Friday, December 26, 2008

Noisette Round Two

I really enjoyed the Noisette i made a couple months ago, the only problem is that it went too quickly. So i made a huge batch and screwed around with it in several forms. i had these bladder casings just ligering amonst some salt in the fridge i wanted to use up. I'm not sure if theres a traditional recipe one would use to stuff these with, but pork, roasted hazelnuts and fresh tarragon sounded good at the time. It was my first time using them and it was fun to see how big they stretch out to be. By the end of it i couldn't stop thinking to myself what the heck am i going to slice this on. Either way, it was fun, an experience, and something i needed to educate myself on. They look weird hanging in my fridge and the lining is really thick. It was tough to get the meat really compact so i hope there's minimal gaps between the meat. 
I also borrowed a metel pole from a restaurant i used to work at to hollow out a few pork loins to stuff. This just isnt any 
metal pole its been sharpened on one end to cut through the meat. i slipped the cured pork loin onto the tube just like you would a casing and then piped the farce meat into the hole just like you would a salami. I then wrapped it up in cheesecloth and fermented it for a day then off to the curing fridge. i'm excited to see if it binds well in the interior. 

Gone Fishin'

Well not exactly, but we closed down for two and a 1/2 weeks over the holidays for vacation. I'm on my way to New york. I'm driving down with my significant other and pooch. Luckily we have a free place to stay so we will be able to spend more money on food. Theres not many places i'm dying to eat at but i will definitely be checking out Bar Boulud, Daniel Boulud's charcuterie bar. I will also be trying to smuggle across some good cured meats on the way back. Hopefully these couple of weeks will give me time to think of some new ideas for the new year. I need the recharge.

Pork Belly Pastrami

This is a really nice treat if your like me and have eaten many beef pastrami sandwiches. I do this for my restaurant but dont slice it thin. I generally cut it into big slabs of meaty goodness, score it like you would foie gras and sear it to order. You can follow any pastrami recipe you like so i wont right mine down here. Although i will tell you that i usually up the amount of pickling spice in the brine. 

First you want to start with good porkbelly. I'm not talking about the run of the mill skinny little bellies that look like they went on a fast before being slaughtered. I'm talking about  3 inch thick slabs of fat with a bit of meat marbling the interior.  I am currently using brookdale berkshire and i couldn't be happier with the end product. First you want to brine it for 7 days. I add pink salt to my brine to keep its nice colour, otherwise it ends up oxidizing way too quickly and

 the colour looks like crap when trying to serve it to a customer. After brining, i grind up equal parts black pepper and corriander seed and roll the bellies in this peppery goodness. I then hot smoke for a day and then chill the meat overnight. once chilled, i 'll take a hotel pan and put a rack on it with the bellies on top. I fill the container with water about an inch high and cover with saran wrap and then foil to lock in all that smokey goodness. I'll steam braise the bellies till nice and soft all the way through. It generally takes about 5 hours at 350 degrees. At this point its very very tender so let it cool before you try and slice it. 

Monday, December 15, 2008

Update Dec 14th 2008

Things are going just dandy at the Black Hoof. Business is good and were gearing up for a nice two week holiday come the 23rd right through to the 8th of January. I have a lot of stuff on the go right now hanging in the fridges. The Tamworth prosciutto made it through a month of curing without going rotten so thats good news. I have beautiful pancetta and thick slabs of lardo hanging that should be ready shortly. I harvested the first batch of Wild boar with cardamom and orange rind the other day and its fantastic! Just enough of both flavors to taste it but not so much that it overwhelms. I also am really happy with this batch of wild boar and fennel. Version 2.1 is perfect. The bear salami is drying nicely, i'm hanging the bearsoala today. The ostrich salami should be done when i get back from new york and i'm excited about the first batch of pork liver salami i made this past week. Today i'm making Cotecchino, and i will be drying it out over the holidays before i poach it. I will also we doing batches of mole inspired lonzino that is currently curing in chocolate and salt and will eventually be stuffed with a farce of almonds, citrus and other exciting spices usually found in mole.  Hmmm... wait a second.... i actually was trying to phrase that last sentence to explain how i was going to put the farce on the outside, but after re-reading it, i realize that it sounds like i'm actually going to stuff the pork loin, which come to think about it, is a brilliant idea. We used to take a metal rod and push it through a pork loin to remove the center piece and stuff it with prunes at a restaurant i worked at. What if i did that but stuffed it with a farce??  Have i mentioned how much i love charcuterie? till next time. 

Tuesday, December 9, 2008


A very easy charcuterie item to make and a necessity to any charcuterie plate. Two favorites of mine to make are rabbit and pheasant. The key to a good moist rillette is cooking low and slow. 
I use duck fat as its readily available from one of my suppliers. The first step is to salt cure whatever meat you are using for 12 hours. With something as lean as a bird or rabbit i usually add some cubed back fat or pork belly to help keep it moist and bump it up with some cubed pork shoulder. My salt cure is done by eye and if i had to guess its probably 2/3 salt to 1/3 sugar along with any aromatics i think would go well with the meat.  For the rabbit, i saute off some apples and pears and flambe them with some good gin. A little toss of sugar to lightly caramelize helps too for a bit of added sweetness. For the pheasant, i add chopped up dried apricots or cranberries and both rillettes receive a bit of fresh tarragon. I generally stick to traditional spice mixtures like nutmeg, cinnamon, mace
 and clove. Once cooked very slow and low in duck fat, the meat is strained, and then begins the meticulous process if picking out all those annoying little bones. Once the bones are removed, i use two forks to shred the meat. Once the meat is shred
ded, i add ay dried fruit and begin incorporating the duck fat with a wooded spoon back into the meat a bit at a time. You dont want to beat the fat into it while its piping hot, luke warm is good because you essentially want to emulsify the fat into it  similar to making a mayo. Not enough fat and your rillette will be dry, too much and it will be all fat. Adding things like yellow mustard seeds are always fun as they will bloom a bit and become palatable with the finished product. The tarragon or fresh herb of your choice should be thrown in last minute so it doesn't discolour. Line a terrine mold with saran wrap and pack your mixture into your mold. U
se some cardboard cut to fit on top and weight the terrine down and into the fridge to chill. 12 hours later you should have a creamy fatty terrine ready to be sliced and served room temp with a bit of sea salt. One thing i should mention is that it is meant to be served cold or room temp, so when seasoning make sure you over salt while warm. Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Crazy for Pig Ears

This week i've had a serious infatuation with pig ears. With my second batch of testina i decided to throw in the pig ears and cook them over night. We shaved the hair and rinsed out what looked to be ear wax ( and i say "we" because i finally have another cook in the kitchen now). The morning came and the ears were extremely soft and ready to be made into something. The evolution of the pig ear terrine began. it started with just rolling up two pig ears and pressing them. As i finished the first roll, the next idea popped into my head. I sliced some pickled cow's tongue and layered the ears. First layer tongue then an ear, then some more tongue, then another ear and finally some more tongue. I saran wrapped it into a roll and pressed it. Then we were left with one single ear in the pot as the mate to that ear was all broken up. We then decided to wrap the solo ear in prosciutto and last minute through in some cremini mushrooms into the center. With all these terrines we wrapped tight and poked holes to release any air gaps. continuing the process reminding me of the meat cubes we used to do with Activa. Except this time it was the natural gelatin that holds everything together. 
The first time i sliced into it there was a beautiful pattern of cartilage and wavy lines of tongue. Sure it kind of reminds you of tape worms or perhaps the ebola virus under microscope and is probably hard to stomach for most people. But if your a cook and appreciate charcuterie you gotta love how this turned out. Blaaam!

The Importance of Labeling

Running a restaurant kitchen by yourself with no cooks and no dishwasher really eats up alot of your time. I've been working 7 days a week for a couple months now and have been trying to keep up on the charcuterie as best i can. Because i've been in the juice every single day in the kitchen i've neglected some important aspects of charcuterie. The labeling and weighing of things has all but vanished from my list of things to be doing. I've been recording recipes but every other aspect of recording has been forgotten. i knew i had to stock up so i had so many things on the go and all i kept thinking about was stocking up the fridges and trying to get them curing as soon as possible. 
One day i found myself with a few spare hours and decided to take a minute to check on the charcuterie fridge. What i found was a whole lot of salamis covered in mold with no labels. I had no idea of what was what and when it was made. So i spent two hours attempting to figure out what was what. Each salami was like a scratch and sniff sticker but without the picture of the pineapple. I'd scrape a bit of mold off and sniff and hope to guess the right one. Id label them and then guess the week it was made. I bought another fridge and its already full. I've never gone through so much cured meats its crazy. Some days during a busy saturday night i cant stop thinking about these salami's that have taken 3 months that i burn through in a ten hour service.... crazy!


I wasn't sure how this salami was going to turn out. The addition of nuts had me a little worried on how it would slice and cure. As i watched the mold grow and cling to the casing i was curious as to what was happening inside. I'm not really a fan of hazelnuts to be honest but i thought it was better then using walnuts or macadamia nuts and peanuts were definitely out of the question. There was an addition of dried tarragon but in retrospect i really should have used fresh. Similar to the beef and dill i'm sure it would have really shined and really improved the overall flavor. So i have plans to do another one this week using fresh tarragon as i'm on my last stump of the old batch and need to restock. 


So i received three bear roasts from a friend who got them from a hunter. I traded him restaurant credit for 10 lbs of meat and we made it together. I had no idea what to expect from this meat. It was brought to me frozen and wrapped in butcher paper. i had it sitting in my freezer for a week before we made it. It felt like when my parents would put christmas presents out early and you'd have to wait days before you got to open them and see what was inside. I tried shaking the frozen meat but that didn't really give me any hints as to what was inside. 
The day finally came when it was time to open up this early christmas present. The meat was a deep red with the whitest fat marbling i had ever seen. It looked and smelled as if the bear had just been skinned it was surreal. I didn't know what bear would smell like but when i did take a wiff it was  exactly what i would have thought bear smelled like. It was gamey, but not in a lamb way, not in a bison or deer way either just bear. I had thoughts of it smelling like honey but perhaps thats from watching too many cartoons as a kid. One thing i worried about was whether it would smell like fish or berries, depending on what its diet was prior to its last breath. It would suck to have hints of lake trout in a bear salami. I concluded after many wiffs that it was perfect for curing. Unfortunately there wasn't any big meaty loins for making bearsola but i did manage to salvage a few small pieces. The rest got ground up for salami. I decided to do it in hog casings because i wanted to taste it as soon as possible. Both the salami and bearsola got bear minimal seasonings as i want to taste the bear meat with just the addition of salt, pepper and a little garlic powder. 
I'm very excited about the outcome and will report back as soon as its ready. 

Update - Lonzino

My lonzino turned out perfect... well maybe not perfect as the cocoa didn't really shine in the finished product, but there was the perfect amount of fennel in there. I have another batch of eight going which i plan to do different things to all of them. I plan to try a mole type pressed pork loin which is basically cured in chocolate and salt and then wrapped in a mole flavoured farce and then pressed. the others i'm not sure yet.... still pondering what to do with them so for now they're just in a basic lonzino cure. 

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Word on the Street..

Is that someone may be bringing by some bear meat for me. Bearsola anyone? i also have ostrich coming in today because i told my bus boy that he should learn to make a salami and he was all for it. so i told him to pick any type of animal meat and that we would make a salami out of it. Well, after much deliberation he came back to me with ostrich. Why didn't i ever think of that? Anyways, were gong to do ostrich with thyme. He wants to keep the seasoning simple with nice cubes of fat he said. And last but not least, Beaver. I have yet to find out whether it is even legal to have beaver meat or whether you can even hunt, cure, eat them. But i'm looking into it. A friend mentioned it to me and it peaked my interest. 

Wild Boar with Cardamom and Orange rind

So yesterday i had some wild boar defrosting and no plans of what to do with it. I remembered a dish we did at my last restaurant that used cardamom and orange and with no other ideas at the time decided to whip together a recipe. I was fighting back and forth whether to use green or black cardamom and after tasting the two in its raw state i decided to go with black. I also through in some ground ginger, white pepper, garlic, salt and some blanched orange rind in simple syrup to cut its bitterness. I used a decent amount of fat all hand cut into small cubes.
I have a lot of salami's hanging in beef middles and bung caps so i decided to do this salami in regular pork casings. The decision was also made because i'm running out of stock for the charcuterie bar and i need something that will be ready in a month hopefully. I was hesitant to use a lot of orange or cardamom because either of the two in large quantities could surely put you off. So i started this recipe on the conservative side and i will see how the flavors develop and tweak if necessary on my next batch. If all goes well i will post a recipe. My next salami will be a mole inspired salami.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


So the last pigs head that came in had a jowl missing. So Testina was out of the question. So i made guanciale with it and boiled the head for stock which eventually gets used in this recipe. This week i got a fully intact head and just happened to have a friend come into work with me for the day who just happened to be a butcher. So while i cured some other meats he was tackling the pigs head. Now taking everything off the skull in one piece is not as eay as some may think. Scott the butcher did a perfect job except for a couple missed grooves of meat. But he did it pretty quick and he was working for free so i forgave him :) The head went into a brine for a couple days. 

Once brined (which isn't a neccessary step) i split the head in 1/2 and halved each jowl to fold it over the other side to balance out the fat content. i did the same thing with the meat. if you have to remove the meat and filet it to make a nice even layer of meat, do so, it wont effect the finished product. I then heavily seasoned the meat with salt, pepper, and nutmeg, a traditional method i was told from a friend named Chris. I let that sit over night and then rolled each 1/2 head up with the rind on the outside and wrapped it in cheesecloth and tied it like a roast as tight as i could. 

I then brought the pigs stock from the other head up to a boil with a bunch of aromatics and lots of carrots as per Chris' recommendation. and poached the head for about 18 hours on a light simmer. 
Once fully cooked, i removed the two roulades and waited till they cooled a bit and then wrapped them tightly in saran wrap poing holes constantly to remove any air holes in the middle of the roll. Two rules here, you can never use too much saran 
wrap and never make too many holes to achieve a perfect roll.

Once fully wrapped, puncture a few last holes and press between two sheet trays with a good amount of weight on it. Let sit for 12 hours in the fridge, unwrap and you should be left with a nice looking testina. If its not perfect dont be too concerned. you turned a whole lot of nothing into somethin'. Slice and season with a bit of olive oil and sea salt and serve with some toasted bread. Yum!

2 Year Investment

So i received 1/2 a pastured Tamworth heritage pig the other week. I split the whole pig with a chef friend and the price was unbelievable for the quality. We bought it from John and Marcia at Blue Haven Farms and the size and colour was amazing. The ham was 35 lbs , 20 once trimmed for prosciutto, needless to say it was massive! It will definately take closer to two years of hanging, if it even makes it that far without spoiling. We will see... I like learning things progressively. So i just wanted to cure this ham with salt and nothing else. Actually, i'm lying. i through a little instacure #2 in last minute after thoughts of this beautiful piece of meat going rotten. Not that cure # 2 will give me complete piece of mind but it will definitely help. 
I used coarse salt. 4% of the weight to be exact. and 1 g instacure #2 per lb of meat. i split the salt and cure mixture into 2/3 and 1/3. I used the larger batch of salt and cure and rubbed it all into the ham. Most of it on the exposed flesh paying special attention in and around the bone as well as on the top. I also rubbed it into the skin but dont be surprised if it just falls right off!
I put the ham into a clean bus pan with a rack underneath so that the hams dont sit in there own brine. i also weighted it 10 kg of weight, in this case, a large can of sauerkraut i bought in quebec. This initial salting and weighting period will run for two weeks. Then i will gently rinse any remaining salt and repeat the process with the smaller amount of salt mixture i reserved and weight for another two weeks. Once thats done, it will go through a fermenting period and then a hanging period.  I'll keep you posted.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

The black Hoof

So, the charcuterie bar is moving along well.
We are busy and i have never in my life seen so many chefs in one place at one time eating and drinking every day of the week, except for the days that we are closed, but ive heard of a few chef groups that have came down on our off days only to realize that we close tuesday and wednesday! 
Its nice to see that our vision and goals have fallen into place exactly as we saw them. Our concept was to stay open late (2am) serving food and open on every other restaurants off days (sunday, monday) and it has paid off. Its interesting to see groups of chefs walk in and realize that theres 5 other parties of cooks and industry people they know all in the same spot. By 2am it generally becomes one big shit show of drunkin' restaurant employees who at one point enjoyed there own cozy table all standing and talking to a handful of people they didn't originally arrive with. Unfortunately for me. 12-2am is my busiest time. I watch them enter, group by group, slowly filling up the tables like a 6 o'clock rush, only its 12 o'clock and its already been a long day. I start cutting bread, filling up pickle plates, i bring out my arsenal of personal cured meats as they all want the stuff i make in house, rabbit, horse, venison, bison, duck... As the night progresses, all the meat i've made that has taken me months to cure slowly dwindles by the blade of the slicer or takobiki. I continually think to myself, how much do i have left in the curing room, when will these guys stop showing up in the masses so i can get caught up, is it almost tuesday yet? 
I can get a little juiced when the orders start rolling in mainly because i am by myself and i dont like to pre slice anything. Luckily for me, most of the cooks can see my dilemma...a one man show in a small space using a white electric stove and my pots and pans from home to cook there food. I'm surprised none of them have asked if they could jump in and man a pan or two while i slice. Most of them ive worked with, so i know atleast some of them can sear foie or cook some merguez.... either way, they're happy to wait cause its almost 2am and there getting fed something other then a burrito or pizza.... cause thats my meal. After 2am, thats whats still open for me. the battles continues.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

What to do...

Got one of these in today. Some wanker at the abattoir  cut off a jowl for some reason, so im not sure what i will do with it. I could do guanciale with it but to be honest im not a huge fan of guanciale, i just like the way it sounds when you say it. I'm thinking testina and its probably what i will end up doing. I could do some crazy head cheese but really who wants to go out to a nice restaurant and REALLY eat headcheese.... I got some beef tongues in today too... i'll probably pickle them in some malt vinegar... i got rabbits and horse in today too.... oh boy... gonna be a loooong week!

Beef N' Dill

A favorite of most diners and cooks is the beef and dill salami. The combination originally inspired from a japanese dumbling, then transformed into a beef carpaccio with dill and shaved frozen feta, then came the salami. The first one i did was a genoa style salami, which basically meant a lot of ground pork back fat to keep a creamy consistency. The first one i made i really didn't like it, yet everyone else loved it. I used dill seed as well as fresh and a lot of ground fat. i found the dill seed to be off putting and felt there was just too much fat in there which made it a bitch to slice nicely. It just didn't hold together enough for my liking but since everyone loved it and a lot of people thought it would go well with a nice glass of red i decided to give it another try but omit the dill seed and lessen the ground fat content. It still isn't a huge favorite of mine but the customers seem to like it and the customers always right....right? 

Smoked Venison Salami

Some people really enjoy this salami and others just really dont get it. I guess its because it doesn't have the typical salami flavor and texture. 
It has the addition of dried cherries and when smoked it takes on a really unique flavour. It doesn't take smoke like say a summer sausage or smoked mortadella, both of which really seem to take smoke and keep it. The venison is different, it takes the smoke but it stays in the background, at the same time bringing out the flavour and sweetness from both the venison and cherries. The recipe is really straight forward and the only difference is grinding the cherries with the meat. A fellow cook forgot to grind them once and it was a horrible mistake.
the whole batch was riddled with gaps and holes as the meat and cherries dried out and we ended up having to throw most of the batch out. Live and learn i guess, but it was a big batch and he as well as I was sad to see it go. Originally, we would smoke it a few days after making it, but this batch i was too busy opening the charcuterie bar i didn't smoke it till a month and a 1/2 later. From my observation, it didn't make much of a difference  however maybe its just in my head, but i do think that the smoke is a little more apparent with the later smoking, which I guess makes complete sense. 

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


Prior to opening my restaurant i went to montreal to source out some good artisanal charcuterie. I tell ya, there isn't much going on in Canada, not that i have found anyways. I did come across this booth at the Jean Talon marche. They are called "Les Cochon Tout Ronds" and produce there stuff on Iles de la Madeleine which is on the east coast of Quebec. There stuff is awesome! It smells like porky farmhouse goodness. First producer ive seen who sells there stuff with nice mold on it. i let the people behind me go first as i was looking to try everything before i purchased it. First came the ventrech, which is there cured pork belly. so fatty yet doesn't smell like fridge. Then came the lonzino and coppa. Both very well seasoned and simple. Then came there figatelli, which is a shriveled up piece of salami with ground pork liver and some nice spice. 
As i tasted i was so thrilled to have found this gem that i was "balling" out of control. a dozen of these, 6 of those, 10 of these. then came the proscuitto. tasted it, it wa
s great. so i took one as well. $500 bucks later and i was off to eat at Au Pied de Cochon. 12 courses and me and my fellow cook buddy were stuffed. We left and had to sit on someones porch for 20 minutes before we could walk to the local bar. Our last course was foie gras on pankakes with potato, bacon, and maple syrup. We saw the servers laughing and giggling at us as we waited for our last course. We eventually found out that they havn't really seen anybody eat that much there before and i guess they found it funny we got served our main course and dessert all in one plate. 

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Oh Blog...

How I miss you!
I am opening up my restaurant today and although i've ignored you, as soon as the storm settles i will come back to you. Eat more charcuterie everybody!!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Fennel and Cocoa Lonzino

The great thing about coming from a progressive cooking background is that you look at things in different dimensions. My last chef and mentor taught me to look at things in a different light and to always think outside the box. An ingredient wasn't just an ingredient it was more of a playground of endless possibilities. Whether it was a technique, textural contrast or a flavor combination anything was fair game. So when i initially started curing this pork loin, i was thinking traditional lonzino because I have never actually made it despite its simplicity compared to a lot of charcuterie i've made. I wasn't sure whether i was going to hang it o'natural or spice it up with cayenne and paprika. But, I already had cappicollo smothered in that spice mixture so i did not want to duplicate flavors. So, as i was rinsing the cure off after 12 days or so of curing, it reminded me of a suckling pig roast we used to rub in fennel and cocoa nibs amongst other things. Had it been my chef in my shoes, i'm sure he would have had that same moment of clarity and redirect from his initial route. So i toasted off the fennel, ground it, added about the same amount of dutched cocoa, a bit of black pepper, and some corn syrup solids and rubbed it in. I'n excited to taste the finished product. I'm hoping that it will be a nice mixture of floral grassiness from the fennel mingling well with the sweetness of the cocoa. 

Basic Lonzino Cure
3500g pork loin
125g salt
38g sugar
11.4g instacure #2
11.4g black pepper, ground

Vac Pac Machine

My last few restaurants have always spoiled me with technology. Its been a while since i've worked in a kitchen that didn't have a vac pac machine or immersion circulator to sous vide food. I new entering into this opening of a charcuterie bar that we had a tight budget and the idea of having these fun little technologies would be a long way away. Well, one day, i had had enough. The idea of preserving everything in a mason jar and wrapping logs of salt cured foie gras and terrines in saran wrap didn't sit right for me. I didn't have the money, nor did my partner but i did have one trick up my sleeve...and that was a wallet full of credit cards. I looked into leasing to own but paying an extra thousand dollars over a three year period, Which probably would have outlasted the life of the machine itself made me sick to my stomach. So, surrounded by all this restaurant equipment that could be mine with only a swipe of a card was just too tempting. So i bought a vac pac, and while i was there picked up a smoker and two Tarrison induction burners :)
Despite the $4,000 dollar purchase, which had i purchased anything else would have made my stomach weezy. I felt a weight lifted off my shoulder and dont regret it one bit. Sure i bought the cheapest one out there which just happened to be manufactured in China littered with a retro colour scheme, but this is my baby now and i plan to take care of it as if it were a Bentley! 

Balsamic Cocoa Walnuts

I've "pickled" walnuts before in a previous restaurant and have always found them an interesting alternative to regular nut presentations on a cheese plate. My prior chef used to use banyuls  vinaigrette as the source of acidity, but i'm on a tight budget and quite frankly its way to expensive. I had some balsamic on hand as well as a bit of red wine and beaujolais left from prior recipes so i decided to use these as well. I started with a 2 to 1 ratio of wine to balsamic and began reducing it down with a good amount of sugar and a bit of salt. I through in a spice bag consisting of cinnamon stick, star anise, black peppercorn, bay, all spice, a bit of clove, and some dried chili for heat. I reduced this down till i saw those little rumbling bubbles of goodness that generally tell you your sweetened mixture is reaching a syrupy consistency. In went a couple teaspoons of dutched cocoa, which are cocoa nibs that have been treated with alkaline salts to neutralize the acidity and bitterness commonly found in regular cocoa powder. The cocoa powder really thickens the mixture so if you have to thin it out use a bit of water. In went the toasted walnuts. Keep a watch on the mix now and lower the heat to medium as you stir it regularly. You want to eventually cook out the walnuts and help infuse that acidic flavor while thicken the base so that it coats the nuts but doesn't become too tacky. Remember that, as this cools, your liquid will really tighten up so err on the side of a little loose rather then tighter. Taste a few, make sure you get both the acid and sweetness but neither is stronger then the other. A very nice addition to a cheese plate i think. 

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Mortadella di Bologna

A while back i made Mortadella di Bologna. I've made it several times before and have always had inconsistent results. This time i was looking for the best possible result and i came so close to getting it. I used Len Poli's instructions and tweaked the recipe a bit but i found it a pretty solid recipe. I've had several mortadella's split on me and although edible, they have a rubbery/watery texture to them. The biggest reason for this happening would be because somewhere along the recipe i didn't keep the meat and fat cool enough. So I started by chilling the meat and fat. I ground the meat and fat separately through a large die and then chilled them again and then ground them both together through a small die and then back to chill. After gathering my ingredients, I blanched the cubed pieces of fat to make them palatable i then mixed all the dry ingredients with the ground meat and put small batches into the food processor to get it as smooth as possible. Periodically to keep the mixture from over heating in the food processor, i would pour a little ice water in. Before i used to use just Ice but have found the ice water to be a much better choice. After everything was all nice and smooth, i folded in the fat and pistachios and put the mix into the fridge for 12 hours. I then began rolling them into logs in saran wrap, poking holes making sure to get all the air pockets out (you can never make enough holes or use enough saran wrap). I then chilled the roles again for another 12 hours before vac packing them in there saran wrap. I sous vide them starting in cold water bringing the temp gradually up to 180 F (82 C) until the mortadella reaches an internal temp of 140 F. Submerge the mortadella in ice water and let rest for atleast a few days to have the flavor fully develop. I plan to smoke these tomorrow. The smokiness not only flavors the mortadella but also imparts an acid released from the smoke that adds a tang and also helps preserve it for longer. The only thing i would have changed in this recipe is to increase the salt by another 5-10 grams as well as the pink salt by 3 grams or so. 

Pork Mortadella w/ Pistachios 
3700g pork shoulder
450g pork back fat, ground
450g pork back fat, cubed
66g kosher salt
12g instacure#1
10.6g coriander seed, ground
6g black pepper 
4g garlic
4g white pepper
3g anise seed
3g nutmeg
1g caraway
0.8g cinnamon
0.6g clove
2 cups pistachios, whole
Ice water

No Time

Its been a while since i've last post. A million and one things have been going on in the last two weeks. I finished up my stay at my previous restaurant and although i have 4 weeks off before my new restaurant opens, it has been nothing close to a "vacation". I've been running around buying up things, sourcing things, creating, harvesting, cleaning and pricing things (lots of things in my life right now). As the days count down to opening night my heart beats faster. I have a huge stock of both meats and preserves but i dont think it will ever be enough that i will be content with. I guess its not knowing how quickly i will be going through all this product that stresses me out the most. My girlfriend took a job in New York last week. 5 days notice and she was outa here. I guess it works out good, as i will have my hands full for the next year. I took a trip to Montreal to source out some good Charcuterie, although i was extremely disappointed with the end result i did find one artisanal producer and bought a bunch of there stock. I also met some nice people in the industry who were very helpful. Ive been preserving a lot still and brought back some great produce from Montreal. I wont spoil it, more posting to follow.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

A quick note on mixing starter culture

When i use starter culture, i always use room temp distilled water. The distilled part is obvious, who knows what's in your tap water, also i have it at room temp so it brings the culture alive sooner and quicker. For an added touch, i always add a pinch of dextrose to the water so the bacteria can start feeding and multiplying. And i always try to do this before i grind my meat so it has time to wake up before added. 

Chorizo Salami

It feels like i've made chorizo a million times before, yet each one always turns out a little different, only because of several ingredients i usually just do by eye. This time i switched it up and weighed all my ingredients rather then measured which can alter a recipe alot. One persons tablespoon might be different from an others. There's a different chorizo recipe out there for every person who makes it. Never have i seen a recipe that was identical to the last one. Perhaps that's because the portuguese and spanish use it to describe any type of pork sausage usually containing paprika. I first made it about 3 years ago and have continued to make it in the last three restaurants i've worked for. It's evolved and only recently has my chef put it in recipe format. So i've used that as my base and basically have changed a few ingredients, amounts and the way its prepared. I've always hand chopped the meat and ground just enough pork and fat to hold it all together, but this becomes very very time consuming especially when your doing a large batch. We usually grill coins of it and serve it with some sort of octopus preparation, but i've always found it to be a little chewy and chunky feeling in the mouth, not to mention the ratio of hand chopped fat and pork belly outweighing actual meat. 
So that was my first thing i wanted to fix. The other thing i wanted to change or perhaps just minimize was the amount of pimento paste thats called for in this recipe. If you have never used or heard of portuguese pimento paste i suggest you source some out. It is great on so many levels and is best used while sweating onions, on eggs, steak, and in this case is the secret ingredient in my chorizo. I've found in the past if you use too much of it thats all you can taste and although thats not a bad thing, it doesn't have the balance i look for in a salami. I've also omitted the pork belly altogether, and changed the hand diced pork back fat to a small dice rather then a medium one. therefore it will be a lot more palatable, as i'd like to serve it cut a bit thicker on a bias rather then a thin slice. Although, in the past i have thinly sliced it from one end of the salami to the other and it looked beautiful. I also add some lean beef trim for body and to aid in a deeper colour as well as binding as i find beef binds better then pork when ground. 
When looking for pepper paste try to source out the Ferma brand or Melo's and you can choose whether to use hot or sweet depending on your taste. 

Chorizo Salami
3000g pork shoulder
700g lean beef, horse, or bison
700g pork back fat, small dice
200g pork back fat, ground
210g portuguese pimento paste, hot or sweet
24.1g kosher salt
7.5g black pepper, ground
26.5g piri piri spice blend, not the sauce
10g smoked paprika
1.6g cumin, ground
4.1g corriander seed, ground
15g dextrose
66g white wine, dry
88g fresh garlic, minced
1.8g dried red chili pepper, ground
11g instacure#2
Starter culture
Distilled water

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Mustard Seeds and Bresaola

The first time i made horse breasaola i gott it in my head of introducing mustard seeds in the mix. Not during the cure, but actually during the hang and incorporating it into the finished product. I wasn't sure if the seeds would stick or what the consistency was going to be like, but i just had to see what would happen. Then one day i was playing around in the charcuterie fridge at my old restaurant and the horse felt ripe. I brought it back to the kitchen and cut off the butcher twine holding the cheesecloth in place. I knew right away there was some good mold cause i could smell it and the cheesecloth put up a fight. What appeared was a beautiful hunk of black meat speckled with bloomed yellow mustard seed intact with the rest of the gaps covered in healthy looking white mold. I sliced into it and the meat was purple outlined with yellow speckling. I let a piece come to room temp, splashed a bit of olive oil on it and down it went. It was great! It had that pungent air dried smell of red meat and the mustard seeds gave it a spicy finish. Unfortunately, i only did two small pieces. One was straight mustard seed cut with a bit of kosher salt, the other had a bit of chopped fresh rosemary in there as well. So this time i cured to large pieces almost 2 feet long. Pressed them as usual and dipped the cheesecloth in a red merlot littered with rasped garlic and salt. once it loses 35% of its original weight i'll post pictures and comments of the finished product. 

In the mean time...

Seeing that the Cave isn't ready for use yet, i've been storing all the charcuterie in my walk in. 
I just bought this metro style rack and its already filling up way to quickly. I wish i could stick another one in there, which i could, if i didn't need to save the other side for kegs. This is unfortunate, but it would be more unfortunate if we couldn't serve a nice cold pint of Belgium beer with the charcuterie:) The fridge guy is coming by the restaurant tomorrow to see if he can raise the temperature to an ideal of 10-13 degrees celsius (50-55 F)
I'll have a big load of capicollo, pancetta and venison bresaola coming shortly. Better make room soon!

Elderberry Juniper

A couple weeks ago i was at a farmers market with my girlfriend and stumbled across a stand with a bunch of freshly picked elderberries. I've only encountered them once before and they were frozen and didn't taste great. Intrigued by the freshness and the possibilities of a nice compote i asked to taste them. They tasted a little bitter but had a unique sweetness to them. e Like a crab apple to the apple, they reminded me of a blueberry's distant cousin. So i snatched up all the stand had to offer, 8 liters or so for 48 bucks. I took them home and sat on them for a couple days as i came up with a pairing i was happy with. I thought about pairing them with another dark berry, something perhaps a little sweeter to balance the astringency of this berry but decided to go another route and showcase the berry with the woodsy flavor of the juniper berry. The recipe was quite simple, the only difficulty is in the balance of berry to sugar to juniper. I didn't want any of them to overpower eachother or for any of the ingredients to get lost in the mix. The berries themselves hold up to some abuse and don't breakdown as easily as a blueberry. With the addition of the right amount of sugar i was able to give it the sweetness the berries needed to help preserve it and make it palatable to ones senses but also displaying the uniqueness of this new favorite preserve. I was a little nervous about the juniper pairing but in the end couldn't get enough of it and I had to can it before I didn't have any left.
I noticed the natural phenomenon of these berries wanting to clump together, which is different from any other berry i've seen. Because of this, i decided to only add a little bit of apple pectin powder to gelify the surrounding syrup rather then reduce it more therefore making the syrup to intense. The apple pectin powder is new to me and im still trying to figure out the amounts to add. Its a little less powerful then the other french stuff i initially started using but i happy with the consistencies it has given me thus far. 

Elderberry Juniper Compote
8 liters fresh elderberries
16 cups sugar
4g ground juniper
16 tbsp lemon juice
16g apple pectin powder

The Cave

Construction at the new place is coming along. I still cant tell whether were on schedule to open for Oct. 2, but im sure things will come together closer to the date. i wouldn't mind a couple extra weeks to be honest:) i didn't even know about this space at first. It was tucked away through a trap door and a little walkway covered in spiderwebs. As soon as i saw it, i saw the potential for curing meats in an ideal environment, finally. It smells a little dusty and funky right now, but as soon as a plumbing problem is fixed next week i'll have my work cut out for me cleaning and patching the brick and getting it sterile for hanging meats. 

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Charcuterie Sunday August 31 2008

There's been a whole  lot of preserving and not enough meat curing going on in this blog . So after getting my first round of preserving out of the way, we finally had a charcuterie sunday this past week. Even though most of my cook cronies were hungover from there weekly afterhours binge, they still managed to show up, albeit, some 2-3 hours late, but we still managed to get everything i wanted to done. The day began at 11 am. My first priority was getting the alcohol...these guys dont work for free you know. One by one they trickled in, each one looking worse then the last until there was 4 plus myself. We had a busy day planned. I had most of the meat butchered and ready to go and was just waiting for the casings my buddy Guy was bringing. After a beer and a not so quick catch up, things got underway. I like to tackle days like this like im prepping for a station. Get the big things started first and squeeze in the little things somewhere in between. First we all cleaned up our meat to see where we stood with weigh outs. Everyone was given a sheet of recipes (i don't believe in keeping recipes secret) and began gathering there ingredients while there meat chilled in the freezer. We had a big list including smoked venison, horse bresaola, venison bresaola, beef and dill, soupie, pickled cauliflower, romanesco, roasted peppers, and duck prosciutto. My girlfriend Rita showed up with pizza for the boys and a brief break and  eventually we were on a roll and moving forward. We took turns on the grinder and stuffer and lost some salami makers along the way as they ran out of steam or had girlfriend's to tend with. Rita, the best girlfriend around and new to the kitchen, preserved the peppers and then stuck it out in the pit for a couple hours which at the end of the day is the one job no one wants to be doing for free. Luckily, she enjoyed the use of the spray nozzle, until she too retired to her civvies. Before i knew it, it was almost 5 in the morning and i was still labeling and weighing salami's. I left the kitchen as clean as i could after 17 hours and left the salami's out to ferment in the warm kitchen. Once they lose about 35% of there weight i'll post some recipes. 

Friday, September 5, 2008

Sicilian Eggplants

If you like eggplant and want something other then the typical italian black eggplant commonly found year round you should keep an eye out for sicilian eggplant which usually hits the markets in middle to late august. Its colour is a light purple, similar to japanese eggplant but big and round like a melon. Its interior is a beautiful white with minimal seeds. Since it doesn't have much seeds it tends to be sweeter rather then bitter (its the seeds that make eggplant bitter). I came across a bunch of these at a local farmers market one sunday and i bought the whole bushel. I knew exactly what i was going to do with them when i got home. I made a great pickled eggplant last year that everyone that tasted it loved it so i decided to try it with this sicilian type. The recipe is dead simple and is great on its own with bread. First, you want to julienne the eggplant. I use a mandolin when i do mine so i get nice even strips of eggplant and then i julienne them by hand. Take kosher salt and salt them liberally. Put then in a colander (in th
is case my sink) and weight them down for an hour. The salt will help extract any bitterness and wilt the eggplant. After the hours up, give the eggplant a good squeeze. You may think the eggplant will turn to mush, but it really stands up to a lot of abuse. Then give your eggplant a good rinse in cold water and squeeze again. Blanch the eggplant in salted water and for every liter of water add 100 ml of red wine vinegar. Depending on how thin your eggplant is, it should blanch for a good 3 minutes but still keep a bit of its crunch. Strain it, and lay on clean clothes to cool. Bottle it and cover it with chilies and good olive oil. If covered, you can keep it at room temp for a month or so and is best served at room temp.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Strawberry Long Pepper

I managed to get some Ontario strawberries before they went out of season  the other week and although strawberry jam doesn't come to mind when i think about cheese accompaniments, the addition of long pepper gives it a interesting contrast of flavor and complexity. Long pepper is a close relative of black pepper and is cultivated in and around india and indonesia. It is similar in flavor only a little hotter and very floral. Inspired by a sorbet we once did in a restaurant, i decided to try my hand in a simple strawberry jam. I decided to add some cracked black peppercorn as the base with a last minute spike of long pepper. This jam was a three day process to preserve the integrity of the strawberries shape. I started by cleaning the strawberries then taking the weight. i tossed them in the sugar and lemon juice and allowed them to macerate overnight. i then brought them up to a boil, turned off the heat and let them sit in the fridge overnight. The next day i strained the solids and began reducing the liquid. i added the coarse cracked peppercorns at this point to infuse there flavor into the syrup. Be careful not to add to much too early. I added the peppercorn more for a base flavor 
but more so for its visual appearance. Once the syrup was where i wanted it i added the strawberries and the apple pectin and brought it to a simmer for 5 minutes to activate the pectin. I then put the batch, which was a large one, into a 
bus bin and cooled it down a bit before adding the rasped long pepper. In the end i think i cou
ld have upped the long pepper a bit after trying it on a piece of toast and i guess its all depends on personal taste.  

Strawberry Long Pepper Jam
9000g Ontario or local strawberries
4000g sugar
9g coarse cracked black peppercorn
17g apple pectin powder
1 tbsp ground long pepper
juice of 8 lemons. 

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Dill Pickles

Every good charcuterie platter needs some pickles and i've been waiting for these supposed gherkin size cukes from my local veg purveyor. Unfortunately, they came much bigger then i was expecting but they were nice and firm and you could tell they were freshly picked. So the boys and I sorted them out by size and soaked them in ice water overnight. I made a batch last month and fermented them with a cold pickle rather then pouring over the pickling liquid hot. I really like the straight fermentation method as the spices really seem to penetrate them in a subtle way as well as keeping there colour and crunch.  Unfortunately, time is tight and i needed these guys sooner then later. So i opted for a hot brine to quicken the process. 
Making dills are easier then most people think. There are no special ingredients and the process is pretty straightforward. First I took the water, vinegar and salt and got that heating up. In the mean time i started layering levels of dill, garlic, pickling spice, horseradish, chilies, and cukes then i repeat the process. Once the brine was up to a boil i poured it over the cucumbers and covered the container with cheesecloth and then weighted them down. its important to keep them fully submerged while they ferment or else they will invite unwanted bacteria and ruin the whole batch. During the fermentation process a white scum should form at the top. This should be skimmed periodically and not be a cause for alarm. You will notice the brine getting cloudy which is a good thing and its basically telling you that you are on the right track. If the brine start to evaporate, just top it up with more. You do not need to heat it up after the initial shocking. 

Brined Dill Pickles
2L water
1/3 cup coarse salt
1/2 cup white vinegar 5%

For every 10 lbs of cucumbers
2-3 bunches fresh dill
3/4 cup pickling spice
20 cloves garlic
1 tbsp grated horseradish
chili flakes to taste

Use enough brine to fully cover cucumbers. The horseradish is used to keep the crunch in the cucumber, but if you prefer, grape leaves or alum can also be used. Happy pickles!

Monday, August 25, 2008

4am Ramblings

This week was a long week and i expect next week to be longer. The stress of opening a restaurant while finishing at another is getting to me slightly. Trying to juggle both jobs at once has been interesting to say the least. I have three weeks left and as the boys in the kitchen say 'let's  finish strong'. I guess the hardest part has been the balance of making charcuterie and preserving what i can while its still in season. If i had known about this whole restaurant a month early everything would be gravy. I could have gotten my charcuterie out of the way the first month and had this month to preserve. Currently, preserves are ahead in the race and are currently my main focus. Trying to judge how much i should preserve keeping within the budget is a whole other battle. I have no clue how quickly i will go through all these mason jars of yummy stuff. If we get busy and i run out of preserves in january that would really suck. So im trying to make the most of what i can and what we can afford. As i write this i'm falling asleep but im already backlogged on updates as i've been processing so much that i have to post a few things and keep on top of things. I got the dill pickles and strawberry jam out of the way this past week. Next week is battle eggplant, coronation grape, wild blueberry, elderberry, and some more peaches if i can squeeze it in. I have 5 days to do it because as it stands, I'll be doing my first Charcuterie Sunday for this restaurant. We will be doing it on the labour day long weekend. A long weekend indeed by the looks of it. I havn't really thought much on what we will be producing that sunday, i have a budget meeting tomorrow and i guess i'll have a better idea on what i can spend. I'm hoping to get some panchetta started, some sort of salami, maybe sopprassata, perhaps a smoked venison if i can source some good meat. i'd like to do a beef and dill one i did a while back which i had a recipe i wrote on a scrap piece of paper but lost it. Hopefully by then my breasola and ducks will be ready to hang. Its almost 4 am, my spell checker is working way to hard and i should sleep. I still havn't quit smoking, but im planning too soon. 

Thursday, August 21, 2008


There's something about preserving that brings people together. Even after a long day (13 hours) at work my fellow cooks are still up for lending a hand. Especially, when it comes to something so seasonal like pickling cucumbers or harvesting the last of Ontario strawberries for jam. In this we did both. The good thing about my crew is that before i even ask, they already have there hands in on the action. We had two bushels of cukes. Unfortunately, they wern't the gherkin size ones i was expecting. Supposedly you cant find those in ontario. Anyways, we separated them into small, medium and large. It literally felt like a bottomless pit, luckily we killed time talking smack and drinking beers. Nearing the end, we started fighting over what size constitutes a small, medium, large and to see 
who could find the smallest cucumber. Typical of 4 cooks at 1 o'clock in the morning. I poured ice water over the cukes and plan to let them sit over night to crisp up, we will start the fermentation process tomorrow. I halved and quartered the strawberries, then mixed them with a bit of sugar. Im trying a new 3 day recipe, supposedly it helps keep the strawberries a bright red rather then doing everything in one shot where you have to boil them hard for a long period of time to achieve the right consistency, while also losing there colour. 

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Peach Lavender Preserve

I have done a decent amount of compotes, jellies and pickles in the kitchen, but never really taken a stab at preserving in mason jars the old fashion way. I've either made just enough to last in a deli container or been lucky enough to have a vac pac machine. Come to think about it, this is the first time i've really used pectin. I've always been used to using agar agar or gelatin to set things. My minds been going in a million different directions these days, finishing up my last month at my current restaurant and preparing for this new venture its been hard to focus on any one thing. While walking through kensington this weekend i saw some beautiful ontario peaches. Not as nice as the ones from the farmers market earlier in the week, but nice enough to try my hand in preserving. So i picked up a box and brought in home. 
As I perused my Small Batch Preserving book i came across an interesting pairing of peach and lavender. Then i dug deeper into the world of preserving and read up on the process, the tools, the ingredient (pectin) all so new to me. Seemed easy enough. So i made several trips to the hardware store and local dollerama, determined to preserve those peaches that night. Picked up a box of certa pectin and i was ready to commence. What i thought was to be an easy process wasn't as so. First off the recipe used much more sugar then i felt comfortable using. I thought to myself i was trying to preserve the flavor of peaches for another season, not to taste sugar. I know sugar acts as a preservative, but in my mind it was way to much. So i diced up the peaches, cooked it out for a few minutes with the sugar, lemon juice, and infused lavender "stock" and added my pouch of certa. Mind you the recipes always ask for a package of powder or liquid pectin, but fail to state what brand or in what quantity. After completing the process, i filled up my mason jars, submerged then under boiling water for 10 minutes and took them off to cool for 24 hours unfortunately they didn't gel up like i would have wanted. Right away i was turned off from certa. So i contacted a pastry chef and found a good quality french powdered pectin, unfortunately they informed me that preserving was a touch and go process and there was a ton of variables (pectin contact of fruit, ripeness, etc... ), but i was determined to write my first recipe and acheive a useable product. I also think it will be easier if i pick one type of pectin and stick to it. So i diced the peaches, added the sugar, lemon juice, and lavender stock, again. Weighed out my pectin at one gram per 100 grams of pulp(in this case the weight of peaches) added a touch of sugar to help minimize the clumping as i diluted the pectin in enough water (about a 1/2 cup) . It gelled up right away and had clumps. i took a hand blender and smoothed it out. I then added this to the peach mixture and boiled it out for several minutes. And as quickly as it started, it was finished. I did three batches, same recipe. the first one i kept the peaches in there diced state, another i strained a bit of the liquid off and blended the peaches smooth, and the third one i really brought down and caramelized. The caramelized batch was too stiff. My guess is i didn't change the amount of pectin to take into account the extra water loss. I just thinned it out with some water till it reached a nice consistency and bottled it. 
Attempt #2 a success!

Peach Lavender Jam 
900 gr small diced peaches (approx 4 cups)
730 gr white sugar
2 tbsp lemon juice
9 gr powdered pectin 
2 tbsp dried lavender 
1/2 cup boiling water
extra water for diluting the pectin. about 1/2 cup