Saturday, February 27, 2010

Cotechino Sausage

I love pork skin, fat, meat, blood, bones, pretty much everything the pig has to offer.  So when I had a discussion with my roommate about a sausage that combined most of those, I was excited to try it out. I do think the addition of some blood to this sausage would be a good thing, but I believe that traditionally Cotechino sausage is simply pork meat, skin, fat, salt and spices.  I went with the traditional to start with, but maybe some boudin noir will be in my near future.
327g pork butt
94g pork skin boiled for 2 hours
94g pork fat
6 g salt                                                                                                        
1tsp pink peppercorn/fennel seed/black pepper
1tsp dextrose
1/16 tsp TCM(tinted curing mix)
4 tbsp water (2 of the tbsp in the form of ice cubes)

A quick aside, I mix measurements because that is how I think they are best interpreted. Some people may say that all of the measures in a recipe should agree (e.g. all grams, all metric, all U.S.), but I don't trust my scale in less than 1g intervals and a volume measure in that case works fine, also, in this particular recipe the water is in tablespoons not because I cannot accurately measure the water in grams but because that is how it is added, by the spoonful, while I am mixing the sausage. Anyway, probably not that important, but I wanted to get that off my chest.

IMPORTANT: When using TCM it is critical that you do not add too much. The stuff can kill you, a lot of things can kill you, but even a small amount of this stuff can be deadly. If you just take care and don't fool around with it, don't use it if you have no idea what it is, there is no reason why it cannot be a safe and useful ingredient in your culinary arsenal. For reference here is the demi-tasse spoon I used to add the, less than a gram, of TCM to my mix.


Cut all of the ingredients into small pieces that will easily fit into a meat grinder.  I diced the skin into very small cubes, smaller than the meat and fat, because I didn't trust the KitchenAid grinder I was using to handle it.  Mix all of the ingredients together, except for the water, so they look something like this.

I let this sit overnight, but I don't think that is necessary, however it does have to be very cold when you grind it, so just thoroughly chill it. Then grind that stuff, I did two passes, again because the kitchen aid grinder wasn't too powerful. After passing everything through the grinder, put in two ice cubes to get out the remainder of the mix and chill the mix in the bowl. Then mix the sausage with your hand vigorously, really trying to smash and smear it into a uniform mass.  While you are doing this add the last two tbsp of water in two additions. The mix should be sticky and dense, not oily or broken. Like this!

The next few photos show how to tightly and uniformly wrap a sausage mixture in plastic wrap. I am basically making "bulk" sausage here, cooking and serving it without a natural or synthetic casing.
To narrate these photos:
Spread the mixture, more or less, in a uniform log onto the plastic wrap 1 inch from the edge nearest to you.
Take the 1 inch of extra wrap and roll it away from you until it touches the other side of the sausage mix. Then, being careful to get a tight roll, roll the entire log up, until all of the wrap is used.
This is the hardest and most important part: grab the sides of the wrap and pinch the sausage in towards the middle, then grab as close as you can to the sausage you have just moved in and roll the whole log away from you, keeping it in contact with the table the whole time. If the log moves away from you and does not roll then you need to increase the friction between the surface of the table and the wrap. A very light smearing of water, applied by running your hand under water, shaking it off and then rubbing your hand over the table surface works well for me, and it is fast and always available. Even better, if you are going to be doing a lot of these, mix sugar and water in a 1 to 3 ratio and smear a little of that on your counter-top. Alternatively, you could also twist the two sides in alternating directions in mid-air, but this method never makes as uniform, or tight a roll.
Once you get the sides rolled tight, without any air pockets in the sausage, use the extra wrap to tie a square knot.
Poach this for 1 hour at 60°C. I did this in a pot, with a Pampered Chef digital thermometer. Place directly into an ice bath after the hour is up and let the sausage fully cool before using.

You can used this sausage for any number of applications, I will say that next time I am going to try doubling the amount of skin and fat in the sausage.  This version has a nice texture, but it is a little too brittle for my liking.
This is what it looks like fully cooked. Fairly lean. Look at the bits of skin!

I diced it and made ravioli filling. It was pretty good.
Now plate it up!

Sausage is fun and good to make at home.

All the best,


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