Thursday, March 5, 2009

Culinary communion charcuterie class

I take pains to raise a great product, and when I do, I'd like to see as much of it as possible get used. With that goal, I'm always interested in learning more about how to utilize the parts of the animal that aren't typically used. The blood, liver, skin, trotters and so on are all parts of the pigs that are, in my opinion underutilized.

I'm not a fanatic about this -- it has to taste good, too.

So this is the first piece of kitchen equipment that I really liked. It's a huge steam kettle that both allows you to draw liquid off the bottom, for stocks or broth or whatever, and tilts so you can empty it. It holds...50 gallons?

The class started with a half a pig laying on the table. Pink, with the USDA slaughter marks stamped on it, it was a duroc/hampshire off of the farm that Gabriel Claycamp is now a part owner of. For me it was interesting to look at because i don't often deal with USDA slaughtered animals; most of my sales are custom slaughter. So they do things like trim the eyelids off, and they seemed to have hacked the feet with a knife a lot, which I couldn't really figure out. No matter.

So we hacked the pig apart into the primal cuts. The top of the shoulder went into roasts to be cured as copa, the ribs were filleted out to allow us to use the side of the pig, the front leg boned and cubed, the ham carefully cut off under Gabriels' direction. The class materials has some diagrams of this, but it's difficult to do this from a black and white diagram or even a black and white photograph. The overall procedure was different than American butchery that I've done in the past -- basically we removed the legs and deboned the carcass with an hour of knife work.

The head, feet, kidneys and the entire skeleton were put into that huge steam kettle along with orange zest, leeks, celery and various other spices, and the whole lot was simmered for the rest of the day, resulting in this:

You can see the head of the pig in the center, and a rib bone, and various cooked vegetables. So the process from here for making Coppa Di Testa is to pick the meat off the bones, separate out the pig snout and ears and slice them thin, discard the vegges, place into a turine, refrigerate while being pressed. I liked the idea of this dish because it uses the meat from the entire pig head. Unfortunately for me we didn't finish this dish during the class, so I can't tell you how it might taste.

Here we're working on the Cotechino, a larger sausage that includes the skin of the pig. This is pretty cool for me because the skin isn't an ingredient that I've used before. The tray in the center is trimmed bits of pork skin, so the first thing you do is scrape most of the fat off the skin.

The skin before being processed. I'm not sure why it was cut into small bits like this, it might be easier to scrape in bigger sheets, but I'm here to learn, so I'm scraping the bits.

this is the bulk of the material, ready for grinding. The skin on the left, the cubed pork shoulder on the right. You grind all of the ingredients through a medium plate, here's the skin.

It has an interesting texture to it. It's a little springy and rubbery. When you put your hand into it it feels a little like tapioca. At this point I'm curious what it'll taste like.

You grind the skin, mix it with the rest of the ingredients, and then grind it again through a medium plate, and then toss the whole thing into a mixer and mix it for 5 minutes or so to get the right consistency. Then you cook a little piece of it as a final check of seasoning, and then load it into a sausage stuffer -- pictured below. I've been using my kitchenaide mixer attachment. This one made 15lbs of sausage go in 10 minutes.

The finished sausages are on the pan. Here the casings are being threaded onto the spigot for the sausage stuffer.

We made other fresh sausages as well, here's bratwurst, but I've done a lot of fresh sausages so this part wasn't very interesting. They're pretty, though.
Each of the two days of the class ended with a meal based on some of the items that we'd prepared. Here's the upstairs kitchen of Culinary Communion.

A good way to spend a weekend.


Anonymous said...

Wow, what a great experience and post! It's having access to things like this that make me envious of living closer to civilization.


Bruce King said...

As a followup on this entry, the culinary communion cooking school went out of business March 19, 2009.