Rillons

So, it’s been a while since I posted anything up here. So long in fact that it feels kind of strange to be writing a blog post. Anyway, rather than make a load of excuses about why I haven’t posted recently or resolutions about how I’m going to blog more in 2013 (I’ll try, alright?) I thought I should just get on and tell you about why I’m writing this blog post.

About six months ago I was walking past the Sillfield Farm shop at Borough and noticed that they were selling off huge hunks of rare breed pork belly for super cheap. Consequently, I ended up with a couple of kilos of tasty belly pork which I promptly froze and they’ve been sitting in my freezer waiting for me to use them ever since. Every time I’ve opened the freezer, it’s been sitting there reminding me that I still haven’t cooked it. Eventually, I couldn’t stand it any more, knowing that it was in there like the tell tale pig, so I defrosted it, reasoning that would force me to cook it.

But what to make? Given that it’s Christmas, my house is already awash with a surfeit of roasted meat and much as I love roast pork, I couldn’t quite face any more rich roast meat so I decided on using some of the meat to make rillons, juicy tender cubes of belly pork, slow cooked in fat and aromatics and then preserved under a layer of lard. REALLY TASTY!

This recipe is very similar to the one for rillettes that I made a year or so ago, the main difference being that I’ve cooked them with some extra aromatics and haven’t shredded them like you would do with rillettes.

You can use rillons much like you would rillettes, spooned straight from the jar and spread on toast.

They’re also amazing when refried until crispy and served with potatoes, spring greens etc. They make a perfect store cupboard food for when you don’t have the time or inclination to make something fancy as they keep for ages!

Rillon ingredients. More green than pink...

Rillon ingredients. More green than pink…

Jon’s Rillons
800g belly pork
2 tsp celery salt
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp black peppercorns
2 tsp fresh picked thyme leaves
4/5 garlic cloves
150 ml white wine
3 bay leaves

Preheat your oven to a super low setting,(Gas Mark 1/4 or about 80c)

Whilst it is coming up to temperature, take your belly pork, derind it, and chop it into cubes of about an inch in size.

Cubing the pork with my favourite jamon knife.

Cubing the pork with my favourite jamon knife.

Next, place the pork in a large casserole dish with a close fitting lid. Add all of the other ingredients and mix thoroughly.until the meat is well covered in seasonings. Make a lid for the casserole dish using foil before adding the actual lid. This will ensure that the meat gently steams in its own juices and makes it super tender.

Ready for the ole low'n'slow.

Ready for the ole low’n’slow.

Put the pork in the oven and cook for at least 8 hours. It’s good to cook overnight or whilst you’re out at work. It doesn’t matter if you cook it for longer than eight hours, it’s only going to get more tender. When you’re happy that the pork is thoroughly cooked, remove it from the oven and discard the foil. By this time the meat should be meltingly tender and relaxing in a jacuzzi of its own fat.

Carefully strain the meat through a sieve to separate out the fat. Reserve the fat. You may want to discard the garlic or leave it in there. I got rid of mine as it’d oxidised slightly and gone an unattractive green/blue colour.

Packing Pork

Packing Pork

Take your pork chunks and pack them loosely into sterilised pots or jars before pouring over the liquid fat to create an airtight seal around the meat. Set them aside to cool and there you have it; a finished jar of rillons. Dig in!

Finished jar of rillons.

Finished jar of rillons.

Semi Cured Chorizo

Chorizo Ingredients

Proper chorizo is one of my very favourite things in life. Cured and served cold or hot and freshly cooked, its robust paprika flavour and heavenly brick red fat are truly one of the best things you can eat. In fact,  I can’t believe it’s taken me so long to have a go at making my own. I think part of the problem is that chorizo has become ubiquitous. You can get a decent Spanish cured chorizo in a lot of corner shops round my way, particularly at Borough Market or the Portuguese deli in Vauxhall

What are less easy to find are the semi-cured cooking chorizo that impart such a delicious flavour to soups, stews and rice dishes. True, you can get them at Brindisa but they’re very easy and great fun to make at home and are considerably cheaper than bought ones.

Making this recipe also gave me a good excuse for me to show off my shiny new electric mincer. After many months of hand cranking my meat (I try to avoid bad sausage puns but sometimes I just can’t help myself) I was very kindly bought a basic electric mincer as a Christmas gift. The mincer works very well, although I’m still finding my way around it and am yet to master the art of using it for sausage stuffing. On the whole though, the new machine is super quick at mincing and best of all, it’s whisper quiet.*. Great value for saving time and effort.

The recipe follows. It make a very fine sausage but its one that I will inevitably come back to and tweak, fiddle and play with in my quest for a perfect chorizo. I’ll post any updates I do as and when in this post.

Spices

Jon’s Semi-Cured Chorizo
800g pork shoulder
150g pork belly
75g breadcrumbs
22g salt
2g Prague powder #1
10g smoked paprika
10g sweet paprika
7g garlic powder
2g oregano
1g ground chipotle
50ml white wine
Hog casings, about 6 feet

First soak your casings in clean cold water for a couple of hours to remove the salt in which they’re packed.

Cube the pork shoulder and belly into chunks small enough to feed through your mincer. Place in the freezer to chill for 30 minutes or so. In the meantime, weigh out all of your spices and mix thoroughly. When you’re ready to mince your pork, assemble your mincer and fit it with a coarse mincing plate. Remove your meat from the freezer and slowly feed it through the mincer until you have a big pile of minced meat in front of you. Transfer it to a large mixing bowl.

Mincing meat with my shiny new mincer

Using your hands or a spoon, slowly fold in your spices and breadcrumbs, adding enough white wine to bind. Make sure everything is thoroughly combined.This is especially important when you’re using Prague powder as you don’t want to end up with all of your sodium nitrite in one place. There’s a lot of discussion on the internet about whether cured food is bad for you but suffice to say, a big build up of sodium nitrite in one go will do you no good at all.

Thoroughly mixed chorizo sausagemeat

At this stage, you can decide whether to stuff your chorizo into skins. Loose, the meat is great with scrambled eggs or thrown into a tomato sauce to give it a smoky depth of flavour. If you decide not to stuff the mixture pack it firmly into a tupperware box with a lid. Cover and refrigerate for about a week, draining off any liquid that leaks out every couple of days.

Otherwise, remove your casings from their soaking water and rinse thoroughly inside and out to remove any excess salt. Slide the skins over your stuffing tube and proceed to stuff your sausages in the usual way. I have to confess that I haven’t quite got the hang of my new elecric mincer/stuffer so my sausage filling wasn’t as even as I’d like. However, practice makes perfect and I daresay, I’ll have properly stuffed bangers before too long…

Wrestling with an unruly sausage stuffer

When you have fed all of your sausagemeat through your mincer, remove the unlinked sausage from your stuffing tube and tie off. Link your sausages in the usual way and place in a rack in the fridge to dry for 7-10 days. By this time the chorizos will have darkened, lost some of their weight and will feel firmer to the touch. They’ll still need cooking before you eat them. They are brilliant fried gently then cooked with rice and peppers or just in a crusty roll with some peppery salad and aioli.

Chorizo cooked with rice, leeks and peppers. Served with green beans and a tomato vinegar sauce.

Next time I make this, I’ll definitely up the chilli quota but then they’ll be a different sausages. These are pretty mild sausages compared to a lot of other chorizos but that does allow the flavour of the paprika and oregano (always use good quality oregano otherwise you won’t taste it at all) to shine through beautifully.

Finished Chorizo

*It seems the evil empire have blocked that video. For those that don’t know its a fine Simpsons infomercial for the Juice Loostener.

Revitalising Green Gumbo

Gumbo ingredients

Traditionally, gumbo is a Cajun/Creole stew thickened either with a roux or okra and containing cured pork and sausage, green vegetables and classic Cajun spices like paprika, allspice, and cayenne. My version is a little lighter and closer in consistency to a soup (as I don’t tend to thicken it) and makes an ideal, quick midweek supper or a perfect packed lunch (which has the added advantage of making co-workers jealous)

The combination of iron-rich green vegetables, spicy broth, and tasty cured meat is a truly uplifting one. Joyful, hearty, and nourishing, this a perfect dish for chasing away late winter blues. It’s also a good way to use up leftover green vegetables. Feel free to swap ingredients around; use cabbage if you don’t have cavolo nero or courgettes in place of broccoli. Whatever you want. The recipe follows.

Shredding Cavolo Nero

Jon’s basic gumbo
300g chicken thigh fillets
200g petit salé
75g smoked sausage
1 large onion, sliced
2 sticks celery, sliced
1 red pepper, cut into pieces
100g Cavolo nero, shredded
100g spinach, shredded
100g tenderstem broccolli, chopped
3 bay leaves
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp white pepper
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
1 tsp oregano
1 bunch fresh parsley, chopped
1.5 litres chicken stock

First, take your chicken thigh fillets and chop into bite-size pieces. Next, sprinkle the paprika, pepper flakes, garlic powder, cayenne, and white pepper over the chicken. Turn them a couple of times to coat and set aside.

Chicken rubbed with spices

Pour a splash of oil into a large soup pan and bring up to a medium heat. While the oil is heating, chop your petit salé into large chunks and slice the smoked sausage. When the oil is hot, add the marinated chicken pieces along with the herbs and bay leaves and fry for a couple of minutes until browned. Add your petit salé, smoked sausage, onion,celery and red pepper and continue to fry until the vegetables are soft.

Frying meat. Mmmm. Meat

Turn down the heat to a simmer and add between 1.5 and 2 litres of chicken (or vegetable) stock. Continue to cook for about 45 mins to an hour or until the flavours have developed. The soup should be a brick red colour and taste great: rich and spicy with pronounced herbal notes.

Steaming hot soup.

About 15 minutes before you’re ready to eat, add the shredded cavolo nero and chopped broccoli, stir, and keep cooking. Add the shredded spinach and half of the parsley a couple of minutes before you’re due to eat. Serve in deep bowls with a squeeze of lemon and the remaining parsley sprinkled over. You might also want a shake or two of tabasco if you like things a little picante.

Finished gumbo

Petit Salé

Ingredients. Pork looks menacing.

I’ve been wanting to try making a basic salt pork recipe for a while now. I’ve had a real craving to cook some classic french dishes like Cassoulet and Petit Salé aux lentils but that is hard to do without the star ingredient, petit salé. Petit salé is a very basic French dry cure salt pork, cured with Sel Aromatise and generally soaked before use, As with the Sel Aromatise recipe posted earlier in the week, this recipe is an adaptation of one of Lindy Wildsmith’s. I’ve made a few tweaks to the recipe to save time and cut out the soaking stage, the most important of these is reducing the salt content substantially.  I’ve also used a pinch of Prague powder to ensure that the meat retains its lovely bacon pink colour when cooked. This results in a beautiful, delicately spiced piece of pork that is equally at home in a soup, stew, or used to enhance the flavour of side dishes. It’s particularly good in my basic gumbo recipe that I’ll be writing about in a few weeks.

The pork I used for this was a tasty bit of belly that came from the Sillfield farm shop in Borough Market and came with thick creamy layers of tasty tasty fat on it (as well as quite a lot of hair. It’s strange starting a recipe by shaving your meat. I should do a post on porcine grooming at some point!)

Jon’s Petit Salé
700g pork belly, rind on.
30g sel aromatise
10g dextrose
2g Prague powder #1
2 bay leaves, crumbled
1g juniper berries, crushed.

The recipe for this,like most other bacons is incredibly simple so forgive me if the below recipe is slightly shorter than usual. It’s simply a case of some basic preparation then having the patience to wait until its ready. If however, you are confused by anything, I’d recommend casting an eye over my previous cured pork posts.

Take your piece of meat and trim off any loose bits of fat. A square or rectangular piece of petit salé is easier to cut than a misshapen piece. If your meat is hairy, you can shave it or use a lighter to burn off the excess hair.

Sprinkling the meat with cure.

Take your pork and place it in a freezer bag. Next combine your seasoning ingredients and rub them thoroughly into the meat. It makes sense to do this when it’s already in the bag as that way you won’t lose any seasoning. You want to aim for about 80% of your cure rubbed into the meaty sides and maybe 20% on the skin. My skin piece came from the butcher with the skin scored for roasting so I was able to work more cure in that way.

Meat wrapped, and ready for the fridge.

Wrap your meat in the bag and place in the fridge to cure, turning occasionally and rubbing the meat through the bag to work the salt and seasonings in. After about a week, take your meat out of the bag and place on a rack to dry. Place it back in the fridge and leave for another week to dry out by the end of which you’ll have petit salé ready to go. As I mentioned earlier, this is great in cassoulet, gumbo, or with lentils. You can also use it in place of ordinary bacon and the taste of it is just great; slightly spiced, salty and deeply porky.

Finished Petit Sale

Breakfast Chipolatas

Social media is a very good thing. The ability to communicate with people you’d never otherwise get to speak to through blogs, Twitter, Facebook etc. is great. It’s also great to be exposed to a wide variety of different of different opinions. Aoafoodie reminded me of this when he expressed his passionate dislike of chipolatas via Twitter. Much as I disagree, I’m very grateful as it gave me the impetus and the excuse to make some!

Ingredients for breakfast chipolatas

I’ve been wanting to try a recipe using sheep casings for a while now. These are the  thinner and more delicate brothers to regular hog casings and make a sausage that, when cooked, gives you a greater proportion of unctuous, gooey outer to meaty inner than regular bangers. Precisely the reason I love them.

I wanted to make a fairly unadorned sausage that wouldn’t be too challenging for breakfast time. Highly spiced sausages are great but they can be a bit much first thing in the morning. My breakfast chipolatas have a bit of sage and thyme for herbiness and a few good twists of black pepper for a gentle kick. The recipe is below.

Sage, Mace Pepper, Thyme, Salt,

Jon’s Breakfast Chipolatas
600g pork shoulder
120g belly pork
100g breadcrumbs
1 onion, grated or finely chopped.
12g salt
5g celery salt
7g black pepper
1.5g sage
1.5g thyme
1.5g mace
Water, to bind.
Sheep casings – about 12 feet.

First, soak your casings in exactly the same way as you would with hog casings. A couple of hours in clean fresh water will remove most of the salt.

Next, de-rind and chop the pork shoulder and belly into cubes large enough to fit through the mincer, and put them in the freezer for 20 minutes or so to chill. You don’t want it completely frozen but the firmer it is, the easier it will mince.

While this is chilling, weigh and combine the salt, pepper and spices and set aside. Remove your meat and fat from the freezer, and fit the mincer with a medium grinding plate. Slowly feed the chilled pork and fat through until it’s all thoroughly minced. You want a slightly finer mince than I would normally use for sausages as this will make it easier to stuff the delicate casings.

Transfer the mince to a clean surface or large mixing bowl and add your onion, breadcrumbs, and spice mix and mix by hand until combined thoroughly, adding water as necessary to form a smooth mixture. It’s important to blend the spices thoroughly because you don’t want to end up playing Russian roulette with a load of bland sausages and one really peppery one.

Breadcrumbs, Pork, Onion

Fry off a little bit of your mixture to taste for seasoning. Add more spices as necessary and set aside in the fridge or freezer to rest for 20 minutes or so.

Remove the sheep casings from their soaking water and rinse them thoroughly inside and out. Next take your smallest stuffing tube and grease it lightly before carefully sliding the casing on. Sheep casings are the avantis of the sausage skin world, so you need to treat them with care. Attach the stuffing tube to your mincer or stuffer and slowly feed the meat mixture through until it reaches the end of the tube. Take the skin and tie the end off, pricking with a sterile pin if necessary to let any excess air escape.

Slowly feed the meat mixer through the mincer until you have used all of your meat and have a long coil of sausage in front of you. It’s particularly important not to overfill the casings as you don’t want them to split. If you do tear them (I did) don’t worry, just set aside and keep going.

Wrestling with a long sausage...

Remove the leftover casings from the tube and very carefully twist into links of 6″ or so alternating between twisting clockwise and anticlockwise to ensure the sausages don’t become unravelled. Tie off the other end of your casings and your sausages are done. It makes sense to leave them for 24 hours to let the flavours develop if you can wait that long but if you have to eat them immediately, I understand.

Four fat sausages sizzling in a pan.

These chipolatas are another classic British style sausage that are great at breakfast time, in a sandwich or as a winter’s dinner served with buttered swede, kale. and onion gravy.

Pancetta

Pancetta, Pork, Bacon, Cured, Herb Crust

Pancetta, cured and ready for slicing.

One of the great advantages to curing your own pork is that it’s a great way to develop zen like levels of patience. The actual hands on effort of making your bacon or whatever is minimal and the only investment is in waiting time.

The sweetcure bacon that I made recently was cured for two weeks which resulted in a delicious, firm rasher that tasted amazing. However, I wanted to try making a bacon with a longer cure time that had an even more intense flavour. Italian stlye pancetta seemed like the ideal candidate as it had both toothsomeness from the longer cure and an intensity of flavour from the herbs used to season the cure.

While I was in Nottingham recently, visiting relatives, I managed to pick up some really good pork belly in Gonalston farm shop. Gonalston is somewhere between a traditional farm shop and a branch of Whole Foods marooned in the Nottinghamshire countryside and they take real care to ensure that their meat is both ethically and locally sourced.

With a really good bit of pork as a starting point, the next step was to devise the cure. This was based very loosely on the basic bacon recipe in Charcuterie with aditional salt and of course the selection of herbs and spices that elevate the dish far beyond ordinary bacon.

The recipe follows:

Jon’s Pancetta
850g Belly pork (trimmed weight)
25g Salt
12g Dextrose
5g Celery salt
4g Fennel seed
3g Red pepper flakes
3g Fresh thyme leaves
3g Oregano
3g Black pepper
3g Garlic powder
3g Prague powder #1
3 small bay leaves – crumbled

Pork, Thyme, Bay, Fennel Seed, Red pepper flakes, Oregano

Trimmed pork and pancetta cure ingredients

The first step in making your pancetta is to skin your pork and cut the meat away from the ribs. Cut the ribs away from the belly and set aside for another meal. Pork ribs, smoked, marinated, or just plain make a great dinner for one and are a perfect accompaniment to beer and televised sport.

Separating the ribs from the meat.

Once you meat is deboned, trim it so it’s roughly square (again, set aside the trimmings and use next time you make sausages) and set aside whilst you make your cure.

Roughly crush the fennel seeds and combine with all of the other ingredients (except the pork – yet!) in a bowl. Mix thoroughly to ensure that all of the ingredients are evenly distributed throughout the cure.

Sprinkling the pancetta with cure.

Take the trimmed pork and place it in a bowl large enough to accommodate it comfortably. Next take your cure and spread it evenly across the meat, being sure to work it into all of the meat, using your hands if necessary.

Meat rubbed with cure. Ready for refrigeration.

When your meat is fully covered place it in a plastic bag along with any excess cure and place it in the fridge for five days to a week, turning every couple of days and massaging the meat through the bag to really help the cure penetrate the meat. After a week or so, take your pancetta and place on a rack in the fridge. Some people like to wrap the meat in muslin at this stage but I didn’t bother.

Set aside the pancetta for anything up to four weeks. Anything longer than this and you probably want to use Prague powder number #2 as this is better for longer cures.

After this time your pancetta is basically ready. By now, the meat should have got much darker and be very firm to the touch.  Compare the photo below to the raw meat above.

Pancetta after 4 weeks.

Before you slice the meat, it’s worth thinking about how you’re going to use it. Pancetta is great in a posh bacon sarnie or for wrapping meat  but it’s equally good cubed and stirred through pasta or even sliced very thinly and eaten raw. I decided to cut half of my bacon into thin rashers using the meat slicer and half into one centimetre cubes using the slicer and a knife.

Cubing Pancetta. 'Dead Homies' T Shirt optional.

The pancetta is absolutely fabulous. Gently fried or grilled, it gives a really herbal fragrant bacon with a distinct but not overpowering tang of fennel that provides a wonderful base for a variety of dishes. Raw, it’s just as good, with a taste like Parma ham and the complexity of flavours from the Italian herb blend. Try it!

Finished pancetta. Sliced and cubed.

Rillettes De Porc

Recently I’ve had a real craving for rillettes, the shredded, slow cooked pork, preserved with fat and herbs. One of the great joys in life is a freshly baked baguette, slathered with rich, smooth rillettes and served with cornichons and sliced shallots and it seems every time I’m in France I gorge myself silly on it. It’s not so easy to come by in this country, however, but it is obscenely simple to make.

Pork Belly, Thyme, Bay, Salt, White Pepper, Celery Salt

Soon to be rillettes

On a whim and a recommendation, I decided to buy a copy of Lindy Wildsmith’s book Cured. This is a really excellent and informative books and has a very good selection of paté, confit and terrine recipes including rillettes. What surprised me was how incredibly simple they are to make. There is an investment in time, so they’re best done on a weekend but apart from that it’s incredibly simple.

The recipe below is an adaptation of Lindy’s recipe with a few tweaks to bring out some more autumnal, herbal flavours.

Jon’s Rillette Recipe
500g belly pork
1tsp thyme
1 tsp rosemary
1 tsp salt
1 tsp celery salt
1/2 tsp white pepper
1/2 tsp nutmeg
3 bay leaves
125 ml water.

You’ll also need a casserole dish and some sterilised pots to pack the rillettes into.

Pork inna pot. Ready for the oven.

Cube and skin your belly pork and place in a large casserole dish along with all of your other ingredients. Mix well and pour in just enough water to cover the bottom of the pan, about 125ml. You can also throw the skin back in if you want to render extra fat from it. Seal the pot with a tight fitting lid. You might want to put a layer of foil between the pan and the lid if the lid is not especially tight.

Sealed in nice and tight so the flavours don't escape. This is the ADX of pots.

Place in a very low oven (Gas mark 1/4 or 80c or as low as your own will go) and cook for a minimum of eight hours. Mine went in early evening and came out at about 10am, after a grand total of 16 hours which perfumed the house with a delightful porcine aroma and made me wake up craving meat.

After 16 hours of slow cooking the meat is incredibly tender, if slightly unattractive.. You can see the rind in the background.

After a night in the oven, the pork should have cooked down into delicious, melt in the mouth chunks and all of the fat should have rendered into liquid. Remove your pan from the oven and strain through a sieve, being careful to reserve the fat that runs out.

When the meat is cool enough to work with, remove the bay leaves and rind, if using (this can now be discarded) from the stewed pork and set aside. Return the pork to the cooled casserole dish and proceed to pull it apart using two forks until it is completely shredded. While you do this, add in about a quarter to a third of the reserved fat to keep the meat moist.

Shredding with forks.

Take the bay leaves and lay them in your rillette pots. Next, take the shredded pork and pack it firmly down into the container. When all the pork is potted, take the remaining strained pork fat and pour it evenly over the meat to create a seal.

Rillettes. Waiting for a good greasing.

Set aside to chill until the fat is set firm and there you have it, finished rillettes.

These are wonderful spread on toast, stirred through a jacket potato, or even fried up with some savoy cabbage as an impromptu supper. They’re also great to keep in the back of the fridge in case of pork emergency as they keep for ages under their protective layer of fat.

mmmmm rillettes.