Friday, June 27, 2008
Will these Loins bear Fruit?
A couple of weeks ago I came into possession of two factory-farm produced loins of pork. For reasons that should be obvious to regular readers of my blog, I could not market them to my regular customers who come to the farm specifically because it is NOT a factory farm.
So, after knocking heads with Trent Hendricks, the farm's owner and prime mover, we decided to use them to test a question that has been bothering us for a long time: What would happen if we cured and air-dried pork loins in the same manner that one might cure a ham or beef (e.g. bresaola)?
On it's face the question seems pretty easy to answer. Unlike ham, the loin is skinny and has not got much intramuscular fat, so it should dry out fast, be a bit tough to chew. And, forgive me for suggesting the obvious, but if loins of pork were fit to air dry, then why is it that we've never seen them before? Could it be that air dried loin of pork has been tried many times before and rejected because it always sucks?
Although my gut tells me that that an affirmative answer to the last question is -despite it's reductive nature- the right answer. I decided to try air-drying the pork loins anyway.
In the slide show below you will see two loins of pork that have been cured for ten days (until they were very firm) in a mixture of salt, sugar, garlic, sodium nitrate and lots of thyme. They were amazingly fragrant when I took them out of the cure box yesterday and rinsed them off under cold water. Then, after seeing again how skinny and lean they were, and worrying anew that they would dry so fast that they would not have time to develop the kind of flavor that I have learned to lust for in meat that has been cured and aged for a long time, I decided to sheath one of them in a beef casing, age both for the same amount of time under the same conditions, and compare the results.
Update: A few of you have pointed out that loin of pork is indeed air-dried in Italy. That it escaped my attention is probably a a function of the fact that the practice does not seem to be widespread. As of this writing I'm not sure that it is very common anywhere but in Sardinia. In any case, my bad, for not doing my homework before writing this up.
In additioned to be slightly chastened I am also, thanks to your comments, a lot more optimisitc about the outcome.