Monday, November 12, 2012

Homemade sauce and Italian charcuterie

Cousins fan Carol Roberts told us about her first time making tomato sauce, and her friend Robert Calandra gave us the inside scoop on making homemade meats. OK, you when are the Cousins coming over for dinner?

This is the first time I did this. I got a bushel of plum tomatoes and spread them out on my dining room table until they turned red, which took about three days. I boiled them in two huge pots until the skins started to fall off. I had to do that twice—what a pain! I let them cool, removed the skin and drained them. Then put them through a hand crank machine that removes the seeds. (It’s a very cool piece of equipment I got at Corrado’s Market.) I put all the tomatoes back in a pot and let them simmer for about an hour.

Before jarring, I ran the mason jars through the dishwasher without soap and soaked the tops in hot water. I let the sauce cool down, which took forever. I put three pieces of fresh basil in each jar and put the lids on.

Now this is where it didn't work for me. I should have put all the jars in boiling water so they would seal, but the store told me to just turn them over and leave them overnight and they would pop. That didn't happen so the next night we put them in the boiling water to seal them.

When you are ready to use the sauce, add your seasonings and meats.

We've been engaged in the process of Italian charcuterie for 30 years making capocollo, supressata, cotechino, dried and fresh sausage, pacetta, bresaola, and prosciutto. These are all from pig with the exception of bresaola, which is made from beef loin.

We start the process in December when the cold temperatures arrive. We make our capocollo from the lion of the pig. Others use the shoulder, often referred to as the butt. The shoulder has fat strewn throughout the meat whereas the loin is leaner and has fat around the outside only.  

The meat is placed in a large pan and coated with a measured amount of curing salts and, in some cases, spices.  It is stored in a cold spot or refrigerator for 24 hours. This allows the salts to be infused with the meat and displaces some of the water content. The residual salts are then washed off with red wine and the meat is coated with course ground black peppercorns.  

The meat is then put into the large intestine of the pig (casing). The casing is perforated all over and tied with twine for hanging in a cool airy space.  It will need about three months to mature with constant monitoring for the right amount of firmness.  Once ready, the meat must be vacuumed packed or submerged in oil to keep out air so it doesn't harden further. The meat is sliced paper thin for serving.

In Italy there are other methods of curing, which differ slightly from region to region. For example capocollo made in Umbria, Basilicata, Puglia and Calabria are soaked in brine prior to the drying process, have other spices added, such as garlic, or are lightly smoked with oak wood. Other variations are called coppa or speck.

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