Tuesday, February 24, 2009


There is a fine line between a meatloaf and a paté, and there are not many books that can tell you how to stay on the right side of that line, whichever it may be in any particular case. To get a creamy, spreadable paté you need more than an ingredient list, an oven temperature, and a cooking time. It’s all about keeping fat suspended in meat and other ingredients. The technique isn't necessarily difficult, but you need to know it. One of the best books to explain such matters, as well as the methods of making sausage, salami, cured and smoked meat clearly and in sufficient detail for the home cook is Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn’sCharcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing.

People say “don’t ask what goes into hot dogs, you don’t want to know!” But you really do want to know, don’t you? If you made them yourself, you would know, and you would learn a lot about the hot dogs you buy. Why do some franks plump up and split? They probably have more water. If you try to make a moderately lean frankfurter, like the ones you see sliced in the photo above, along with my variation on fresh saucisson de Toulouse in a choucroute garni, the texture might be denser than you expect of a factory made hot dog, and then you realize that commercial dogs must have a lot more fat or non-meat fillers than you would use if you were making them yourself--that is, if you knew what went into them. Or you might decide you like the texture of a manufactured product, but you want a different flavor, and you could choose what spices or combination of meats to use, the amount of water, and the ratio of fat to lean.

And how about that Toulouse style sausage? The photo at the top shows a dried version of the white sausage in the second photo after it’s been hanging for a week. There is no recipe for either of those sausages inRuhlman and Polcyn’s book, but the techniques and general proportions are described, and there are similar recipes, and that’s the kind of cookbook that I like. I got enough information that I could make a big batch of pork filling, stuff half of it into casings for fresh sausage, add one ingredient -- a curing salt obtained from www.sausagemaker.com -- and hang the rest in a cabinet to make a cured air-dried salami. If you have the techniques, you can use whatever fresh local ingredients you have available to make things that you like the way you like them, andCharcuterie provides those techniques, if you want to learn.


Family of Food said...

OK, I went out and got a hard salami today. Are you happy?

Son of Food said...

I'll have to go down to Katz's, where they still have a sign saying, "Send a salami to your boy in the Army!" at least until I figure out how to make a kosher style hard salami.

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