Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Accepting the Challenge

A few weeks ago, I was dropping off some veal and goat bones to a customer. As I entered her kitchen, it was scattered with an assortment of culinary projects--roasted buttered nuts and duck breasts splayed out in a pile of kosher salt like Mediterranean sunbathers in the sand.

"Would you like to sample this hot toddie recipe I'm reviewing?" Needless to say, she didn't have to ask twice. The roasted nuts were equally welcomed. Ironically, Christine and I are both technology journalism veterans who have migrated into the sustainable/local/artisan food movement--she opted for the kitchen and I, for the pasture already having done the restaurant/deli/catering gigs and knowing I didn't want to do it again. It turned out the duck breasts were going to be cured into prosciutto for something called Charcutepalooza--A Year of Meat, which was written up today in the Washington Post.

Now Christine really had my attention.

"Got any goat belly? Next month's challenge is bacon."

She caught me at the right time as the next day I was sending a cull doe along with my veal calves to the butcher. The original plan was to split the meat--she'd do half, I'd do half and we'd compare. But the goat was young and both belly pieces only yielded a few pounds so I sold it all to her.

I have delivered meat, cooked meat, raised meat, sold meat and written about meat. Now it was time for me to learn how to cut and cure meat. Having already embarked on this new journey, it seemed only logical to join the Charcutepalooza Challenge. Plus, there was already cured ham hocks and back fat drying in the attic.

Malted Barley Cured Ham Hock

Technically, I've missed the first challenge--the cured duck breast. However, it can be submitted anytime throughout the year so I'm still in the game. Not having any duck handy and wanting to get started, I opted for a wild Canadian Goose breast instead. As soon as I can round up a duck from Daniel, my neighbor and duck farmer, I'll get started.
Canadian Goose Breast in a bag with salt, sugar, herbs & spices

At a loss for what to cure for the February Challenge since the goat went to Christine, I considered whacking the spare mutton ewe leftover from Eid I plan on turning into a batch of Merguez. And then it hit me....I just had four veal calves processed.

Always one for trying new and unique ideas, I'd never heard of charcuterie made from veal. Even more appropriate, in my fridge there were two large pieces of veal belly I had snagged for "personal use". I thought about stuffing them with a vegetable, nut and mushroom filling, but the challenge called.....
Veal belly ready for salt, sugar, herbs & spices.

Will it work? I have no idea, but I'm willing to give it a go. Cure for a week, roll & dry. Who wants to be my guinea pig when the time comes to taste?


  1. I will be your guinea pig! Sounds awesome!

  2. Welcome to the fold, Sandy! I just realised tonight as I was putting my pork pancetta cure together that it was allspice berries and not juniper berries that went in with the goat belly. We shall see if that mistake leads to genius or complete failure. Have to do some research on whether or not allspice and goat run hand in hoof.

  3. This is fantastic. I'm so glad you're on the meat wagon!