As hard as it may be to believe, I don’t always feel like cooking. Like any other working person, there are days that I come home from the office entirely wiped out. There are also the rare occasions when Joe gets a fast-food craving, and unless it’s for burgers at Five Guys I usually pass. Those evenings, I turn to simple pleasures for dinner. Maybe an avocado, sliced thin with a squeeze of lime juice and a sprinkle of salt alongside thinly rolled slices of smoked turkey. If I have caramelized onions in the fridge, I might cut up some mild cheese (like queso blanco) and eat those together with a little bit of French bread.
But my favorite simple meals are things like little slices of soppressata and sharp provolone with some kind of raw or pickled vegetables on the side. That, some warm bread, and a glass of sparkling water and I’m a pretty happy camper.
Well, I did feel like cooking this weekend, and honestly, I can’t really think of why I haven’t been compelled before now to make my own soppressata. I’ve made fresh sausage lots of times. The only difference here is that this is left to dry for a few weeks.
Okay, so there are a few more differences than that, but only in the sense that you need to mix a spoonful of special salt and a starter into your ground meat. Most recipes you’ll find online don’t include them, but the authors of Charcuterie recommend them to guard against the growth of mold and prevent botulism. I’ve included a source for those ingredients and have found their shipping and service to be excellent.
Here’s what you’ll need meat-wise:
- 4 lb. pork shoulder, cut into small cubes
- 1 lb. pork fat, diced (Back fat is recommended, but I used a little bit of belly fat and the fat cap from my pork shoulder.)
For the cure:
- ¼ cup distilled water
- 20 grams Bactoferm-f-rm-52 starter (www.butcher-packer.com)
- 3 tbsp. kosher salt
- 1 tsp. DQ curing salt #2, also called Insta Cure #2 (www.butcher-packer.com)
- ½ cup nonfat dry milk powder
- 3 tbsp. dextrose (www.amazon.com Ooh, one-day shipping!) You can also use plain sugar, but dextrose is a better food for your starter.
- 1 tsp. ground white pepper
- 1.5 tsp. minced garlic
- 1 tsp. hot red pepper flakes (can be doubled if you like hot sausage)
- ¼ cup Pinot Bianco or other dry white wine
- 10 ft. sausage casing
Get both the fat and the meat very cold. In fact, you can even freeze the fat. This will keep it from smearing and give you those wonderful little bites of fat you see in soppressata.
Grind the fat and meat coarsely and then refrigerate.
Soak the casings in water that starts at 110 degrees F. while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
Dissolve the Bactoferm starter in the distilled water. In a separate bowl, combine the rest of the dry ingredients for the cure and mix well.
Add the cure, wine, and starter to the meat and mix on your mixer’s lowest speed (or by hand) for a minute or two until well combined. Return the mixture to the fridge while you prepare the sausage stuffer.
Grease a sausage stuffer (I use the attachment for the Kitchenaid) with a small amount of shortening. Find the opening in the soaked casing and run cool water down the length of the casing several times to remove any kinks, and then shimmy it onto the stuffer. Tie a knot at the end.
Slowing stuff the meat mixture into the sausage casing. Have a sterilized pin handy to prick out any air pockets that form. Keep one hand on the extruded sausage and stuff as evenly as possible. (It is difficult to take pictures while doing this, but you can see more of the process in my earlier post on boerewors.) Once you have completed a rope of sausage, twist it into links alternating direction each time, or tie them off with small pieces of butchers twine. Prick the links all over with the sterilized pin to facilitate drying and remove any remaining air pockets. Weigh the sausage and take note of the pre-dried weight.
Hang the sausages to dry at room temperature for 12 hours. This will help to incubate the beneficial bacteria created by the starter. After 12 hours, move the links to a cool, humid, dark place to dry until they have lost 1/3rd of the original weight. On average, this takes 2-3 weeks.
This soppressata began drying on Saturday afternoon and was 74 oz., so it will be finished when it reaches 49 oz. See you then!
Update! Here’s a picture of the finished soppressata. It was amazing, but gone so quickly.
Ciao for now,
P.S. My basement smells delicious.