Friday, December 28, 2018


Me and Jay still smiling after 7 hours of salami making!
I recently had the privilege, once again, to work with my friend Jay Bileti making charcuterie. We cut, ground, spiced, stuffed, and hung 20 pounds of pork; two 5 lb. batches of pepperoni, and two 5 lb. batches of salami--A Tuscan salami, which has a lot of lightly crushed whole black peppercorns, fennel, anise, sugar, Kosher salt and red wine, and Calabrese, a spicy salami with cinnamon, red and black pepper, sugar, Kosher salt and red wine.

The pepperoni's contain Kosher salt, black pepper, fennel seeds, anise seeds, sugar, paprika, cayenne, chipotle and ancho pepper, and red wine.

Making salami is a precise process involving exacting science. I do not recommend making at home yourself, as if done improperly you can make yourself or someone else very, very sick or even die. Take a class or work with someone who has extensive knowledge of the science behind curing meat.

This photo is from Lexi's food blog,
First, what is Charcuterie? In Italy it generally refers to salted and dried meats, such as salamis. In France, charcuterie is generally cooked meat, such as pates. Traditionally pork is the meat that is used in both the dried and cooked processes, but as with everything there are many exceptions and variations. Pates, for example, can be made from meat, fish, poultry or livers. Today you often see both cured and cooked meats served attractively on a wooden board along with dried fruits, cheese, possibly nuts, olives, or onion jam. The word Charcuterie is also sometimes used to define the shop where these meats are sold. And, the French word for someone who makes charcuterie is a charcutier, or pork butcher. Jay is definitely a charcutier, where I am still very much a student. I would not attempt to make this on my own even after two opportunities working with Jay.
We used a combination of Pork Shoulder, Pork Belly and Pork Butt. The Butt sits higher than the shoulder and contains lots of lovely fat. When making salami you want to maintain an 80-20 ratio of lean meat to fat. The pork is cut into 1" dice removing most of the sinew and stringy bits. Next it is ground and finally spiced with cultures added.

One of the most important ingredients in charcuterie is salt. The world's oldest preservative, salt is essential to draw out moisture as the meat cures, which makes it more difficult for bacteria to grow. Since bacteria have no mouths, they need to dissolve their food in water to absorb it through their membranes--no water, no eating! And, salt also draws water out of the actual bacteria, which will kill them. Keeping all tools and work surfaces clean is also extremely important. Jay keeps a bowl of bleach water right on the counter and encourages constant washing of tools and hands. Watching the temperature of both your meat and grinding tools is also critical to discourage growth of "bad" bacteria.

Spices added. Next comes the Fermentation agent.

A Fermentation agent or culture mixed with a small amount of water is added to the ground meat. The Fermentation agent pre-populates the meat with beneficial bacteria so the "bad" bacteria (the ones that make you sick or can kill you) have less of a chance to grow.

Now you are ready to stuff the meat into pre-soaked casings. We used smaller intestines from a pig to make the pepperoni and larger casings from a cow for the salamis.


Once stuffed, the salamis need to be pricked so moisture can be released in the curing/drying process. The salamis also need to be brushed with a solution that helps form "good" mold. The mold helps prevent growth of "bad" mold on your salami.

Two knots are used to tie off the salami. First a square knot and then just above that knot a bubble knot (two half hitches). The second knot helps ensure that the knot doesn't slip loose resulting in your salami on the drying chamber floor. Some of our salamis weighed over 2 lbs.!
Within 24 to 30 hours mold starts to form.
Temperature and humidity are carefully monitored and controlled. Acidity (pH) also needs to be measured, which will tell you if the cultures are doing their thing properly. Bacteria doesn't like acidity and the fermentation process increases it, making life tough for the bacteria and creating a nice tart taste to the salamis. As I said before this is a scientific process and it was such a treat for me to work, once again, with a charcutier.

It will take the pepperoni about 4 weeks to cure and the salamis will need 6.

Jay is also curing a 20 lb. piece of Proscuitto, which takes 18 to 24 months to cure! It will lose 4 lbs. over that time, but 16 lbs. is still a lot of Proscuitto! This will be a good exercise in patience. Proscuitto comes from the back leg of a hog that is both salted and air dried.
A believer in using every part of the pig, Jay is also making Guanciale, which is cured pork jowl or cheek. The name comes from the Italian word for cheek, guancia. Can't wait to see what he does with the snout and ears!
He has already made bacon, which he generously served with wonderfully creamy scrambled eggs made by his wife, Lynn, before our day of meat cutting began.

All in all a great experience and one I hope to repeat!
To learn more about the art of charcuterie go to Jay's Facebook Page: Arizona Charcuterie Club.
Christmas is behind us and next time I will share
some of the recipes from our feast!
Tune in again soon for another episode of...

From my first salami adventure.
May 2017

Monday, December 17, 2018


We like our meat rare. If you like yours more well-done,
cook it a little longer. You can always add cooking time, but
once meat is overdone you cannot make it more rare!
The outer pieces were perfectly medium rare.
I made this Rack of Lamb for my husband, Jerry's, birthday this past November. Lamb is his favorite and this recipe is simple and delicious. We eat a lot of lamb when we are in Ireland and I found this recipe on 'Allrecipes' and tried it this summer while we were there. We buy most of our meat from our favorite butcher in Spiddal, Mr. Feeney.

Lamb in Ireland is plentiful and not nearly as pricy as it is here. If a lamb is slaughtered between 6 and 10 weeks it is considered to be Young Lamb; between 3 and 6 months it is Spring or Early Summer Lamb. When a Lamb becomes 1 year old it is called a sheep or mutton.


1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs
2 Tbsp. minced garlic
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh rosemary, extra sprigs for roasting
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 (7-8 bone) rack of lamb, trimmed and Frenched
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. black pepper
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. Dijon mustard

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Move oven rack to center position.
In a large bowl, combine bread crumbs, 2 Tbsp. garlic, 2 Tbsp. chopped rosemary, 1 tsp. salt and 1/4 tsp. pepper. Toss in 2 Tbsp. olive oil to moisten mixture. Set aside.

Season the rack all over with salt and pepper. Heat 2 Tbsp. olive in in a large, heavy cast-iron or other oven-proof skillet over high heat. Sear rack of lamb for 1-2 minutes on all sides. Set aside for a few minutes. Rub all sides of the rack of lamb evenly with the mustard.
Mustard bath.
Press the bread crumb mixture until evenly coated over both sides of the rack. Do not add the crumb mixture to the bones. Cover the ends of the bones with foil to prevent charring. I skipped this step as I did not plan on roasting long enough to char the bones.
Ready to go into the hot oven.
Arrange rack bone side down in the skillet. Roast the lamb in preheated oven until desired doneness. After 10-12 minutes, take a reading with a meat thermometer in the center of the meat. The temp should read about 120 degrees. Cover loosely with foil and cook another 10 minutes. Check temp again. Between 125-130 degrees will give you a nice rare rack.  If you want more doneness just keep checking every 5 minutes. Medium-rare is approximately 145 degrees. Medium-160 degrees. I roasted my rack 20 minutes total. Let the rack rest, loosely covered,
Just out of the oven, ready to rest.
for 5-7 minutes before carving the ribs apart. The rack does continue to cook after you take it out of the oven.

I served the Rack of Lamb with roasted asparagus and Boursin Mashed Potatoes. It was a beautiful birthday celebration!

I cannot believe Christmas is just a week away. We are having our good friend, Leslie Jackson, from Tucson join us for dinner with her 2 adorable Schnauzers, Gracie and Ruby. Leslie is a fabulous cook herself, but this time I will have the meal prepared so all she will need to do is open the wine!
Here's Gracie sipping some ice water when
she was visiting in the summer.
We were sipping a little more than ice water!
Our menu will include more lamb. This time I will bone a leg, stuff it and roll it. Here's the whole menu:

*Baked Shrimp with creamy dipping sauce
*Irish smoked Salmon with rye crisps

Main Course:
*Leg of Lamb stuffed with Spinach, Garlic, Rosemary, Feta Cheese and Pine Nuts
*Hasseback Potatoes
*Garlic-Herbed Creamed Spinach

*Classic Key Lime Pie

I may add a relish, sauce, or garnish along with a few other surprises, but this is the basic plan.



Sunday, December 2, 2018


I know Thanksgiving is over, but this Cranberry Sauce is good all year long and works well with so many dishes beyond turkey. Think: Pork Roast, Chicken, or even an elevated Meatloaf. My husband, Jerry, loves cranberry sauce from the can (and I think it is other-foodly) so I wanted to find a recipe that works for us both and this one is fantastic; easy to make; and keeps well for up to 2 weeks. I found this recipe on 'The Food Network's' website and made just a couple tweaks. I will give you the recipe as I found it online, but I omitted the ground coriander, used more orange zest and used a whisker less sugar.
1 pound cranberries (about 4 cups), thawed if frozen
2 oranges
2 cups sugar (I used 1 3/4 cups.)
1 tsp. ground coriander (I omitted.)
Kosher salt
1 tsp. vanilla

Ingredients ready to bring to a boil.
Put the cranberries in a saucepan. Remove wide strips of zest from 1/2 orange. I used the zest from both oranges. Add to the saucepan with the juice of both oranges. Add the sugar, coriander (if using), a pinch of salt and 1 cup water. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the berries burst and the sauce thickens, 15-20 minutes.
...coming to a boil.
Remove from the heat and remove the orange zest. Stir in the vanilla. Transfer to a blender and puree until smooth.
Look at that beautiful color!
Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a serving dish, pushing the sauce through with a rubber spatula.
Refrigerate until set, at least 3 hours. I made mine 2 days in advance.

Because I wanted my sauce to look more like it actually came from a can, I put my strained cranberry jelly in a round bottom mold. To unmold gently run a knife along all edges of the mold. Place a warm, moist towel on the bottom of the mold and give the mold a very easy tap. Mine slid right out. I will continue making this sauce every Thanksgiving and throughout the year!

Here are some scenes from our wonderful, fun-filled Thanksgiving feast:



Hope your holiday was filled with love and joy.
And now on to the Christmas season!
Tune in again soon for another episode of: