Tastes like old times
Liverwurst, or liver sausage is a Midwestern staple. When I was a kid we would go one town over to Cedarburg (not that i lived in a town per se, Mequon in those days had 62 square miles, 15,000 people and 4 stop lights) to buy meat. Paules’ Market (long gone sadly) was the place to get local meat. I can still recall the liverwurst, made from pork liver wrapped in a opaque casing that had to be peeled away. A quick lunch on the farm could be made from a few slices, sharp mustard and two slices of wheat bread.
The flavor of liverwurst is very distinctive, as opposed to liver pate or chopped chicken livers. It was this distinctive flavor that lead me to think that I could recreate it with beef or calves’ liver (which would make it kosher, if you use kosher meat). So a little internet research combined with consultation with Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing and I was ready to give it a try.
Some notes on materials and process. This takes a while to make. Leave yourself plenty of time and keep everything well chilled. If you break the emulsion (meaning the fat and meat separate) what you end up with is very tasty dog food. Also there are several options for casings. I used muslin cloth. You could also use a beef middle or hog bung.
Recipe after the break
When Jews make sausage
“Send a Salami, to your boy in the Army” that sign still hangs over the meat counter at Katz’s deli. Only in New York could those two words rhyme. I love salami, I love its texture, its fatty mouth feel and its subtle flavors. A good salami is dry cured and hung for weeks until it is a wrinkled shadow of it former self. Then and only then should it be sliced and enjoyed with a nice spicy brown mustard.
Of course for the home cook a dry cured sausage of any sort poses several hurdles. The first is obtaining the curing salts and bacterial cultures that ensure you don’t feed yourself botulism toxins. The second is having a dark spot that stays at 80% humidity and 60 degrees for 3 weeks. Perhaps in June I will go score a small fridge from the students vacating Unit 2 at Cal but until then I have to get my sausage fix differently.
Enter the hot smoke. A process of cooking at very low temperature (about 220 F) using wood smoke. You can also do the same thing without smoke, in Kansas City its called BBQ. I am trying two things at once, making an Italian style salami using a small amount of pink salt to preserve the color and give it that distinct cured flavor and also using a hot smoke cooking method (albeit without the smoke) to bypass the long curing process.
I had been wanting to make some more sausage for a few weeks, but was stymied by my inability to find a good source of beef fat. I had been to a number of meat markets with no luck, but then decided to go to the main branch of a local grocery store chain where they have a good supply of fresh meat. I asked one of the butchers and he was happy to supply me with about 4 lbs of beef trimmings and that yielded a little more than 2.5 pound of good clean diced beef fat. The best thing, no charge for the fat.
Recipe after the break
Fresh from the smoker
Go ahead, I dare you- google the words “Jewish sausage”. At the risk of inviting bad puns, lets face it there isn’t a lot of food there. That being said I couldn’t get the idea out of my head that at one time there must have been a wide world of Jewish sausages and smoked meats given the absence of refrigeration and the need to eat every scrap of protein that came into the house. My first stop was to consult with Claudia Roden who confirmed in The Book of Jewish Food: An Odyssey from Samarkand and Vilna to the Present Day that there had been a very wide array of Jewish sausages in both Sephardi and Ashkenazi communities. Sadly what is left to us today is the kosher salami (which I love) and the poor array of supermarket sausages in Israel.
But I was compelled to make sausage for Sukkot (I’m a sucker for an alliteration) and so I pressed on. Merguez is a traditional lamb sausage first made in North Africa and then spreading with the post colonial diaspora to France and then beyond. I sought direction in my production from Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curingby Michael Rulhman. I highly recommend the step by step directions. I found a nice shoulder lamb roast at the market, but sourcing fat (which you need) was more difficult. Most of the recipes I have call for pork fat- I non-starter for me. I looked for lamb or goat fat at the Halal markets, with no luck. I also looked for beef fat at the supermarket meat departments. With nothing in hand and unwilling to schlep all the way down to Oakland to see what Whole Foods might have I started looking at some of the meat in the case to see if there was something fatty enough to trim the 1/4lb of fat I needed. There were some nice small brisket pieces, I bought the fattiest one and took it home to trim.
The brisket, btw, makes great hamburger.
Recipe and pictures after the break
Rinsed and waiting for fresh brine
Pickles are a deli staple. My favorite pickle memory is my then two year old son scarfed down a whole tray of sliced pickle spears in a Chicago deli while we waited for our sandwiches. He finished the small tray and looked up at us and asked if there were more- truly a sour tooth.
In any event, having always been a fan of pickled veggies I was delighted to come across a recipe in Michael Ruhlmans masterful tome Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing. This first batch turned out a bit on the salty side so I am soaking them in fresh water for a day or two to knock down the salt content. But having said that this is one of those cooking projects that requires only patience.
More after the break.