Sunday, December 15, 2013

guanciale progress

My guanciale has been sitting tightly packed in a bowl with salt and seasonings in the refrigerator for about 14 days now.

Today, I rinsed it off under cold water, patted it dry, let it dry out more in front of a cold, open window and then hung it in a storage crate. We closed off the heat vent in our extra bedroom and will keep a window cracked and the ceiling fan on for what should be the ideal curing environment of 50 to 60 degrees and high-at-first-but-slowly-decreasing humidity for at least six weeks.

There were no funky aromas when I removed it from the fridge -- in fact, it smelled really good -- salty and aged even (and maybe a little like bacon, but that might be wishful thinking on my part). With any luck, we won't end up with three rotting slabs of meat in our house. Also, fingers crossed we both remember to keep the doors to this bedroom shut so that none of the critters gains access to what will hopefully be a delightful charcuterie.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

christmas tree

We don't do Christmas trees very often, mostly out of sheer laziness and because we don't have a lot of holiday decorations.

Nowadays, there is simply no room in our little abode for a Christmas tree, and the animals would have a heyday with one anyway.

This number deserves to be added to the Pinterest Fail collection, but I still love it regardless. I'm one of those people that leaves Christmas lights up year-round because I love their glow and soft ambiance (and they make for excellent lighting when you're not yet ready to actually turn on a lamp in the early morning).

Sunday, December 1, 2013

fresh home-grown pork

As promised, we processed our first pig ever on Saturday.

This community into which we've submersed ourselves is downright amazing with their neighborliness and all that. People come out of the woodwork to help with a good, old-fashioned hog slaughter.

Our refrigerator and chest freezers are now full of amazing home-grown (and wild-caught) bounty from our garden and animals, and for that, we are so very thankful.

I'll spare you the business end of the slaughter.

Clyde being a good, little babysitter for the neighbor's kid.

I'm still not totally clear on why folks around here like to scrape the hair off the pig skin because when it comes down to it, most of the meat ends up skinless anyway, but I'm not one to really argue when neighbors are helping us put a 350 pound hog in the freezer. We guessed that Grumpig was about 250, while the neighbors claimed he was probably closer to 400, so we're calling it at 325 pounds and leaving it at that.

We ended up with 30 pounds of sausage, 12 pounds of tenderloin/backstraps (a little known piece of trivia we've heard is that all the "tenderloin" you get at the grocery store is actually backstrap -- the actual tenderloin probably mysteriously disappears into the butcher's freezer because NO ONE gives up tenderloin), two monstrous bacon slabs, two behemoth hams, and enough ribs to put any bar-b-que to shame.

I also started the process of making guanciale from the jowls based on this recipe.

This "salt box" contains our two bacon slabs sandwiched between a mixture of salt, sugar and red pepper flakes, and then one of the hams on top with just salt and red pepper flakes. Holes are drilled in the bin for airflow, and then after four weeks, the ham will be hung wrapped in several layers of cotton for at least six months in a cold, drafty place to finish curing. I'll have to consult one of our meat preserving books because I can't remember what happens next with the bacon (we're not smoking it). The other ham is going to the local butcher to be sliced up evenly, and then I'm not sure what's happening with that next either.

Happig gets processed in a month or so, and we're kind of at a loss as to where he's gonna go because everything is full, and I can't see us putting much of a dent in our meat storage anytime soon. Needless to say, I don't think we'll be getting more piglets in the spring.

We had a backstrap (well, part of one because they're about two feet long each) for dinner tonight, roasted in the oven with some salt, pepper, butter, caramelized onions and a dessert wine deglazing coupled with some of Jay's awesome ciabatta bread. I felt a tinge of weirdness knowing that we were eating Grumpig -- but that quickly faded (for a variety of reasons I won't overanalyze). Good deal.