September Charcutepalooza Challenge…

It has come and gone, and I have finished, sadly, right upon the back end of the deadline again. Time seems to be moving so quickly these days, it’s the 15th of the month again before I know it.

This month’s challenge was to make a Pate Gratinee en Croute. I ended up making a terrine of emulsified pork shoulder, back fat and pancetta, filled with a rich layer of sweet, salty duck leg confit. Baked, then wrapped in puff pastry and baked again until crispy, buttery, golden brown.

Sounds pretty fucking great right?

To be honest, I was a tad disappointed. I just wasn’t all that wowed with the flavor and texture of the pate. Something to work on, perfecting the emulsification. Truth be told, I think my heart just wasn’t in it this month. I have Mortadella frozen that we haven’t gotten around to eating all of from July, headcheese from last month, and now half a loaf of pate to add to our crowding freezer. I just can’t eat any more cold, gelatinous meat product, no matter the quality, care and time that went into it. I’d fail in France.

My dream is to one day have my own shop, with my own charcuterie, cheeses, foraged mushrooms, with Jake, my partner in business, and love. While I want pates and terrines, my focus is more on sausages, cured meats and salami. That, plus trying to get our cheese making apparati into working order, and now starting to forage for mushrooms into September has made me stretched a bit thin. So many things to accomplish, so many adventures and endeavors! I’m a lucky lady, if not a tired one.

I’ll have to add making the perfect pate to the list, but not for another few months. Enough with the cold meat paste, this gal needs some salame…

August Charcutepalooza Challenge: Headcheese, revisited

Headcheese. The tender meat from the pig’s head and trotters, slow braised and suspended in meat jelly. Sounds challenging, fun to make, and utterly, indulgently, delicious. The question is, where do we get the head? And the feet?

How about the whole hog.

Whole PigAt Jake’s suggestion, we decided to get a whole piggy, and drove to pick up our pig and butcher it in the kitchen at home. All 75 pounds of it. I had never broken down a whole pig before, and was really excited about the whole endeavor. Plus, in addition to the head and feet for the monthly Charcutepalooza challenge, we would be supplying ourselves with fresh cuts of pork, a plenty.

We started by breaking down the head and feet to get them braising for the headcheese. On the stove were stockpots for the Consomme that would eventually suspend the meat in the terrine.

Head and Trotters

We liked our pig, and took silly pictures with it. This is an event, afterall, butchering a whole pig in the comfort of our studio apartment! Pork portraits were necessary.

Pig HeadThis was a days long event, with precious time on our hands to get the pig broken down and refrigerated, stocks going around the clock, head and feet roasting, Consommes a clearing… it was an adventure to say the least, in home cooking.

Consomme RaftThe consomme took a good day to make, having to make the stocks, reduce them, then clear them through the raft. In the end, it was worth the time because it yielded a dark, rich, clarified stock that was striking in the terrine. Once the consomme was done, we layered the terrine.

Then into the fridge, to set up. Fingers crossed!

And lo and behold…the Headcheese:

Absolutely decadent. Delicious. I have to say, while I have seen some truly amazing pictures from other bloggers this month, the two day extravaganza that started with an entire pig, and ended in this first bite was a satisfaction and accomplishment like no other.  Cheers!

July’s Charcutepalooza Challenge: Emulsification

Blended meat and fat, suspended together in tantric harmony. For most people, this cosmic mix should bring us back to a classic childhood memory, decades before I learned what emulsified meat meant. That’s right, you guessed it. None other than the almighty hot dog. Held in the hands of children, hot dogs are remembered by all as a staple at barbeques across the nation. However, if you were raised by a Sicilian step-father that also meant you ate cold cuts like Mortadella. No Oscar Meyer in my fridge, this was the real deal. But, childhood hot dogs taste like crap. And what’s that green stuff in the baloney you’re making me eat? PISTACHIOS? No thanks! I’m a picky kid! So, leaps and bounds more mature than the palate of 7 year old me, bound and determined to up the meat paste’s of my past, I made both. Hot dogs and Mortadella, the July challenge.

It should be said here, in this July and now over half way through this wonderful year of learning Charcuterie and posting about it, that my efforts have not been lonely ones. These successes I have shared with great happiness each month with my dedicated partner in crime, Jake. He totally deserves some face time and recognition for his interest and hard work making all these challenges a reality for us in our home kitchen. Ladies and gents, my partner in crime, my nocturnal assistant, my lovely boyfriend, Jake.

Give credit where credit is due, check. Now back to the assignment. This month, we were to venture into the world of emulsified sausages, making both the hot dogs, and the mortadella.

First the hot dog: Let me tell you, casing emulsified meat is a lot harder than the prior sausages. It’s denser, stickier, full of air pockets that blow out the casings. Frustrating, to say the least. It took a bit of work, but we were able to case the sausages, poach them, and grill them. They made the best hot dogs I’ve ever had. We served them with spicy mustard on huge french rolls, and potato salad studded with pickles, celery seed, mustard seed and coriander. A touch of cayenne and apple cider vinegar rounded it out nicely.

 They were fantastic, and like no other hot dog I’ve had. Smokey, filled with spice, and great texture. Step aside ballpark.

Next up was the mortadella. Now mortadella is like baloney in color, and consistency as well. But it hails from Bologna, and it’s big fat rounds are actually emulsified pork shoulder and fat, studded with tiny diced fat and pistachios. They are stuffed into beef bungs, and believe me, if we could have found them anywhere in the city of Seattle, we would have done just that. However, after many butchers looking at me like I’m crazy, we decided to poach them in plastic.

Mortadella is a lot of work. You have to cut the meat, season it, and grind it. You have to grind the frozen fat as well, and keep them seperate. You have to blanch the fat cubes, as well as the pistachios. Then take the skin off the nuts. While mixing, be very careful to follow the steps and temp your product, so you don’t break your emulsion. Wouldn’t want to get this far only to end up with a break. We did a thorough job of temping and mixing, and came up with a pretty great product.

Mortadella, my step dad would be proud.










The hunt for mushrooms…

It was a long day, hiking around, in search of what spring in the pacific northwest has to offer. We went looking for Morel mushrooms, and while we found  a lot of false morels, we were only able to find a sparse couple of the choice edibles. I found one, though! My first official foraged mushroom, in all its glory.

Morel, June 2011


It was delicious.

June Charcutepalooza Challenge: Stuffing

This month, the Charcutepalooza challenge was to case sausage. Poultry sausage, to be precise.

Now all you dear readers know I love me some duck, so I figured what better bird to bind than that. Duck sausage, ground with pork fat and cased in flavor. I like the sound of that.

Duck Sausage


These duck sausages are very special indeed, prepared with love from the Pacific Northwest. And this is a special day, since yesterday I foraged my first morel mushroom! With the excitement of mushroom hunting still fresh in our minds, we utilized some beautiful Chanterelle mushrooms that were stashed in the freezer from the fall (thanks to my partner in crime). The addition of carmelized onions sauteed in Chantrelle butter and fresh Douglas Fir pine needles makes this a duck sausage a thing of beauty.

The meat was ground last night, the mushroom, onion and herb mix rough chopped and folded into the meat mixture. It’s been sitting overnight for the flavors to meld, and tonight, on the 15th of the month (surprise, surprise), we case the sausage, juuust in time for the June deadline.

I can’t wait to try these. Some of my favorite ingredients, made with my favorite man, these sausages truly embody the flavors and energy of the Pacific Northwest.

All for you mom

Blood, sweat and tears, I tell you. Hour upon endless hour of planning, prepping, pining, and at least a couple meltdowns all for one very special meal: Mother’s day. The beast of breakfast; the boss of brunch. One of the most stressful days of the year.

You few dear readers know I make cheese, and sausage, and bread and pretty much eat sleep live dream food. You see me write about it with great fervor in much of my spare time. Cooking and creating great meals is what I do for money as well, only for a much, much larger audience. Here’s a taste of Mother’s Day, 2011. For Carmen.