“Just because it can kill you doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it. Just feed it to your spouse… You can always get a new one.” The love of my life says, with a smirk. (His eyes, at this point, are a stormy blue, but when we go back outside they will turn back to sage green. He’s lucky for those eyes, keeps me from smacking him when he says things like this. I’m not that frickin’ replaceable.)
Then again, there’s the subject matter. He was talking about making chorizo for me. That’s a seriously beautiful thing. How many people have made you chorizo? I thought so. Besides, he’s a good guy. I trust him with my life.
I re-fell in love with chorizo while we were in Portugal. It was a beautiful thing to be able to walk into grocery stores that were filled with cured sausages and artisanal cheeses. I continually had to keep myself from doing happy dances as we gathered up both to pair with fresh baked bread and cold beer for our impromptu picnics. When we got home Marv decided that it was time for him to start playing with cold cured and fermented meats.
Cold curing is basically meat or fish that’s been cured with salt rather than heat and that’s more often than not smoked. Wikipedia says:
Salt inhibits the growth of spoilage, killing microorganisms by drawing water out of microbial cells through osmosis. As the unwanted bacterial population decreases, other beneficial bacteria, primarily of the Lactobacillus genus, come to the fore and generate an acidic environment (around 4.5 pH). The sugar included in the cure is used as food by the lactobacilli; generally dextrose is preferred over sucrose, or table sugar, because it seems to be more thoroughly consumed by the bacteria. This process is in fact a form of fermentation, and, in addition to reducing further the ability of the spoilage bacteria to grow, accounts for the tangy flavor of some cured products. Concentrations of salt up to 20% are required to kill most species of unwanted bacteria.
You can probably see where this all could go wrong. But really, it’s pretty simple; salt draws the water out of the cells, which the bad bacteria needs to live and grow, therefore killing them off. Then they get replaced by good bacteria which likes to eat sugar and leave behind a bit of an acidic taste.
Happily, my boy is brilliant, so it didn’t go wrong. Could have been a bit spicier (particularly if he had listened to me) but it was really good. He did his research and then decided to (mostly) follow a recipe for Cold Smoked Chorizo from Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing by Michael Rhulman and Brian Polcyn. Tis a good book, explains a lot without getting overly techie for those of us who don’t really care about the life and mating habits of lactobacilli. I mean, I’d like to know enough not to kill folks, but I also have enough common sense to know when meat doesn’t look or smell right. As well as enough common sense to not eat it.
5# fatty pork shoulder
2.5 T salt
3/4 – 1 t pink salt
1 t pepper
2 T cumin
3 T chili powder
1/2 c milk powder
1/4 c apple jack brandy
3/4 c green onions, thinly sliced mostly white parts
Combine the dry ingredients and set aside.
Grind the meat in a grinder set with large die. Add in the spices, brandy and onions and mix until liquid is absorbed. Saute up a small patty for tasting. Taste. Adjust spices as needed. (At the time I said it needed more heat, again, he’s not so big on the listening.) Stuff the sausage into casings and tie off into links.
Refrigerate uncovered over night.
And now we get to the other bit of silliness; the smoking. For under $15 in parts Marv made himself a ghetto cold smoker.
Ghetto Cold Smoker
Wikipedia says, “Smoking adds chemicals to the surface of an item which affect the ability of bacteria to grow, inhibit oxidation (and thus rancidity), and improve flavor.”
Since summer is midway though summer stuff is on sale en masse. He picked himself up a hibachi for $8 and some heating duct parts. He removed the handle, popped off the little slidey vent cover and bent a duct wall connector to fit the hibachi and rivited it on. Then he took a duct that was the right size to fit to the wall connector and voila; a place to make the smoke. The other side of the duct then fits on his upright smoker’s vent and voila; a place to hang the sausage to be smoked.
Smoke for 2 – 4 hours, until they’re deeply colored.
Hang your sausage up in a cool, dry place for 3 – 5 days until the casings are a deep redish-brown color and have sunken in.
This is about 2 days in. You can see how they’re starting to get bumpy from sinking in.
Just as an aside here, thus far this sausage isn’t cooked. While it’s probably safe, you may as well cook it before consuming it just to be sure. Will last in the refrigerator for quite awhile, and in your freezer for longer. (How was that for a specific timeframe?)
Have fun. Eat meat.