A Traditional Family Adventure With Mamma and Co.
By: Sara Grazia
It’s been an epic journey over the past few days and today we finish off the last of the meat curing. We’ve made kilograms of salami and now they're resting ready for hanging later in the afternoon. Before we get to that stage however there is still quite a lot of work to be done finishing off the pancetta, capocollo, prosciutto and other meats that will be cured over the next several months.
Our variety of cuts have been under salt for the past couple of days and now need to be cleaned, seasoned, wrapped and hung. One of the downfalls of cleaning the meat is that it needs to be done using cold water and on a cold winters day, your hands feel very quickly like ice blocks. With 12 cuts to clean, it was looking to be a long and cold process. I have a cup of warm water at arms length and after every couple of cuts I clean, I stopped and wrap my hands around the cup to thaw them out.
The only problem was the dread of getting my hands back under that ice cold water for the next round of cleaning. Half way through I decided it was better to simply close my eyes and think of tropical waters and get the remaining meats cleaned – it didn't work that well but I managed to get everything cleaned much quicker than expected.
Once cleaned of the salt and brine it was time to rinse them off with a little wine and then get the spices rubbed all over.
As this is a process I've undertaken many times before, I don’t really follow any particular recipe. I gauge everything on sight and how the weight feels in my hands, I was brought up this way. It was only a few years before I started teaching professionally that I was forced to began using scales for recipe preparations.
So armed with a table spoon in one hand and a soup spoon in the other, it was time to mix up our first batch of ingredients. I prepare each recipe directly onto the meat… this is not advisable for beginners.
This method is similar to watching a painter create a piece of art on a canvas, in this case my meat is the canvas and the ingredients are my paint. I start with the background colour, then add a few highlights and finish off with dollops of radiance. With a combination of black pepper, paprika and mammas homemade chili paste, this canvas is ready for painting and what a beautiful colour the paste gives the meat. The paste blended with the cracked pepper gives of such an intense fragrance when rubbed through together.
Once every surface, crack and crevasse has been rubbed all over with the ingredient mix - it was time to wrap, net and have it ready for hanging. For the capocollo I'm using the thin layer of belly fat that mamma meticulously separated and cleaned a couple of days before.
The fat is wrapped tightly around the meat to protect it during the curing process, similar to how our skin protects the muscles within our bodies.
I will also use the dried version of this same product to wrap the rest of the meats in. This is a great alternative as it’s still natural but has been commercially dried. You’re getting the same benefits without all the preparation work.
You might remember a couple of blogs back when I mentioned that the pancetta from this pig were half the size I am, they literally were. They rolled up so big individually that it would take a good 12 months to dry and cure properly. I was almost tempted to give it a go, but was persuaded otherwise. We ended up slicing each side of pancetta into 3 sections and they were still huge, each piece coming in at approximately 4kg! We ended up with 6 in total and I was a happy girl.
I used the same recipe on 3 of the pancetta and for the others I used a very traditional crushed coriander mix that my mamma has used ever since I can remember.
After the pancetta I processed the lonza and the prosciuttini. The prosciutto leg still needed a couple more weeks under salt, but my smaller prosciutto cuts were ready after a couple of days under salt.
On each piece I used a different recipe, I made mamma’s as she always has – using her homemade pepper paste. Another I did used a simple black and white pepper mix and the remaining two I got a little creative with. Simple mixes with a twist. I’ll have to wait a few months before I can let you know how they turned out!
All in all my epic family adventure draws to a close on yet another year of sausage, salami and curing production. Over the next few weeks all the salami we made should be ready for slicing up and packing away ready for the festive season. My cured meats and prosciutto will have to wait a month or two longer, so far all are looking good and I'm really excited about sharing with you an antipasto plate when everything is ready.
Stay tuned I have more exciting adventures on the way, near and far!
If you've missed out on how mamma, me and my tribe of salami making enthusiasts got this far you can read the entire story her at Day 1, Day 2, and Day 3.
I wish you all the best on your meat curing adventures this winter and keep me up to date with your progress.