Wednesday, June 30, 2010


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My wife is an exceedingly busy executive who brings home work almost every day that she isn't traveling. She brings so much work that it makes me feel guilty when I don't bring home work from the farm. Occasionally, just to show that I'm an overachiever too, I take something home to work on.

Today I brought home the cured pork belly featured in this earlier post. My plan is to smoke it all in my Bradley Smoker, but first I have to dry it out a bit so that it develops a nice shiny skin (called a "pellicle") that will not become pitted and dull in the smoker.

Here you see the belly (two sides from one hog cut into 5 pieces) as it appeared 15/ 20 minutes ago in my garage refrigerator where I set it to spend the night alongside of pickled ginger, two bottles of god awful ale that I will never drink but am too parsimonious to dump, and a rather doleful bottle of Pelligrino water that I am hoping will rouse itself enough to inspire the pork to form a pellucid pellicle worthy of their shared phonetic or etymological heritage.

CSPI Says Food Dyes Pose Rainbow of Risks ~ Newsroom ~ News from CSPI ~ Center for Science in the Public Interest

WASHINGTON—Food dyes—used in everything from M&Ms to Manischewitz Matzo Balls to Kraft salad dressings—pose risks of cancer, hyperactivity in children, and allergies, and should be banned, according to a new report by the Center for Science in the Public Interest. A top government scientist agrees, and says that food dyes present unnecessary risks to the public.  Read More

Monday, June 28, 2010

Making Bacon

Fact is, these days I make a lot of bacon. We kill one hog a week, which in the general scheme of things is not a lot, but for us one hog a week represents a whole lot of sausage, salami, retail cuts and, of course, bacon. The belly you see in the slide show is from a hog that I butchered last week. This hog  must have been fed really well because the fat was nice and hard and the muscle was beautifully marbled. Actually, this belly was so nice that I decided to maximize its size by using a rib puller (left) to maintain the intercostal muscles (meat between the ribs).

I'll be smoking this belly this week. And when I do, I'll try to remember to take pictures.

If you have never seen a rib puller in action, here is a video from Heath Putnam's blog showing Christoph Wiesner de-ribbing a mangalitsa

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Beyond Stupid: No eggs by the dozen

Like Michael Ruhlman who has argued incessantly and persuasively for using scales rather than volumetrics and counting pieces, I believe that weighing ingredients is the most accurate method of measurement. Shoppers also benefit when they know the exact weight of a food purchase. But what is the point of banning the selling of eggs or any food item  by "number, requiring that foods be sold by weight, and NOT allowing the number of pieces to be displayed?

According to this article from The Daily Mail  protesting Britain's adoption of EU standards for food package labeling 

"The rules will not allow both the weight and the quantity to be displayed."

Brussels is everyday looking more and more like the mind-bending warren of rules and bureaucratic stonewalls in "The Castle"  by Franz Kafka (The author whose short story "The Hunger Artist" was the inspiration for the title of this blog.). 

EU to ban selling eggs by the dozen: Shopkeepers' fury as they are told all food must be weighed and sold by the kilo | Mail Online: "

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

A Gift of Duck

Yesterday, I got a surprise in the form of a Fedex box from Hudson Valley Foie Gras. Inside were a couple of samples of Rillete de canard that I'd -in a very small way-  helped develop and two small and very beautiful dressed ducks.  I'll post on the ducks after I cook them.  In the meantime here is a press-release kind of thing that tells the story of the ducks.  -Bob dG

Oh, My Lola

This new duck has its chefs in a row

If it walks like a duck and tastes like a squab, then it's probably a Lola duck.
This new heritage breed of bird--created by Hudson Valley Foie Gras--is a cross between the white Pekin and the mallard. Unlike most ducks, which have a generous layer of fat under the skin, the Lola is lean but full of gamey flavors typically found only in wild birds.
And it's destined for the oven. At his new Great Neck, New York, restaurant (also called Lola), Hudson Valley Foie Gras co-founder Michael Ginor confits the duck legs, then glazes the rest of the bird with yuzu marmalade and roasts it.
At Chicago's Lockwood, chef Phillip Foss serves a modernist Lola duck a l'orange (pictured) as a frequent special. To preserve the natural flavor of the duck, he augments the rich caramelized-orange sauce with duck stock. Even the accompanying beans pick up the bird's flavor thanks to being tossed in rendered duck fat.
In New York, Corton chef Paul Liebrandt seasons the skin of the Lola duck with toasted sesame seeds and spicy Kashmiri pepper, then caramelizes the breast on a hot plancha, serving it with honey-and-turnip gelĂ©e.
Chef Richard Garcia of Tastings in Foxboro, Mass., uses the whole bird. He serves his Lola schniztel with duck cracklings and consommĂ© made from the duck's bones. But the most popular item on the menu is duck "ham," breast meat that Garcia smokes over fruitwood and serves hot on a charcuterie platter.

An Aphorism

While a few of us strive to produce handmade idiosyncratic commercially viable foods there is, and will always be, a much larger and better funded cadre of "cooks" who aspire to create families of clones. 
To wit

"Transfer Casings have flavorings and spices adhered to individual transfer sheets or the inside of individual casings — which means no more labor-intensive, messy and hit-or-miss manual spice application. Seasonings can be applied faster and more uniformly with less waste. Uniform spice coverage also reduces leakers, enhances eye appeal and helps maintain a consistent taste. "

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Charcuterie Wanted: Stockton New Jersey

A Facebook friend asked me if I could help her find someone to open a Charcuterie in her market in Stockton, New Jersey. Since I could not think of anyone, I offered to spread the word through my blog. If this is something that interests you, please email Dawn directly. I don't know anything more about the project than is contained in the following paragraph. -Bob dG

We have an indoor market (not pictured here) in Stockton New Jersey, and are looking for a charcuterie, sausage vendor. There is an awesome space for a kitchen, the market is open yearround and has 24 upscale vendors. Stockton is 90 minutes from NYC in a beautiful small town on the Delaware. look forward to hearing from you, this is a great opportunity for someone.

Dawn Mcbeth
mcbethdawn at

Take Action: Tell the FDA to Save Antibiotics

Take Action: Tell the FDA to Save Antibiotics

Tell the FDA: Protect Human and Animal Health by Saving Antibiotics

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is considering a rule that could weaken already-lenient controls on the use of antibiotics in food animal production.
The new rule affects the Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD), a program allowing veterinarians to prescribe antibiotics mixed into animal feed in new ways. Currently, the VFD ensures that for those new antibiotic uses a diagnosis is made before animals are given antibiotics in their feed.
Many industrial farms routinely feed antibiotics to poultry or livestock to compensate for overcrowded and unsanitary conditions, while promoting growth. Proposed changes to the VFD could weaken oversight that prevents unnecessary drug use - increasing the rate of antibiotic resistance in humans.
Up to 70 percent of all antibiotics sold in the U.S. are fed to healthy food animals. Weakening the VFD could breed dangerous new strains of antibiotic-resistant bacteria that can spread to humans thus making these important drugs we depend on useless.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Great New Word to Throw at Junk Food and Sloth

Today on  NPR I  heard a Harvard University research scientist refer to sugar-sweetened soft drinks as obesogenic substances. I was so thrilled to hear this word and so sure that it was a neologism,  that I checked up on it at wordman  Michael Quinion's word-site World Wide Words and (word!) discovered that while it was not coined yesterday (and so not a neologism) it's only a  little over a decade old and still not used much. 

The meaning of obesogenic is pretty much what you think it is. According to Michael Quinion it is

from obese plus the ending -genic, something tending to generate or create. It refers to conditions that lead people to become excessively fat — a worrying trend in developed countries, especially among young people, who are eating too much of the wrong things and not taking enough exercise. 
With a US national obesity rate currently cresting at 30% (JAMA ) I should think that we are going to be hearing and seeing this word a lot as researchers, health care providers and the fat-afflicted struggle to identify  obesogenic foods and life style choices.

Good eats: Luncheonettes

POETS Long Island: Good eats.

Luncheonettes seem to be indigenous to the East Coast of the United States. Zoom out to continental scale to view.

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Worker loses both legs after falling into grinding machine | Mail Online

Jobbers Meat Packing Company worker loses both legs after falling into grinding machine | Mail Online

Sunday, June 20, 2010


I made my second batch (ever!) of pastrami last week and emerged from the process thrilled by the quality of the final product. It tastes exactly like the pastrami I ate as a teenaged visitor to the Lower East Side of New York City when it was still loaded with delis and appetizing shops run by first generation Eastern European immigrants.

Pastrami is very easy to make, but it takes a relatively long time and requires specialized equipment in the form of some type of hot smoker. If one removes the step of raising, slaughtering and butchering the cattle it begins with the construction of a cooked brine. Once the brine has cooled the meat is submerged in it and allowed to sit until the brine has worked its way all the way to the center of the meat. With brines that do not contain nitrite, it's often difficult to determine when it has been fully cured. However, when nitrite is present (as it was in this recipe) you can tell how much the brine has diffused throughout the muscle by paying attention to the change is color of the tissue. Since nitrite indirectly causes the serum protein myoglobin to reflect red light, you can tell how far the brine has penetrated by cutting in at the thickest region of the meat and seeing how much of the meat has turned from the brownish-purplish color of raw beef to bright pinkish red typical of cured "red" meats.

I brined this batch of brisket under refrigeration for 7 days before it was fully cured. After removing it from the brine and letting it drain I patted it dry with paper toweling then dry rubbed it with a 1:1 mixture of cracked black pepper and coriander seed. Finally, I smoked it in the Bradley smoker just under four hours and after it had reached an internal temperature of 150 degrees Fahrenheit.

There is another step involved in producing pastrami that is ready to eat but we let our customers do the braising that renders it tender and ready to be turned into Rubens or plain old pastrami on rye.

I know George Cohen  for whom I worked as a soda jerk in the luncheonette he ran with his wife Hannah the 1960's, and who taught me to take pastrami and egg creams and half sour pickles (which Hannah made in the back of the shop) very seriously would be impressed to know that I'm doing this.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Mangalitsa Breakfast

On mornings when I don't go swimming, I start off eating a big "farm syle" breakfast composed of cooked protein, carbohydrates and fats. (When I swim straight away, I eat the same sort of breakfast when I'm done.) Often my breakfast is pancakes, butter and eggs or maybe a ham and cheese sandwich. I also love smoked salmon and avocado on some type of bread dressed with garlic vinaigrette. For breakfast at the farm today I made "pan roasted" Mangalitsa sirloin with cheddar cheese curd with bread and butter. 

The pork was a gift from Michael Clampffer of Mosefund Mangalitsa in New Jersey. After hitting it with salt and pepper I browned it on all sides in a sautoir in olive oil. Then after lowering the heat, I covered the pan and let it cook for 5 minutes before removing the lid and tossing in some diced (brunoise) garlic, a tablespoon on Meyer lemon zest and juice and a couple of tablespoons of chicken stock.  Recovering the pan,  I let it cook slowly until it was medium rare,  let it rest covered for about ten minutes, sliced it and made a sandwich with cheddar cheese curd from a batch of cheddar that Trent made last week.

It was great but a sour substitute for the Pop Tart and Tang repast that I'd been dreaming about the night before ;-)

Monday, June 14, 2010

Country music legend, sausage pitchman Jimmy Dean dies -

His wildly popular sausage wasn't any good and his hit music was pure corn. But none of that stopped him from being a valuable element in American popular culture. Good-bye Jimmy Dean, you seemed like a right enough guy.

Country music legend, sausage pitchman Jimmy Dean dies

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Friday, June 11, 2010


Please bear with me as I reconfigure the look of  A Hunger Artist. I've grown bored with the thing and as a result it has grown stale and dusty. I'll be toying with the layout for a week or more, but the change you see today will be the basic look from hereon. Bob dG

Manna from New Jersey

Lately, I've come to realize that I'm going through a period of gastronomic recapitulation. 

Specifically, my palate seems to be wanting to eat like my paternal grandparents ate before they both disappeared into the ether. First generation Italian-Americans.  they never really adopted american eating habits. Instead, they mostly cooked and ate the way they did when they lived in Borgo val di Taro in Emilia-Romagna where the most used fat for people of their social class was lard. As befit their new status as middle class Americans they used butter too (I write "they" because my grandfather was a chef who liked to cook at home and my grandmother cooked too.) but mostly they used pork fat in the form of lard (for sauteeing, frying, baking) lardons (strips of fat stuck into roasts), barding (strips of fat or bacon wrapped around roasts and steaks) and lardo (preserved fat) to put on toast and for seasoning. 

I loved the way they cooked and cannot remember not liking the flavor of anything that came out of their kitchen which, of course, was always perfumed in no small part by the scent of pork fat. But let's face it, even though I have always been a proud Italian-American, I am not immune to the cultural biases of mainstream America, and by the time I was 16 and began to cook for myself and family, lard was already "other" food and anyone who ate it was considered to be a little strange. (Not so bacon, which is odd.)  So my cuisine did not develop with pork fat as  a fond or foundational element. I adopted olive and assorted vegetable oils  and butter as my primary cooking fats and the little pork fat I used was mostly incidental to the cooking of pork meat, as when fat drips from roast and becomes incorporated into the fond on the bottom of the pan. 

But life is change, and I'm gone goony for pork fat. About a week ago I ran out of the guanciale that I made from the pig jowl  I bought from Mosefund Mangalitsa during my first visit to that remarkable hog  farm. I'd been using it so often that I think it messed with an epigenetic trigger that kicked on a gene that had gone dormant after my grandparents left this world. So I asked Michael Clampffer, my friend and former student who is in charge of the hog program at  Mosefund Mangalitsa to send me a few pounds of fat back so I can make some lardo and get my diet back on track and look what he sent me. Damn, with friends like this, who needs friends? 

Monday, June 7, 2010

Say Hello to Soy Chicken

Soon, it may not occur to anyone to refer to the frantic as "running around like a chicken with its head cut off" because there will be little reason to decapitate chickens. However, I doubt that anyone is ever going to be able to match the graphic and kinetic power of that charming nod to our agricultural heritage with a reference to soy bean protein. Oh, well. I suppose progress always has a downside.

Saturday, June 5, 2010


Like so many Italian foods, the preparation of the salume "coppa" varies regionally. But the version that is  most familiar to Americans who grew up in the same corner of America that I grew up in is Neapolitan capicola . In the New York metro area, capicola  (or, as the pro-shoot and mutzah-rell eating goom-bahs say  gabba-gool) is a ubiquitous offering in salumeria and Italian delis.

Unlike prosciutto and other whole muscle cured products, capicola is not terribly expensive because it does not take very long to age and, more significantly I think, it is made from the muscles that run along the neck between the head and the beginning of the  rib eye behind the foreleg. This region in the hogs musculature is not generally considered to be great for cooking (Which is not to say that it is not good to cook; it is!) because it contains lots of tough connective tissue. However, because the coppa or neck muscles gets lots of exercise, they are rich in oxygen carrying serum protein myoglobin which renders the meat dark red and very flavorful. So, the coppa makes great salsicce (fresh sausage) and salumi.

The coppa I began making two weeks ago was done on a purely experimental basis. No matter how it turns out, I doubt I will make it for retail sale, although I'm sure I will make it again.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Thanks Idiot Chef and Friends

I don't know about you , but I never get tired of watching  "chefs" who act like monkeys. So I am very thankful to the Microsoft National Broadcast Network  (aka MSNBC) for this fine example of "chef as drooling Idiot." It's nothing original, as it is obviously derived from archetypal examples of slapped ass cooks like Dom DeLuise and Graham Kerr. But it is refreshing!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Rosemary Inhibits the Formation of Carcinogens in CookedMeat

The scientists who found that the antioxidants in rosemary inhibited the formation of carcinogenic heterocyclic amines in cooked meat applied an extract or rosemary to the surface of the meat before cooking. I assume that if you crush the rosemary and rub it on the surface of meat there will be a similar, if not as effective, salubrious effect.