I thought I’d nailed it. Every step in the process of making these Riojan style chorizos had gone like clockwork, or so I thought. The quality of the pork was beyond question. My aunt had raised this Kuni Kuni pig with love and care on her bio-dynamic farm and I had butchered and processed it myself with meticulous attention to detail.
I had hung up these bright red beauties in my drying chamber and calmly awaited gobbling up the results in a few months’ time. This is the stage at which you give up control to your local terroir. In my case the Mt Eden funk that will turn my products into something unique. It’s powerful stuff and I’ve always tried to battle it. This time around I thought I’d brought it to heel and my chorizo would be all the better for it.
I tried it for the first time with my husband and our close friend Colin in the car park of the Waimangu volcanic valley in Rotorua. Standing by the tailgate of my car I wolfed down a slice or two and was stunned by how mild it was. The flavours were all there, fermented sourness, paprika, garlic and creamy pork fat. The texture was perfect but the flavour was too subtle. I’ve eaten it many times since and have been mulling over what happened and trying to figure out why. Normally I am concerned with how strong my products normally taste and have wondered if it’s too much of a good thing. These salamis have put those fears to rest. During the drying process my chamber decided to plunge down to much lower temperatures. It even iced up and required defrosting. I thought this might be a good thing. It would inhibit excessive mould growth and keep all the wild flavours from local micro flora in check. After all, in Europe the temperatures would be very low in the rafters of wooden sheds where cured products are hung in the winter, so I left it as it was.
Now I realise that all these local inhabitants in my salumi were what made them special. It kept their flavours rooted to this location and made them unique. I think what happened is that the flavour of the chorizo consisted only of the flavours that had been put there during the initial process and were unadorned by all the wonderful wild flavours that should have taken residence during a warmer drying period.
The moral of the story is don’t fear the mould! It may be a chore to scrub off all the scary stuff during a warmer drying process but the rewards are more than worth it. Let the funk be free!
Here’s the recipe for the Riojano style chorizo I made. It’s from Charcuteria by Jeffrey Weiss, a book dedicated to Spanish charcuterie
600g pork loin, diced
200g pork belly, diced
200g pork back fat, diced
10g of bactoferm F-RM-52 or similar fermentation culture
100ml distilled water
10g garlic cloves
24g sea salt
3g granulated sugar
2.4g DQ#2 curing salt or prague powder #2
50ml dry white wine
20g sweet smoked paprika
#32 hog casings
Par freeze your diced meats and mincer parts before you begin. If you’re struggling to fit the mincer parts in the freezer, try submerging them in ice and water (heavy on the ice) in a bucket.
Hydrate your fermentation culture with distilled water by mixing them into a slurry and leave for at least ten minutes at room temperature.
Pound together your sea salt and garlic in a mortar and pestle until it’s a smooth paste. This is called an ajosal.
In a mixing bowl combine the ajosal with dextrose, sugar and curing salt. Divide this in half.
In a large bowl mix the pork loin and back fat with half the ajosal mixture. Mix the remainder of the ajosal with the pork belly in another bowl. Pop them back in the fridge and then set up your mincer
Grind the loin/back fat mixture through the coarse die of your mincer. Chill in the fridge again while you grind the belly through the fine die, and then roughly combine with the loin mixture.
Mix the wine and smoked paprika together to make a slurry. Chill until required
Chill the mixer bowl and paddle attachment of your stand mixture with ice. Empty and then add the meats to the bowl. Turning the machine to low speed, slowly add the wine slurry in a slow stream. Turn up the speed to medium and beat the mixture till it begins to clump together and bind up. Slow to low speed again and then drizzle in your hydrated culture. Mix for a minute until the slurry is fully incorporated.
Using a sausage stuffer, stuff the hog casings with the meat mixture into 30cm links, leaving plenty of space between links to give you slack for tying. You can tie each end off like a balloon if you like and then set them aside as you stuff each one.
Use the residue of mixture left in your stuffer as a PH control portion. Wrap it in cling film. You will put this portion in the incubation chamber with the rest of the chorizos and use pieces of it to test for the PH level of the whole mix with litmus paper. See here
After stuffing, prick each one all over with a sterilised needle to facilitate drying and eliminate air bubbles
Tie each end of the sausage together in a horseshoe shape and then make a hanging loop with the string ends
Hang those babies up in your incubation chamber and take a litmus reading from your control portion. Ferment them at 26 degrees Celsius for 24 hours and then check the PH again. You want it to be under 5. If it hasn’t reached this level after 24 hours leave them for another 12. See here for more detail on incubation and curing chambers
When they’ve reached the desired PH level, switch the chamber to its drying settings ( go for 15 degrees) and then dry them for 1-2 months or however long it takes for them to dry to 65-70% of their green weight. For more on mould management see here.