During a recent phone call with the excellent Elise of simplyrecipes, Elise wished aloud that I would address the nitrite issue directly.  “Trader Joe’s carries it!  Go look.  Is there one near you?” Indeed there is, and indeed they sell at least two products pitching themselves as a “healthier” bacon because they don’t add sodium nitrite. This is as odious as those sugar laden granola bars trumpeting “No Fat!” on their label—food marketers preying on a confused consumer who has been taught to fear food because of harmful additives (such as the recent, apparently genuine, Red Dye 40 warnings). Full disclosure if you don’t already know: I am a vocal bacon advocate, and one of my books, Charcuterie, relies on sodium nitrite and sodium nitrate for many of its recipes to cure foods such as Read On »

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I’ve been learning from the hog all week it seems. It just keeps giving.  Making salami, curing all parts.  Tenderloin and loin and coppa.  I’ve made a lot of fresh sausage and the headcheese is underway, the last of the hams are coming off the cure. Including this one, a portion of the ham, from the culo, stuffed into the pig’s bladder, which James and I blew up to dry earlier in the week.  Once it had dried in its expanded shape, I reconstituted it in water, cut it open, and sewed up the salted ham inside.  I’ll do my best to tie it up neatly so that it will hang well. I’ll keep an eye on it, but figure it will cure in about 6 months. What a wonder the pig continues to be. Read On »

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Donna talked me into a little pre-holiday NYC splurge with Claudia and Michael (Chef Pardus if you’ve read Making of a Chef) this past weekend and we truly indulged, did nothing but eat and drink and nap for 24 hours, and oh man did I learn something from three of the city’s best restaurateurs. Our room was not ready when we got in, so Donna and I strolled over to Beacon where wood roasted oysters were the perfect accompaniment to a Hendricks martini.  The city air was cold and fresh, and the holiday lights made the dark afternoon feel festive and hopeful. Our first dinner was at Minetta Tavern, a place I’ve wanted to go to for months, being a huge huge fan of Keith McNally restaurants, Balthazar and Pastis especially.  Being in a McNally Read On »

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Ten days in Italy with Brian Polcyn and Nic Heckett for a salume tour of northern and central Italy—primarily Piedmont, Tuscany, Umbria and Emilia-Romagna. Damn, Italy is beautiful.  There’s a reason Tuscany in particular is so romanticized.  Its rolling, forested hills and little towns perched on hillsides are breathtaking, particularly, I assure you, if you live in suburban Cleveland, Ohio. I’m buried in work after being gone, so I will note a few highlights but of course keep the salume revelations for the book—there was one huge transformative one.  The book, a follow-up to Charcuterie and the reason for the trip, is due to the publisher September 1.  Yikes. The top photo was what our nightly table tended to look like in the beginning, salume tasting and notes.  What a pleasure it was to travel Read On »

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