My mother’s side of the family hails from the frozen steps of Otago where my aunt Alice still lives. She runs a small bio-dynamic farm where she raises Kuni kuni pigs and black faced sheep. She is a vegetarian so the animals are part of a much bigger picture. Small cogs in a complex eco system that allows her to grow saffron, artichokes and gorgeous heirloom vegetables she sells at the farmers market during the summer. Every year she slaughters some of the animals and my uncle Jock gets to eat them. He undertakes these duties with good humour and enthusiasm.
This year she gave me half a pig for Christmas which was delivered to me recently when the slaughter occurred. For some scheduling reason she slaughtered them at 1 year instead of the usual 9 months so the pig was much bigger than in previous years.
I opened the polly bin and let out a whoop of delight when I spied the prodigious covering of fat on the leg. I decided right then that it was time to have a crack at making Jamon, the Spanish style of air dried ham. People often pooh pooh the idea of doing anything interesting with Kuni kunis, deeming them unfit for gastronomic exploration. This seems pretty dumb to me, particularly when I was staring at these prime porcine examples. I haven’t seen a covering of fat like that on any white pig I’ve laid my hands on. Of course there was more than just a leg to deal with, there was also a belly and loin rack to dispatch. Luckily I had just purchased Charcuteria by Jeffrey Weiss, an in-depth exploration of Spanish Charcuterie technique. Labour weekend was going to be busy.
First up, the ham. After skinning it to reveal the layer of glistening fat and removing the aitch bone (see So you want to make your own Christmas Ham?) I massaged the remaining blood out of the femoral artery and then rubbed salt, sugar and DQ#2 curing salt all over it. Then I packed it into a wooden wine box completely surrounded and covered in coarse salt. Two weeks later it came out, was rinsed clean and then hung in the drying chamber. Now we wait. There will be updates on its progress.
There was such a thick layer of back fat on the rack I finally had a chance to try curing it. The Spanish version is called Tocino Salardo. Essentially it is the same as the recipes I have read for the Italian version we know of as Lardo. It’s simply packed in salt and hidden away from light in a black sack to avoid rancidity for 6 months and then rinsed off and dried.
I’ve always wanted to make a proper Spanish style Chorizo and have never had access to decent recipe. Finally I had a choice of about a dozen. I chose one that would use up the loin I had kicking around. It’s fermented and then dried. I’ll publish a more thorough article about the process when it’s finished.
With the remaining belly I had left, I opted for a Spanish version of Pancetta. It’s basically the same as the Italian but with sweeter aromatic spicing.
All that was left now was the bones. These I salted down as well. The Spanish have discovered that if you salt and age the bones they will convert the proteins into long strands of tasty amino acids. In other words umami makings! I’ll let you know how my first batch of “Stone Soup” goes!
This part of the process is my favourite. Checking on the various products I have in different locations and adjusting their environments or moving them on to the next step in the process as they develop. It’s time for the pancetta to come out of the cure and be hung up to dry and this weekend I’ll need to do a mould check on the chorizos. Soon I’ll get to eat something!