I pulled the guanciale down today after 2 weeks of drying.  The slices are above and the dice is below.

IMG_1791This is one jowl from one of the two smaller pigs.  After drying, I put up 2ea 1/2 lb packages and 4ea 1/4 lb packages.  I’ll use the 1/4 lb packages as accents… think veal marsala.  I’ll use the 1/2 lb packages as main courses… think carbonara.

I also aerated the blue goat cheese and put it in the cheese cave with the creamy blue to ripen.  The whey from the goat cheese went in the fridge for later.  I made yogurt with the cow milk and used that whey to make two loaves of bread today – one for dinner tonight and one for Easter dinner tomorrow.  The yogurt was tasty… tried some with local honey and some with macerated berries with raw sugar.  I couldn’t make up my mind, so I added some berries to the honey yogurt. Now to see if we’ll eat 3 quarts of yogurt before more milk shows up…  Tomorrow’s Easter dinner will be the smoked country ham butt end roast.  I’m going to cook it in the vacuum seal bag to hold in the juices.  First time I’ve cooked anything in the bag like that, so I’m excited to see how it works.


My First Blue

IMG_1721After a month of watching the 1lb wheel change colors and textures on the outside, I gave it a final scraping and cut it open for the 1 month taste test.

IMG_1717Here is the wheel after scraping.  The orange’ish tint is the natural rind that forms as it is ripening.  I could have scraped that off along with the surface mold for appearance’s sake, but I didn’t want to give up that much cheese.  The first picture is the wheel cut in half for a look at the inside.  You can see the veins where I pierced the cheese to aerate it.  That is also where all the blue dots came from on the outside.  The blue mold needs air to grow.

IMG_1725I cut off my taster’s wedge and vacuum sealed the remaining halves for another month of aging in the fridge.  So… how’d it taste?  Like a sharp blue cheese.  If you’ve eaten much blue, then this will make sense… It tasted like a Stilton that hadn’t aged and dried all the way.  My favorite blue cheese is Rosenborg Danish Blue.  This is sharper than Rosenborg, so I’m hoping the creamy blue that will be ready for an initial 5-week tasting on April 13th will be closer to the Danish Blue.

I must say… it is an interesting experience putting mold on and in your food on purpose.  And quite a tasty treat to do so!  Stay tuned… I have a Munster in the cheese cave ripening as I type this!  In the mean time, I think I will grill a peppercorn crusted steak, sauté some mushrooms, open a bottle of red wine… and sprinkle some blue cheese crumbles over my steak for a tasty dinner sometime this weekend.  And maybe I should stuff some olives for a pre-dinner “dirty blue” martini…




Bacon Part II

IMG_1701And the fun continues… I let my bacon cool overnight and then chilled it in the freezer for about half an hour to get it ready for slicing.  I filled up 3 sheet pans with sliced bacon: 1 with pepper bacon sliced lengthwise and 2 with mild cure bacon sliced on along the short edge.  I made the pepper bacon from the short end of the belly (closer to the back leg) and the mild cure came from the center and front sections of the belly.  The short end is tapered so the lengthwise slicing keeps more in slices and less in ends & pieces.  Here is everything portioned and ready for vacuum packaging:

IMG_1707I ended up with a pretty good amount of bacon considering these belly sections were squared off and trimmed when I butchered.  As packaged:

  • 1 lb and 2 x 3/4 lb packages of pepper bacon
  • 8 x 1 lb and 1 x 1/2 lb packages of mild cure bacon
  • 1/2 lb package of ends and pieces

IMG_1711So here is a little test to see who reads my blog… I have one of the 3/4 lb packages of pepper bacon earmarked for Nate since he is the one that requested it to begin with.  He has been busy at work and told me Friday that he was going to spend the weekend with Lisa instead of hanging out with me putting together his new smoker and smoking his requested bacon.  So if you know Nate and Lisa… feel free to post something on Facebook about how great of a husband Nate is for choosing Lisa over bacon.  We’ll see how long it takes Nate to come over and pick up his bacon and say, “Actually, I want ’em both!”

Oh, and while all the bacon fun was going on, I had the goat cheese whey bread in the oven for round loaves cooked on the pizza stone.






IMG_1687Logan is a big fan of smokin’ days… he really wants to eat the whole pan of bacon NOW!  The past several batches of bacon I’ve made have been maple bacon – pretty sweet stuff.  I decided to switch it up a bit this time.  I used mild cure (2 parts salt and 1 part sugar… as opposed to 1 part salt, 1 part sugar and 1 part maple syrup) this go around and sprinkled a bit a fresh ground pepper on belly while it was curing.  Today, before smoking, I coated one of the 3 slabs with a liberal amount of fresh ground pepper for a bit of pepper bacon (that’s for you Logan & Nate!).  The pepper bacon is on top and the other two slabs are in the middle and at the bottom of the photo.

IMG_1683Along with the bacon, I smoked my country ham butt end roast and hock.  The roast will get heated back up for a sliced ham dinner and the ham hock will go in a big ol’ pot of soup beans.

IMG_1699And with all this meat lying around and the fire going… well, I figured I might as well eat some meat for dinner… T-bone and sautéed ‘shrooms… YUM!

IMG_1693Just so nobody thinks I was loafing today… I drained the goat cheese today and made bread dough with the whey.  And I made chicken stock with a left over rotisserie chicken.  And somewhere in there my bottle of wine emptied itself… weird…






IMG_1681Guanciale hanging in the basement to dry & age.  This is the muscle and fat from the jaw to the front of the shoulder of one of the 3 little pigs.  I cured it for a week with pepper, thyme and garlic.  I’ll let it hang in the basement for about 3 weeks before dicing it up in 1/4 lb packages for various pasta dishes.


An Ugly Bowl of Deliciousness

IMG_1677Not one of my more appealing photos, but boy was it delicious!  It started out innocently enough with a bag of 15 Bean Soup… but I just couldn’t leave well enough alone…51LpFCbttaL._SX342_I didn’t plan ahead, so the beans got hour boil instead of the overnight soak which turns all the little beans into broth.  That usually happens even with the soak, but they didn’t have a prayer with an hour boil.  While the beans were boiling, I got the rest of the ingredients going.

Before I started the beans, I put a pork backbone (lumbar spine for my fellow orthopedic brethren) in some cold water to soak.  From the water, I put it in a roasting pan and coated it with a liberal amount of kosher salt and fresh ground pepper.  I roasted it for almost an hour at 400 F to get some good brown bits on top.  Next, I sautéed onion in bacon grease.  I added ground pork along with my sausage seasoning blend, some fennel and some KRC pepper blend.  I dumped that happy skillet into the beans to get the party started.  I sliced up a couple links of homemade kielbasa and in that went.  I diced up a center slice smoked ham steak and threw that in as well.  Finally, when the backbone was done roasting, I dunked the whole backbone down into the dutch oven.  After adding all the meat, I decided I needed another bean… 15 wasn’t quite enough… so I added a can of chickpeas.  Instead of the diced tomatoes and lemon juice called for by the recipe on the back of the bean bag, I used a jar of salsa for even more flavor.  The last thing in the pot was the cajun seasoning packet that came with the beans.  I moved the dutch oven to the back burner, turned it down low, put the lid on, and waited…

2 hours and a small pot of brown rice later, I took the lid off and pull out the backbone.  The rib meat literally fell off the bone.  The bones and bits went to the dogs and the rib meat all went back in the pot.  Little bit of rice and lotta bit of deliciousness… and dinner is served.

I’m gonna officially name this meal the “Triple Dutch Oven”… I cooked the whole concoction in the cast iron dutch oven… you’ll have to use your imagination for other two dutch ovens!



Country Ham Cuttin’

IMG_1640If you read my earlier post about Country Ham, then you survived the wait with me.  Marc and I pulled our hams down out of the out building affectionately known as Marc’s Meat Locker in deer season.  They were rubbed with cure, wrapped in paper and hung in a ham net – here is mine ready to go:

IMG_1631You can see the unwrapped ham above.  I deboned the ham before curing (removed the aitchbone and the femur… aitchbone is butcherspeak for hipbone), so the carving today was rather straightforward.  My plan was to save the hock and a roast for smoking and a second roast for oven roasting.  The rest of the meat was to be sliced up and packaged for pan frying.

As this was my first country ham and my first go at it with this cure recipe, I decided to taste test right away to see if i wanted to scrub the outside at all and to see if soaking would be needed before cooking.  I cut a pair of slices to go straight in the skillet and a pair to soak in water for about 10 minutes to pull some of the salt out.


IMG_1652You can’t properly fry country ham for a taste test without a cast iron skillet, so here is Grandpa Gareiss’ heirloom skillet taking its rightful place on the stove.

IMG_1655The fried ham was absolutely delicious.  Even the fresh cut slices were not too salty, so no scrubbing or soaking for this ham.  Either my mother-in-law’s recipe is that good, or beginner’s luck was with me every step of the way!

IMG_1664With a successful taste test completed, I jumped in with the knife and came away with these cuts:

  • 4 1/4 lb center cut roast (for oven roasting
  • 3 1/4 lb butt end roast (maybe for smoking)
  • 2 lb ham hock (for smoking)
  • 10 x 1 lb slices (for pan frying)
  • 1/2 lb of pieces (for green beans)
  • 1/2 lb of trim + patella (for the dog’s dinner tonight)

Just over 20lbs of usable meat AFTER the water loss from the curing which was probably close to 10% of the original weight.  I know you can’t taste it from where you are surfing, but I hope you found the pictures worth the wait!  Perhaps I shall try another personal first and make some redeye gravy to pour over some country ham and biscuits…






Taste Test at 1 Month

IMG_1628I gave in to temptation and curiosity and gluttony…but came away with a big smile and no guilt whatsoever!  I cut open my first hard cheese, which I think is technically a semi-soft cheese that I think should be called a semi-hard cheese so it’s looking forward in the direction of progress instead of behind from whence it came… whew… I’m a dork…

Anyway… very mild, soft and creamy cheese at 1 month and a wonderful match for the red Rhone that I may just drink by myself in one sitting.  Most of what I’ve read would point to this as a jack cheese.  I’m not from Monterey and neither are my cows and my name’s not Jack.  So we’ll call it a Decatur Scott cheese.  The cows are from Decatur and, well, I’m Scott.

I vacuum sealed the two halves minus the wedge I ate to let them age until the 1 month taste test.  I’m curious to see how the flavor changes over the second month.