I love dead pigs: bacon, bratwurst, pancetta, spicy Italian sausage, even the eyes, ears and organs that make up scrapple.
So I was intrigued when one of my favorite food-writers co-wrote a book on charcuterie.
I have a bad habit of collecting cookbooks that I end up using all too infrequently (see: Larousse Gastronomic, The French Laundry Cookbook, The Professional Chef). After all, nothing kills the will to cook at home like doing it all day at work. But since I have retired from food service forever (knock on wood), I am making a concerted effort to return to our home’s kitchen.
So, over various holidays, the wife gave me the appropriate sausage-making accouterments. (If anyone would like to buy me a sausage stuffer for, say, Labor Day, just let me know.) And this week I began my first foray into sausage making.
I picked the easy possible recipe Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn provided: Mexican chorizo. Readily available ingredients and no need to stuff the ground meat into pig intestines.
I began by hitting up my local grocery store for a fatty 4-pound hunk of pork shoulder butt and—what could be better—an extra pound of fat.
The scents wafting off cut-up pork mixed with fresh garlic and oregano, ground chipotles and anchos, paprika, cumin and pepper nearly made me delirious. I shoved the bowl of raw pork in the wife’s face, imploring her to inhale. She was not as excited.
If nothing else, charcuterie—whether dry-curing saucisson sec, smoking bacon or salt-curing cod— is about patience. When I started grinding the next day, I made a big mistake. I got impatient. Grinding meat takes time, especially when you’re forcing five pounds of it through the one-inch opening of a home grinder. Because of a lovely-sounding condition called smear, I ended up having to clean the grinder out ever 30 seconds or so, getting raw chorizo everywhere.
But the sausage was delicious. Even without pig brains, eyes or intestines.