in much the same way.
Secret ingredient number two: a hefty dash of mushroom ketchup. This is, obviously, a bought ingredient, but a very versatile one. It is not dissimilar to Worcestershire sauce in flavour profile, but it has (clue is in the name) an earthier undertone. It lends a tang of forest floor to anything you add it to. Again to be used sparingly, but notching up the richness of the flavour in the liquor.
Secret ingredients numbers three and four: a couple of heaped teaspoonfuls of good English mustard powder, which is not only the only way to eat mustard, but also a great flavour enhancer in all manner of things, from bechamel to curry to pork crackling.
And… four gingernut biscuits. Yep. Ground up.
In go the ground biscuit and ginger and up goes the heat, to start reducing down. While that’s happening, let’s turn our attention to the pastry.
The base is straightforward shortcrust, blind baked.
and fold up the bottom section to enclose. The resulting parcel is turned a quarter turn and rolled out again and the folding routine repeated. Then it goes into the fridge for 20-30 minutes to chill down. The idea is to keep little pockets of butter through the structure of the pastry rather than letting it melt and become mixed together.
and we repeat the whole process with the butter and the folding. Apologies for rather fuzzy photograph, but you can nonetheless see the blobs of butter from the first set of folds, incorporated in the pastry.
The chilling and rerolling/folding routine is repeated a further three times, taking care to always roll in just one direction. On the latter repetitions no more butter is added (we have already used half a pound), just the fold-de-rol. Finally the pastry is left to chill until required.
So, time to start putting the pie together. The venison and pheasant meat is roughly cut into smallish sections.
Just to show how incredibly tender that venison is: the squidge test.
We fill the blind-baked pie case with the meat. And ‘fill’ is the operative word here. I can’t stand supposed meat pies that you have to fish around inside to find a couple of bits of meat hiding somewhere. A meat pie should be what it says on the tin. Pie full of meat.
There was still just about space to fit in all the liquor, filling all the nooks and crannies. It had reduced by a half by this stage and was good and thick (watery gravy in pies – another pet hate) and rich.
It is undeniably rustic, as my friend Christian Ammeer would doubtless observe, but all the better for that, say I. Into the oven with it for 35-40 minutes, and then let the feasting commence.
So, I had about 800g of lamb neck meat leftover, and hungry kids due home from school (to say nothing of hungry wife due to wake up like a bear after hibernation). I suspect, in fact it was probably mutton from one of the Ouessant rams, rather than lamb, in fact, given the strength of the meat. Given that we had had roast shoulder of lamb the evening before (or yesterday evening, depending in whether you are reading this in the future or over my shoulder as I am typing this) they probably weren’t going to be over enthused by a muttoncentric offering, and other than curry, souvlaki or shepherd’s pie, leftover lamb does not lend itself to that much, to be honest.
I considered rissoles, briefly, but this was not going to get away from the essential overpowering muttoniness of the meat, so I decided to leaven the lamb/mutton with some beef mince.
Firstly I blitzed the roast lamb into smallish pieces.
And mixed it with the same quantity of beef mince, ground through the fine plate.
Aarghh! Oh no! Never let cooked meat and raw meat come into contact! Call the refrigerator police!
Anyway, by this stage I had moved on from the rissole idea, in aprt because the word ‘rissole’ would prompt so much off-colour humour from my sons at the dinner table that nothing would get eaten, and partly because my children are fanatical about spaghetti with meatballs. So that’s what I opted for.
But I didn’t really have the time, or the passata, to make a large scale sauce, and didn’t have a great deal of spaghetti either, so I decided to inverse the whole idea. The spaghetti on the inside of a giant meatball and a small dollop of sauce on top. It would be like a Scotch Egg/Spag Bol fusion. And I felt sure the kids would love it.
So, salt, pepper, a bit of ground garlic and a beaten egg into the meat mix:
Well combined and divided into five portions (first one has already been done and is off picture).
The spaghetti was cooked, a little bit short of al dente, as it will get more cooking inside the ball, drained and allowed to cool until just handleable. Then a small handful of spaghetti wrapped around a chunk of mozzarella and squidged together.
Then each dollop of meatball mix flattened out and the spaghetti and cheese parcel pushed into a dimple in the centre and the meatball reformed around it.
It took a bit of trial and error to get the balls to hold together firmly around the spaghetti. Getting a robust structure to the meatball is very important, otherwise the whole thing would split apart when it goes in the oven or worse yet, the frier.
When I was finally satisfied that my balls were firm, it was into the oven to cook through. They went in at 180 for about 30 minutes.
And out again. At first I thought this was the mozzarella melting out, but it was just lamb fat oozing. The meatballs had held their shape and consistency perfectly so went out to cool for a bit.
When they were cool on the outside, they were dredged first in flour, then eggwash then a thick layer of breadcrumbs.
and finally into the deep frier. They only needed 2-3 minutes to become golden and crisp on the outside, having already cooked through. If they had been fried from scratch I suspect they would have become unpleasantly dry and very dark by the time they were ready. Each of these puppies weighed a good half kilo, bear in mind.
And there they are, crisp and golden. All ready to be…
… finished off with a couple of spoonfuls of marinara sauce and a sprinkling of extra mozzarella for the Win.
So here we are again, after that brief interlude of mass sausage production, let’s get back to the first lot of pigs.
Another thing we get through a lot of is chorizo.
To start with, 30 kg of lean pork. Mainly shoulder (or Boston butt as they call it in the former colonies, for reasons I have yet to fathom. Perhaps Brahmins can’t tell their arse from their elbow?). For salami and chorizo the meat needs to be as lean as possible. The fat is added separately.
Grindy grindy grindy. Medium-coarse plate – the chorizo needs to have some texture about it.
Here is a breakdown on a smaller quantity. This is 5kg of meat. To which we add:
1600g diced hard back fat
3g starter culture
10g black pepper
6Tbs hot paprika
3Tbs smoked paprika
And that’s basically it for our standard chorizo. In terms of heat, the chorizo gives it a bit of bite, but not excessive. Enough to register as spicey but not so much as too overwhelm the mouth if you eat a dozen slices or so. It needs to be kid-friendly, and whilst my kids will eat reasonably hot food now, they have their limits.
It is nice to have a few slightly pokier chorizos, though. So we are making a small batch – just 5 kilos – of chilli chorizo.
This is the same basic mix as before, with the addition of a large handful of assorted dried chillies from the chilli cupboard. Whizzed through the coffee grinder, seeds and all, and mixed through the mixture.
Stuffety stuffety stuffety.
We are using large hog casings here. Some people prefer to use beef runners to get really thick chorizo, but I find the thinner diameter easier to use and far easier for drying.
And the finished chorizos are hung out to mature. The time they take depends on a number of factors. You can do them entirely in a salami chamber, of course, and have control over temperature and humidity, but the weather we have had recently is perfect for drying them naturally.
Fast forward to the present day and the chorizos are about ready to taste. Seen here a little out of focus in the company of some 18 month old culatello.
Still a little on the soft side, and will be at optimum firmness in another couple of weeks, but certainly quite edible. Nice balance of meat to fat, good level of heat without being overpowering. A worthy addition to the KaC larder.
“Hmm, think I’ll just have a little more, to be on the safe side….”
The chilli chorizo. If you look really closely you can just see the chilli flakes in the meat. This one is absolutely spot-on. The heat is barely noticeable at first – on initial tasting I was sure I hadn’t put enough chilli in, but as you chew it begins to bite back, and then the afterglow kicks in. Two or three slices and you really know about the heat. Mmmm. Wish I’d made more of this now
The second use we have for chorizo is as a cooking ingredient. In paellas, in Mediterranean stews, with cod or squid, patatas bravas etc etc, it is a wonderfully versatile ingredient that adds a hit of spice and a Spanish twist. For ‘dry cooking’ uses such as pizza toppings, we just use the standard dried chorizo, but for recipes which call for its use as a moist ingredient, we have our cooking chorizo. This we make in more of an East European style, and without the cubed backfat of the dry chorizo.
By this stage of the day we are rapidly running out of mixing vessels, so the baby bath is sterilised and requisitioned. We start with 10kg of ground pork.
To which we add 60g black pepper
and one and a half heads of crushed garlic.
200g of sea salt
then in goes the paprika: 70g Hungarian hot paprika, 200g sweet paprika and 50g smoked paprika. This chorizo has a bit more pep about it than the dried version.
and last but not least, 50g ground caraway seeds.
time for a touch of le mixage extraordinaire…
And that’s it done. We stuff about half of it into casings to firm up overnight and be used sliced, and the rest we pack as loose sausagemeat for use as stuffings, casing for spicy Scotch eggs and so forth.
And while we have a batch of it made up, we may as well test it out.
Pork Tenderloin stuffed with Chorizo
There are a lot of variants on this basic dish. You can add caramelised apple and onion to the chorizo stuffing, or spinach and Manchego, but today we are not going to adulterate our meat with fruit and veg and dairy. We are going to have our pork Slovak-style: meat stuffed with more meat.
We take one of those lovely lengths of tenderloin we stripped out of the pigs while we were doing the inital cuts.
Buterfly it open and pound it flat. (apologies for the fuzziness of the pictures from hereonin – the lens had got a bit smeared with fat and I didn’t notice until after the event.)
Then take a sheet of beautiful gossamer caul fat. Rinse carefully and spread it out flat.
Place a thick tube of chorizo mix in the middle of the flattened tenderloin
… and roll it up in the caul, tucking up the ends neatly. If it is big enough to go round twice, so much the better. It needs to be as snug-fitting as possible,if not tight. The caul will hold the whole thing in shape during cooking and slowly melt away.
It’s kind of like a spicey super-faggot:
Cover with foil and put into a medium (190C) oven for about 50 minutes, depending on thickness. After half an hour, take the foil off so the outside crisps up.
Slice and serve. I like to drizzle the cooking juices over the sliced meat. All those spices in the juice… mmm…
A cross-section showing the chorizo stuffing.
The obligatory happy munching children shot:
… and that’s all I have to say about that.
For those of who have been on tenterhooks, or meathooks, waiting for the next thrilling instalment of Hog Week, I apologise. There is much more to come, but my publishing schedule was rather interrupted this week by the arrival of a pair of unexpected guests.
Two enormous, ancient, feral saddlebacks, which, after our recent skirmishes with the good people of DEFRA, we shall say no more about in terms of provenance, despatch etc. They wuz gurt big old hogs, I tell ‘ee. To say nothing of ferocious, unfriendly and not at all fond of human company.
They did quieten down after a while, though.
The beasts were at least five years old, and, rather like the pig in Black Cat, White Cat, seemed to have been subsisting on a diet of old wrecked cars – not just the upholstery either: tyres, bodywork… tender chops and roasting joints they were never going to make.
But they did make fine sausage. 2% salt, 1% pepper, 10% rusk and a bit of water to moisten the mix and they were transformed into very nice basic breakfast bangers indeed. Had some for breakfast this morning in fact, with some eggs still warm from the hens and a little of the bacon from last week, which has been cold smoking over oak for 48 hours.
Now, normally, dashing off a few sausages would not cause any great delay in the daily grind, but I had rather underestimated the sheer quantity involved here. Every scrap of the beasts was destined to be bangers, from tail to trotter. It ended up as just shy of 160kg of sausage. I got strange looks in Tesco as I returned for the third time in a day to buy yet another half kilo of black pepper and another ten loaves of bread for rusk. We cranked out getting on half a kilometre of intestine. I became heartily sick of the sight, smell and feel of sausagemeat. Bearing in mind that this was all on top of the efforts of my own Hog Week.
But anyway. It is done now. The sausages have left the building. I have my life back. Normal service shall be resumed. Let the blog flow…
It’s neck and neck in the Pork Lift Truck race:
In the Slovak language, “Ham, ham” is what one says to small children to encourage them to eat. Like “yum, yum” or “nom, nom” in English, or that version of English spoken in the former colonies respectively. At first I was concerned that this would confuse my children. “Ham, ham” when they were being spoonfed pureed carrot and swede. However, that does not seem to have been the case, and now that they all can speak both languages, if you say “Pureed swede and carrot” to them, they will pull a grim face, whereas if you say “Ham” to them they will reply “Yum yum!”, which is exactly as it should be.
So, getting back to the legs of the saddleback that we set aside in Part 1, let’s make some ‘wet ham’ as my wife calls it (wet yum yum sounds like something we really don’t want to go into, but I can’t resist tossing these asides in, if only because ‘wet yum yum’ and ‘tossing’ in the same sentence will send my Google search term traffic through the roof today).
We can probably dispose of this bit. I like a bit of tail as much as the next man, but generally not while I am eating ham. Time and a place for everything. This can go in the Hurky bucket.
Removing the tail bone and upper half of the hip socket. Fiddly. Time-consuming, but has to be done. The actual leg bone can, and will, be left in, For a boiled ham, this is pretty essential flavourwise in my opinion, and the difficulties the bone presents when it comes to carving are more than offset by the terrible loss of structural integrity that tunnel boning would cause. Tricky carving should also be viewed as an opprtunity to bone up (hoho) on your carving skills. So many people mimsy around when it comes to carving meat. There is no great secret to it, just a bit of thought and a sharp knife. So step up to the plate, people. And do make sure your carving knife is properly sharp before you start. I have encountered people weeping over massacred attempts at carving and invariably they are using a knife about as sharp as a plastic ruler from my kids’ schoolbags. I have also had people explain to me that they don’t like having their knives sharp, because they are dangerous like that. Err, WHUT? It’s a knife. It’s for cutting stuff. It needs to be sharp in order to do that. If you don’t want sharp, then use a spoon.
Anyway, where were we? Oh yes. Out with the tail bone.
Then we simply cut the leg into three parts. Top, middle, bottom. I am not messing around with slipper hams and corner hams this time. I want a big ham to feed more people in case we have visitors (you may think this unlikely but it does happen. In fact, my mother-in-law is coming for Easter with my niece, and more than likely half the village, which I will not discover till I get to the airport to collect them), a regular sized ham to feed the family for one meal and make sandwiches through the week, and a hock-ish bit for lentil soup.
There are few things better than a decent plate of boiled ham, plain potatoes and parsley sauce. It is proper stick-to-your-ribs food, and when you have a house full of little oafs who are spending their days getting up to mischief like this:
then regular hefty feeding is the order of the day.
It will be a week or more before these hams are ready to eat, but in best Blue Peter tradition, here’s one I prepared earlier.
This is a medium-small ham from one of the pre-Christmas pigs, that was cured in exactly the same way. The only difference is is that this one was skinned, as it was a home kill and we were despatching two or three pigs a week during the floods, so did not have time to be messing around with scraping off hair.
The ham is covered with cold water, brought to the boil , and then simmered for a couple of hours. That advice of ‘skimming of the scum after ten minutes’ is not necessary here, as this is a scum-free ham. I shudder to think what is in supermarket scum. Take that every way you will. Similarly, the need to pre-soak the ham is also redundant here, as, having been cured by the injection method, there is no excess salt to be got rid of. What a clever little ham.
Boiled ham calls for plain boiled potatoes as an accompaniment, and parsley sauce.
Parsley sauce is one of the easiest sauces ever, but one one of the most delicious. It is so simple in preparation and flavour, but transforms a ham beyond measure (I confess I do make a mustard-honey based sauce to accompany ham quite often, which is also quite excellent, but that is another story for another day). Parsley sauce is simply a bechamel with a lot of finely chopped fresh parsley mixed into it and left to combine for a good while.
The problem is that a lot of people struggle to make a smooth bechamel sauce. Gruesome, horrible lumpy stodgy cack. You know you have been subjected to it too many times.
If you suffer from this problem and your bechamel is invariably lumpy, there is a simple answer: you’re doing it wrong (note, if you are making onion sauce, this does not apply. You soften the onion in the butter, add the flour and cook off for a minute or two then take it off the heat for a moment gradually add the milk straight from the fridge if you like. It won’t become lumpy because the flour is adhering to the surface of the onions and is incorporating slowly into the milk as it warms up. You just can’t make onion sauce with lumps in, apart from the onion parts that is. If you can, then you are really doing something wrong and my advice is to become really good at your dayjob and marry someone who can cook properly).
Here is the secret. Rocket science it is not, but it is t probably the reverse of the way you are taught to do it. Conventionally, you melt buuter, add the flour and pour in the milk, a little at a time, off the heat at first. Almost invariably it becomes a bit lumpy at first and you whisk like a compulsive masturbator adding more milk all the while until you have smooth sauce. Or not.
The answer is to do it the other way round. Melt the butter and make a basic roux with the flour as before, but then set it aside. Then clean the saucepan and heat the milk in it until almost boiling, and add the roux a little at a time, stirring the while. Result? Perfectly smooth sauce every time. The problem in the original model is the temperature difference between the milk and the roux. Nine times out of ten the milk will be straight out of the fridge.
I am not being pious here. That is the way I did it for years and years, and I had to whisk like a maniac to acheve a smooth result. I have only recently learned to make macaroni cheese the smart way too, but that is a story for another day.
The ham comes out of its simmery bath, the parsley sauce warms through, the kettle does nothing in particular.
Mmm, look at that ham. Meichel for the beichel, as my more unorthodox friends might say.
To my mind many hams are spoiled by baking after the boiling. Smearing with treacle and studding with cloves and roasting to within an inch of its life may be necessary to impart some semblance of flavour to a supermarket ham of horror, but with a nice piece of meat it is far better just to let the ham speak for itself without any further messing about.
Also, we want this ham to serve a dual purpose: despite its diminutive size we are not going to eat it all in one sitting (portion control is the new black at KaC HQ), and will use what is left over sliced in sandwiches and in the soup we will get onto next. I find a baked ham, however tender it might be and however well wrapped the leftovers, is always a bit dry the next day, which is a great disappointment. Whereas a plain boiled ham retains its moisture even for three or four days if treated well.
Plated up. Simple and scrumptious. Ham, spuds, parsley sauce. Obelix might not approve, but man can not live by spitroasted boar alone.
Ham, ham, ham as they say in Slovak.
Bottled Ham and Lentil Soup.
In the big pan we still have the stock in which the ham was cooked. Prior to which the bones from the two semi-air-dried hams had been simmered for six hours. It is lovely and rich, thick and gelatinous (Aaarrggghh!!! connective tissue meltdown! call the vegan msm police!) and swimming with pieces of butter-soft meat from the air-drieds. If that doesn’t just scream to be made into soup then I don’t know what does. In go some red lentils, leave it to simmer for a while, and bingo… soup. If we were eating it immediately I would add carrots and stuff, but this is going to be canned (bottled) for storage, so it makes sense to add the veg on reheatng, otherwise they would become too mushy.
The canning jars spend half and hour in sterilisng fluid and then 20 minutes in a very hot oven, prior to use. You want the jars to be properly sterile before use. It amazes me how many people are blase about preserving food. Botulism is perhaps not common, but not something I care to mess with. If you don’t want to do it properly, buy your food from the supermarket.
If you are doing any serious quantity of home-canning (and to be honest, if you are not, you probably wouldn’t have invested in the canner etc), my advice is, get yourself a canning handling kit. I got mine for a very good price (Thanks you Gail), but I believe they are not very expensive new. Picking up glass jars heated to 200C is a heck of a lot easier at a slight remove with the proper tools. There is also a little magnety thing for picking up the discs for the two-part lid tops from their hot water baths which sounds a ridiculous gadget but in practice makes life so much easier and saves much swearing and burned fingers.
Hot soup into hot jars (otherwise you’ll have a load of cracked jars), and into the canner. 90 minutes at 10 bar pressure and its good for years on the shelf.
A word of warning here, which applies to all canning: even the best bottles can fail some times. With reuse, over time, stresses build up in the glass where there is the slightest imperfection. When that happens, sooner or later… poof! or BLAMM!!! more to the point, given the pressures involved.
When it happen it can be heartbreaking, particularly if you are bottling something precious in small volume (which fortunately is not really the case in this instance), but you just have to be philosophical about it. If you were canning for survival in a pioneer or post-fall situation this would be much more of a problem, and it does make me raise an eyebrow when I see gung-ho preppers talking of having a stock of a hundred canning jars that they can pass down through generations. Generally speaking the better quality the jars, the less frequently this may occur, and if you are buying from sensible outlets, quality = more expensive. Even the best quality jars you can expect an attrition rate of about 3% each re-use though, in my experience.