Photo by Donna
Only yesterday did I feel I'd completed all the work on the pig that had begun Saturday, 12/6, as I rewrapped the cooked pig's head preparation (French Laundry style) and took the bacon and hams out of the smoker. Still I would have liked to have done more, made more sausage, done a pate (next week for the holidays, as a pork pie). But I'm glad to have a soppressata which I'm drying in a mini refrigerator set to its warmest setting. It has a nice patina of white mold on it from a product that hadn't been available when I wrote Charcuterie, and have tried now for the first time, starter mold. To create mold is not the point–the point of this good white mold is to prevent the bad, furry mold from growing. So far so good.
A number of people included questions with their comments. I'll try to respond to a few here.
Dan B. and others asked can you dry-cure in the fridge? I haven't tried it but I know that a chef at Zuni Cafe did his dry curing in their walk-in cooler and it was excellent. I would think it would take a little longer and I would worry it would become too dry on the outside preventing the inside from drying. But certainly you can cure pancetta and duck breast this way if you're concerned about leaving raw meat out for weeks at a stretch. My 3# pancetta, above, has been hanging for a few days now with another 10 or so to go, so that it will take on a deep earthy gaminess. If it's properly salted, you shouldn't have a problem leaving meat at room temp. If mold does begin to form, wash it off with vinegar or brine and refrigerate.
Milo: yes, that duck breast prep is correct, it never goes above room temperature and no, there is no health risk if you start with a fresh clean duck breast.
A couple people asked about dry curing in hot humid climates. I haven't experience with that. It's probably easier than in hot dry climates, which for sausages is difficult. I would look to your culinary history before refrigeration to see how people preserved food in your area. And any salt should work, provided it's not iodized. For long term dried sausages, sodium nitrate is a must.
Dave Whitaker asks can you prepare venison as I do the duck. Sure. But use whole muscle only and remove all fat and sinew.
Kate in the NW: by all means replace the sugar in a salmon cure with maple syrup. An excellent idea.
And about curing salmon as I mentioned, Randy asked if foil wasn't an issue. Curing with salt is best done in a non-reactive material. Foil is reactive. But you only need to cure salmon for 24 hours or so, too short for anything to happen to the foil.
And thinking about a maple cured salmon has got me wanting to do it, right now! It's so remarkably easy, and what a great thing to bring to a party or set out at your own–a side salmon that you have cured yourself. It's so easy that the hardest part is buying the best salmon and slicing it thinly (which I think is really important).
Thanks everyone for your king comments about my and Brian's book.