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Thursday, January 18, 2007

The Larder

Mr. Chalmers and I made five pounds of jagerwurst on Sunday. Next time we break out the meat grinder we really should make ten pounds. We pretty much followed the recipe in Charcuterie: 5 pounds cubed Boston butt pork with all its fat, mixed with salt, 1 teaspoon sodium nitrite (pink salt), black pepper, ground ginger, toasted crushed coriander seeds, toasted whole mustard seeds (we used black), nutmeg, minced fresh garlic, and nonfat dry milk powder. We put it through the grinder with the coarse plate, then put half of it through the fine plate, then the stronger of the two of us beat the heck out of it to mix it up really well. Stuffed it into hog casings we'd brought with us from Florida—those things last forever in brine or coated with coarse salt. Hung them from hooks under the shelf I put up in the cool pantry for a few hours to let the surface dry. Smoked them with hickory at 180 degrees, or as close to that temperature as we could maintain, for an indeterminate time (four hours?), until the internal temperature of the sausage was about 150 degrees. Plunged the sausages into ice water to chill and prevent shrinkage. They were good hot out of the smoker, but better cold and thinly sliced. The texture is nice: smooth and firm, but studded with larger bits. The casing is a little bit tough, though, and I'm not sure how to prevent that next time.

The next day, we got a whole duckling at Whole Foods in Buckhead (I'd been unable to find just duck breasts), and yesterday I broke it down into parts. Leg/thigh quarters are in the freezer to be made into confit later. I rendered all the extra fat, which came to about two cups—I'll cut this with schmaltz and maybe good lard when I make confit. I took the breasts off and packed them in a mixture of kosher salt, crushed juniper berries and bay leaves, and a little black pepper. Today I rinsed them off, dusted them with a touch of finely ground black pepper all over (I don't like white pepper at all), tied them in cheesecloth, and hung them in the pantry, where they'll dry for about seven days (the temperature in there right now is about, oh, 51.8 degrees, which according to R&P is just right), becoming duck "prosciutto," which I gather you slice very thinly and eat just as you would the real thing. I don't know, it sounds good. I've never had it before. These might take less than a week to dry-cure, because they're flatter than the average duck breast.

Right now it's looking like the duck wings and carcass will end up as a base for congee (or jook), a bland version of which I think would make an excellent baby food. I guess I'll roast them, then toss them in the slow cooker with rice and lots of water, plus, maybe, star anise? For now they're in the freezer.

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