Monday, March 28, 2011


Welcome back to Sarah and Derek's Charcuterie Experiments!

We make bacon, which is cooked and stored in the fridge... so it feels safe. Who needs safety? Not Derek and I. Nope. We need adventure, new things, variety.

The farmer convinced us to buy a pork jowl when they did not have any belly in stock. He told us all we need to do is cover it in salt and let it cure in the refrigerator. Then we need to hang it up for three weeks. Yes. Hang it up, outside of the refrigerator. RAW PORK. Hanging. At room temperature. Fortunately, this is a really cheap cut of meat.

We did some research. Guanciale is an Italian cured meat, similar to pancetta. It is unsmoked and made from the pig's jowl or cheek. It is traditionally used in Italian pasta sauces and spaghetti carbonara.

It is delicious.

from Charcuterie by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn

1. Obtain pork jowl or cheek. We got ours from these great folks at our farmers market, but most butchers should have them. Every pig has two, but they are not a popular cut so some butchers probably will not carry them. Check your local butcher or carniceria.

2. Remove any pieces of skin, tough tissue, or glands you can see.

3. Make dry cure. Combine 70 grams (1/2 cup) kosher salt*, 70 grams (1/3 cup) sugar, 2 mashed cloves of garlic, 15 black peppercorns (cracked with something heavy), and 1 large bunch thyme.

4. Rub cure all over jowl, make sure to cover the whole jowl. Place this in a large plastic bag. Put this bag in the refrigerator for 1 week. Turn the jowl everyday to redistribute the liquid that will collect. This process draws moisture out of the meat so it does not get gross during the drying process.

4. After a week in the refrigerator, take the jowl out and rinse as much of the cure off as you can. Then pat the jowl dry. Make sure you get it really dry.

5. Then poke a hole in a corner of the jowl and run some butchers twine through the hole. Then hang this up in a cool place with plenty of air circulation. The temperature should not get above 70 degrees Celsius. Our reading suggests the jowl should be gently caressed by the winds of Tuscany. We settled for a ceiling fan.

Now if you were really organized you would weigh the meat before hanging it and then you could know it was done when it weighed 30% less. We did not weigh ours. We just waited for three weeks until it felt firm to touch.

6. Watch the jowl. It may grow some mold. Apparently, white mold is okay and black mold is bad. When it is done scrap off any molds that look nasty (black mold would indicate the meat has spoiled). Then eat it...

So pretty...
This meat makes me hungry.
P.S. Best knife ever.

It should not need to be cooked before consumption, it has been "cooked" in the salt. We definitely crisped it for some applications. I would also recommend checking out Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn's book. It is really well-written and has many more details about the recipe.

Coming soon guanciale recipes...

Monday, March 21, 2011

Making Me Happy (or why the world is not such a bad place)

This week (well during the past couple of weeks) there have been and are lot of really sad things happening around the world. There are actually some really sad things happening in my friends and family members lives. So I wanted to talk about some things that are making me happy. Staying on the bright side and stuff...

1. My kitten Max makes me happy. He is fuzzy and when I look into his eyes I want to pick him up an bury my face into his soft belly. Then I do this and he scratches my face. The gnome in this picture is named Darwin and he makes me happy too.

2. My new bike is beautiful. My old one was stolen a couple of months ago and I finally replaced it with a beautiful new (fast) bicycle.

3. My wonderful husband always makes me happy. He is taking his comprehensive exams this week and he is doing such a great job. Every time I look at him I smile and think about how lucky I am.

4. My friend Julie is awesome. I miss her when I am in South Carolina.

4. Chocolate.

5. Spring makes me incredibly happy. Our bulbs are blooming and we planted herbs and other flowers. Plus our lawn weeds are already blooming. I actually sat on the balcony this weekend with the cat. Vitamin D is joy inducing.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

My House

I am still in South Carolina and, to be honest, it is quite dull. I have nothing work related to blog about. I have not been cooking much during the week, Cambden does not have any good restaurants to try, and during the weekends I am really too busy cuddling with the husband and cat to do any major projects.

Last weekend we did some spring cleaning and I decided the house was finally clean enough to photograph. I wanted to share some kitchen/living room photos here, because I am super proud of how we took a sort of crappy kitchen space and turned it into exactly what we wanted for very little money.

I should start by saying our house is kind of... different. It was built in the 1950's and is approximately 900 square feet. We think it was built to house mill workers. It has three tiny bedrooms and is made out of cinder blocks. It has tons of character, with original (read scratched and beat up) hardwood floors and built in book shelves. At some point, it was remodeled and the the wall connecting the kitchen and living room was knocked out. It almost seems like they ran out of money at this point because almost no cabinets were installed in the kitchen. There is a sink with storage underneath it, to the right of the sink we have one drawer and one cabinet. Above the sink there is one cabinet and above the stove there are some shelves.

The kitchen room is actually pretty large. We bought a large (pretty inexpensive) stainless steel prep table at a restaurant supply store. We hung up a magnetic knife rack and got a bookshelf to use as a china cabinet.

The lack of storage space has forced us to be creative. It can be a bit annoying to have everything exposed. When we make bread, everything gets covered in flour. Plus, we have to be organized and can't just shove stuff in cabinets, otherwise it will be ugly.

We have such pretty stuff though so it does not matter. To the right is Darwin, our garden gnome.

Now our kitchen is awesome. It is sunny and comfortable and it makes me smile.

Condom collection, kitchen is not g-rated...

Jesus kitsch.

Knife rack and some of the world leader place collection (Mao and Nixon belong together, clearly).

Rock collection.
Recipe stand (awesome cookbook by the way).

Did I mention I love this house?
Living room with our enormous TV. We did not realize that it would be this large when we ordered it.
My precious bicycle.

Giant Shepard Fairey Obama poster. When we first put this poster up the cat was so afraid of it he would not walk down the hall. To this, one of my coworkers said, "it figures that a cat would be Republican." He was right.