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    Austin, TX
  1. Thanks David - I think I've got the cooler staying in the right range of both. But I am still looking for input on air circulation and contamination risk - Is opening it every day to change the ice too much air circulation, or too little? Has anyone had problems with mold in chambers that got opened often? Big blocks of ice frozen in disposable 2qt containers kept in a small cooler in the big one keep it in the low 60s for a day and a half at a time so far. Humidity is easy with a tub of salt and water - mostly salt. Thanks for the link to McGee's column! I miss some of them as they come out irregularly. I had just been reading in his book about enzymes in country ham, and I've bookmarked the Newsom's site for the fall, when they'll have more aged hams from this past winter. I would worry about actually starting the hanging while it is warm, or soon to fluctuate. All the traditionally made country hams, whether from Germany, Spain, Italy, or the U.S. were made with pigs slaughtered in cold weather. And it stayed cold a while, right? Once a good chunk of the water is gone, I am happy to let the enzymes do their stuff breaking down proteins in varying temps, but until then the risk of growth of microbes would worry me... Cheers, Peter
  2. I'm looking for a (very) inexpensive way to do a difficult thing - dry cure in Houston - and I'd really appreciate some advice/guidance on my idea - curing in a cooler using ice to get to the right temperature. What do you think of this idea? Has anyone tried such a thing? Supposing I solve the temperature issue, my worries are air circulation (maybe too much from changing ice every day??) and contamination - I've thought of turning it on its side, or even hanging it upside down to keep mold spores from falling in... like Pasteur's famous broth experiment - open to the air only through a gooseneck it kept sterile for weeks. I live in an apartment with no space for a second fridge. The air temperature in the closet under the stairs (coolest spot I can find) is a stable 72. I've got the meat for a coppa curing for another few weeks, so I've got time to problem solve, or change course if I am making a big mistake... I've started experimenting with ways to control the environment, but assuming I can solve them, I'd still need to open it every day or so to replace the ice. Humidity shouldn't be a problem, if I get the right diameter bowl of watery salt, right? On temperature - I've tried ice packs and frozen bottles of water so far, and they get the air temp. down into the sixties. So now I'm trying a tiny cooler absolutely filled with ice inside the larger one - to keep it cool longer. I believe that I should be able to get the temperature to the right range long enough... I hope! What do you all think? Thanks!
  3. Two things: I too would love to learn from you all about how to tell when a piece of meat has cured- I imagine by touch, but I suppose weight could be used, even when it is in a dry cure- messy as that would be. There ought to be many years of experience among the members of this board by now, especially some of you who mess around with more than one project a week like me! Also- Salt. Reading this book and Mark Kurlansky's book on salt have filled my imagination for the last six months. First, where can one get large quantities of un iodized salt? Neither Costco nor the more evil twin of it seem to carry it (though I once was able to get unbleahed flour at 25lbs/$5). Any ohter ideas? Also, where might one find other salts? I am happy to pay a bit of money for hand-made salt, but would really love to find interesting salt with mineral 'impurities' for better than the boutique prices I would pay now- after all, natural salt is not all that rare... Thanks again for this wonderful resource! This week I made my first successful confit. That duck seemed to be half fat! But oh, how tasty it was, all garlic and sage and juniper and salty
  4. Mike, I should have posted that I, too, have found my pork bellies at the Hong Kong market. What is the 'new MT'? By the way, there is a farmer at the Austin farmer's market who will sell pork bellies, and jowls, and everything else- in season. It is Peach Tree farms. The in-season bit may sound surprising now, but pigs (and all livestock) put on fat naturally in the fall, and until factory farming and feedlots began in the twentieth century, farmers waited until fall and early winter to slaughter- both for the body fat in the meat, and because it would have been crazy to butcher meat in this weather! Anyway, I look forward to seeing the difference in the fall. Cheers, Peter
  5. Question about ham: I have a friend who is a hunter, and he has just given me a frozen foreleg of a wild pig. What can I do with this? I would love to dry cure it, but I don't know if frozen meat does well. If I did, as it is small, how do I tell how long it needs to be in the cure? Thanks!
  6. pedrissimo

    Jowl bacon

    Kent, Where did you get the bacon? Who was the farmer? I have been looking for some (really, just the pre-cured jowls) here in Austin. Jowl bacon is called guanciale in Italy (though cured differently). You can find a lot about it on a thread called Cooking wth Charcuterie. That is a cookbook by Michael Ruhlman- who is kind enough to give advice from time to time.. Guanciale is supposed to be delicious. I haven't had either guanciale or jowl bacon yet (though i have seen the latter in Elgin at one of the BBQ meat markets, and in east Texas). Well, be sure to post a follow-up on how it tastes!
  7. I get about 1 1/2 hours out of a good handful of chips or a few chunks. Now i have to fine tune my dial- I did the whiskey glazed chicken, and it turned to rubber last night! The temp was too low too long because the chips bring the temperature down. Oh well- the glaze was awesome- like Mexican candy! Now I will have smokey chicken stock. Live and learn- keep the temperature up around 200! I figured it could just go slower, as the pink salt would remove my worry about botulism. Turns out there are other reasons to keep the temperature up. By the way, you do have to take it apart- but it isn't hard, and the ceramic holds the heat well.
  8. Abra, the diameter is somewhere around 18 or 19 inches- the same as the Weber Smokey Mountain. It is enough for a full size untrimmed brisket straight from the packing plant (with a squeeze at the beginning). It would easily hold 3 full size bellies or a belly, a ham, and a chicken. it has done 5 lbs of sausage, and will do 10- provided you aren't picky about the grill marks (they didn't mask the color, unlike what others have seen). The Bradley sure is nice, especially the digital, for picking a temperature and keeping it there. This takes some dialing in, but it does tend to keep temp with all that ceramic. But those of you who want to smoke but are leery of the investment and space..., this is an easy afternoon project. It won't cold smoke, though. Yet!
  9. By the way, I am sort of interested in a Bradley smoker, but it costs a chunk of change, and I have made a deal with my lovely wife and business manager that my hobbys have to be cheap. Eventually, if my hobbies taste really good, the money can come out of the foood budget. Seems fair to me- I get to play, but have to be judicious. Anyway, I made Alton brown's flower pot smoker from Good Eats, with a few little changes that make it perfect for summer time charcuterie: I took out the switch from the hotplate that supplies the heat (it cyclled 50 degrees up and down) and put a dimmer switch in an extension cord. I couldn't find his suggested lid of a round flower pot, so I used a five dollar wash tub. I had trouble with fat dripping on my pie pans that hold my wood chips (smoking fat smells baaad), so I use heavy duty aluminum foil to deflect the fat. Total cost: $17 flower pot, $5 lid, $6 smoker grate (also at home depot), $7.50 hot plate at Walmart the evil, $5 dimmer switch, $1 switch box, deep fry thermometer already in the drawer, power strip already have 10 of those...= $41.50 I don't have to buy those biscuits to smoke, and in the winter i will rig up a new lid with dryer duct to a cardboard box for cold smoking. It works fantastic- I can choose my temperature, I have made a 12 pound brisket, a few pork shoulders, a pork loin (see the book), and most excitingly, my bacon. Man, that bacon! That was the key to getting my hobby paid for
  10. So, I am getting ready to make the Whisky Glazed Smoked Chicken, using a little bird I got at the farmer's market yesterday. I had extra brine, as the bird is so small, and I decided it would be neat to brine some eggs. I have been listening to the book Salt by Mark Kurlansky, and all the descriptions of salt cured fish, meat, vegetables, and even eggs made me want to try... My question: there is a bit of pink salt in the brine. What are the safety issues involved? I carefully wipe up all the dry cure that spills, and wash everything..., but I know that it eventuallly gets transformed in the meat. Will it get transformed in the eggs?
  11. The difference is huge. The hickory I am using has a bit of an odd metallic edge to it- just a touch, and is strong and familiar. I smoked kielbasa last night with it- it is awesome- tender, brown on the outside, pink on the inside, ready for my wife's white bean, kielbasa, carrot and kale soup. But the cherry is fragrant and just as intense, but more subtle, if that makes sense. The smell of it leaps out of the bacon, and it is intoxicating. I have only started to experiment with smoking this spring, and besides a brisket, some pork shoulders, and a few links of cajun-style boudin, the bacon and the kielbasa are my first relatively un-spiced smokings. I have heard that many of the fruitwoods are milder, but I didn't realize that they could still impart such intense flavor. I wouldn't smoke a brisket in cherry, though. Probably mildly spiced pork, chicken, and fish. On the other hand, mesquite and hickory can stand up to beef and heavily spiced meats. Does that make sense? Cheers, Peter Thanks, Peter. I had the feeling that it was still worth it for the taste. On the bacon, how did you like the flavor of the cherry wood? I used hickory when I did it and thought it was a bit harsh. I'm thinking about apple or cherry next time. And Abra, I know how frustrating the BP stuff can be sometimes. The day I got my order, I realized I wanted to order the M-EK as well to try to get some white mold. With their shipping as expensive as it is, I feel like I should wait until I need a bunch of stuff before I order. Oh well! ←
  12. Rob, It seems to me that the bacteria don't just kill bacteria- as far as I understand it, they share that duty with your curing salt (in this case #2, right?). For us, who have fridges, in the modern world, the most important thing they bring besides another measure of safety is that they completely change the taste of the meat! They are a mix of bacteria that is much like the bacteria used to make yogurt, and some cheeses. I know that the stuff from BP includes at least one strain from Lactobacillus, which is the same genus as you find in most yogurt. Yogurt sure does taste different from milk, and the low pH allows it to be more stable. At the same time, just like your body, or yogurt, you want your sausage to be colonized by benign bacteria, not nasty kinds! That, in addition to the low pH will reduce the risk of later infection by the unhealthy ones! By the way, I just made my first bacon- cherry smoked with brown sugar in the cure, and it smells AMAZING- I fried up a few thick chunks and diced them into a potato salad with mayo, green onions, green beans, and salt and pepper. Served it warm. Mmmmmmmm. Cheers, Peter
  13. I just asked a lab tech used to using bacteria. We have two freezers here- -20C and -80C. She thinks that if you divide the packet up into little amounts and don't open each little packet until you are ready, they ought to be able to last for a few years at ~-20C. You should actually check your home freezer- my normal freezer at home gets to -24C if you crank it down (some people MAY not like their vegetables to freeze in the fridge, though!) I will divide my bactoferm into little plastic tubes, but it strikes me that press and seal ought to work perfectly for making tiny little packets.
  14. What about a bunch of ice in a bowl in that fridge- it might lower the temp enough in the giant sealed cooler that is a fridge, and raise the humidity... I have no idea how long a bag of ice would last, but if your other fridge has an icemaker.... Elie, what are you going to use as a curing chamber? I think uptopic, Abra said she got several kinds ready at the same time, and felt that it was faster than doing three or four separate "getting everything ready" sessions. And Rob, welcome to the party! You've done a very impressive job of getting going, and I'm going to have to try the hot plate method. ← Being in Houston, humidity is more than available. My problem is the hotter than ideal temperature (probably in the 70s) in my house. So I am not too sure but I think I will try a large cardboard box to start with and see if it works out. If not then the extra fridge in the garage (too low of a temp and humidity) that I used for the Braseola way back when might have to be my chamber. Any other -inexpensive- ideas? ←
  15. Start simple and easy! The hook for me was the miraculous transformation of the first piece of fatty pork into a pancetta-like object with a bit of salt, spice, and nitrite. It goes from cheap by-product to this amazing thing that will make the house smell heavenly when you fry it up to start a soup.... My first dry cured meat will be a coppa- I won't cut it up. Part of the reason I am starting simple is that I am trying to learn from my mistakes, and i don't want my disasters to come in the form of a sausage that I made from meat i carefully trimmed, chilled, ground, mixed, stuffed, and hung. I am trying cure, cure, hang.
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