Friday, December 7, 2012

Getting ready for a weekend of cooking!

Our charcuterie just before the mouse invasion!
I just did a quick run down to Gasparro’s, our favorite butcher on Bloor Street here in Toronto. We always like to have a chicken on hand and our spare got used last week in an experiment with brining and smoking – which was a spectacular success (more about that in the future: we’re still in the research stage).

Nick Gasparro sold me a beautiful pork roast (why are all butchers suddenly “Frenching” the rib ends on their roasts?), six ribs-worth. Karel and I are going to cold smoke it on Sunday in another experiment, then hot smoke it to finish. We’ll use two different woods: maple and hickory.

Normally, Karel and I do our weekly food shopping on Saturday mornings, mostly at Toronto's fabulous St. Lawrence Market on Front Street. Today, though, I needed to get the brining of the pork roast started since it needs twelve hours in the liquid and then to rest in the fridge for several hours so the salt can spread evenly through the meat. Our goal is to have the roast lightly salted and with brining it’s pretty easy to overdo it. Since we’re using salt in this case more as a seasoning than to preserve the meat, it’s better to leave it in the brine for too little time than the opposite.

The brine recipe is from my current favorite cookbook (we have over 100), Charcuterie (link is live in case you wish to order it). It’s Brian Polcyn’s creation and he doesn’t smoke it after brining, he grills it, which does add some smoke flavor. But we’ve got a really good reason for branching off on our own: we’re going to serve smoked pork chops to enjoy with homemade sauerkraut we made in October under the expert guidance of the Gluch family – of great sauerkraut renown. Vicki has come up with what looks like a great recipe for baking raw sauerkraut (herbs, spices and riesling wine), and if it works out, we’ll be sharing that with all of you, too. As a teaser, the brine we’re using is flavored with dark brown sugar, juniper berries, fresh sage, garlic and black pepper. Right now it’s cooling on the back step and the roast will soon go in for twelve hours or so. It smells heavenly.

A CURING UPDATE: Currently, we have four hog jowls (guanciale) and two pounds of pork loin (lonzino) air-drying in our basement. It all smells heavenly. Only problem is, it also smelled heavenly to some deer mice that must have come into our house when the cold weather hit. Not having checked the two jowls finished at that time and hanging from our water pipe, I was shocked to see how much had been nibbled away. We’ve decided to let the damaged ones continue hanging after dispatching two of the little rodents (both female, thank heavens). Seeing no more of their little carcases in our traps for the past two days, I think we’re safe. We’ll just cut away the nibbled parts, and keep the remaining guanciale to be enjoyed “chez nous”, using the two we’ve cured and hung since to share with other people.

Fortunately, the little critters didn’t seem to care for lonzino (probably the fennel I used in the cure) or I would have been really put out. To combat further mice invasions on our larder, I’ve left the traps out, and moved everything to a place where they shouldn’t be able to get at it again. But the whole thing remains a huge bummer. For the future, I may need to make some sort of wire box since with our house’s foundation resembling Swiss cheese, we tend to get a few of the little buggers in every autumn.

To conclude, stay tuned for our report on the results of this weekend’s culinary adventures. We haven’t written much about German food on the blog so far, and what could be more Teutonic than Kassler Rippchen, boiled potatoes and sauerkraut?

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