January’s Pig – 2012

 

salame nostrano
surface culture

We have survived the inundation and are heading strong into the new year at Gathering Together Farm. As you recall in an earlier post, Aimee chronicled the breakdown of the Mosaic Farm pig. Here is one of the projects begun on that day.

I ground muscle portions from the ham and the shoulder and  tossed with red wine, garlic, salt, a fermenting culture and finally large diced fatback. This sticky brat was stuffed into beef middles, tied, weighed and labeled. From there the young salamis go into a fermenting chamber where the fermenting culture becomes active and lactic acid is produced in large enough amounts to discourage any other bacterial growth. Once the pH has dropped sufficiently, the salamis head for the drying chamber. A drying chamber is temperature and humidity controlled to allow for a slow water loss from drying meats/salamis. At a 35% water loss the salami reaches another benchmark for safety…there is not enough water available for bacterial growth. We are technically there but will need more time to develop depth and complexity of  flavor. Coming soon to a salumi platter near you!

Checking the salame nostrano for moisture loss.

High Waters 2012

As the long-awaited rains come, the level of the Mary’s river has surprised us all.  Grange Hall Road is as closed as a submarine door.

On the one hand, the overflowing river has given us a fertile soil. On the other hand…the river is overflowing.

Welcome to the Blog, AB!

As you can see, we have a new contributor to this blog…with skills. Welcome AB!

AB was going to take photos of the follow up work to be done with the pork carcass, but got snowed in and couldn’t make it. So I forged ahead alone. There are certain timetables that belong to the breakdown of a pig at GTF. Salami gets made and thrown into a fermenting chamber for 48-72 hours. Belly gets put into a dry rub to begin a ten- to twelve-day curing. Coppa goes into a 12-14-day curing period. The petite hams, which are a new project for us here, were put up for 12 days in a dry rub. But they need a little longer…next time we will go 14-16 days to make sure we cure to the center.

Anyhow, we were up to 12 days with belly, coppa and hamsss, so we did some smoking of belly and hams. I also cased, inoculated, and hung to dry the neck muscle grouping called the coppa. A good day was had by all.

Pig Break-down

The cool winter months are a time of preparation at the Gathering Together Farmstand. While much of the vegetable and on-farm food preservation occurred in November, the start of the new year brings a second phase to the GTF kitchen: butchery.

Less than a mile from GTF, Mosaic Farms grows and produces some of the nation’s finest heritage breed hogs. Using hand-mixed feed, sustainable land management, and so much love, owner/operator Chris Hansen has grown Mosaic steadily over the last two years. He is one of a cadre of young farmers in the region who is putting his own stamp on agriculture through his hard work, smart business practices and full bore commitment to the welfare of his animals. Last week, Hansen personally delivered a whole hog, packed in ice in the back of his station wagon, to the GTF kitchen.

Breaking down the animal took several hours as chef, JC, worked to prepare meat for copa, bacon, salumi and fresh cuts. Of the 200-plus pound whole animal, less than four pounds was determined unusable.

For a gallery of images from the break-down, visit our Flickr photo set, here. A warning: we believe people should know what their food looks like at all stages, however some of the images are graphic.

Lucky #1 Sourdough Levain

One of the best experiences of the past year was developing technique and recipe for our country levain. Working with sourdough is an exercise in patience and love. The sourdough culture that gives this bread its character, its profile, and its lasting power is fed every day. In return it helps us to make bread. The culture is years old, and this loaf was started 48+ hours ago. Any shortcuts taken subtract from what this loaf can be. We bake our bread in a wood-fired oven. Another exercise in patience and love. An oven is a fickle thing and must be watched carefully if one wants the best results. But what results! The oven spring can’t be matched.