Sunday, December 12, 2010

November 5, 2010 – Brazilian Charcuterie Class

November 5, 2010 – Brazilian Charcuterie Class
Great part of my country life fantasy included homemade sausages. I was perhaps 10 years old when I first saw a man pushing his fist down the meat grinder to fill a hog casing. Like anything inginious, the thin tripe quickly got filled transforming into sausage. I wanted to have it. I never had it. Not that one.
After I left home at 18, every time I came to visit my parents in my little town, I asked my parents to buy me beef pork mixed sausage made by a butcher. For some reason, regular supermarkets in big cities never carried these kind of sausages, resorting only to pale pork sausage twisted into links, industrially made. I used to take some to Sao Paulo as I went back.
I love to have it cut into an over inch pieces, deep fried (yes, that’s how we prepare sausages in Brazil) and eaten with cold Japanese steamed rice. That’s my way.
Several years later, as I moved to San Jose, California, I found a little Italian store that sold garlic and Italian sausage. It was a feast for me.
As one can see, artesanal sausages are part of my childhood (and adulthood). I had a long held dream of learning charcuterie. I even considered taking a special course at American Culinary Institute in Napa Valley for a high fee.
I am now fully satisfied with my free course in Pork Meat Artesanal Processing I took for three days. It’s part of extension course offered by the same institution that offers Organic Horticulture and all other courses I had taken in the last two years.
First appeared a big half a hog without the head weighing about 80 pounds. Hog itself didn’t take the whole scene. Some people usually robbs the show, and this time it was not different.
The instructor himself was a huge man reminding the hog laid on top of the table. They could be relatives. He soon started to encourage us to cut it up. We learned to separate meats into to be used for different purposes (sausage making or smoking). Absolutely all parts were used.
The instructor was not alone in teaching. Two men were enrolled as students, but they used to be themselves master butchers. Every time the instructor opened his mouth, Jose, the butcher with bad knees spoke like an echo with additional information. He even offered me his homemade sausage saying that it was made with prime meat, good white wine (from his son’s wedding party – so does good wine get left over any party?), natural seasonings (no cure salt or commercial seasoings) and else. I immediately comprimised myself into buying it, but the high price make me change my mind after a few hours. Besides, the raw smell of the pork was making me slightly unwell.
Later I learned that nitrate and nitrite are not too bad, considering that it’s better to have a little chemical in the body than botulism.
The first thing we made was pancetta. The fatty meat near the spareribs became seasoned with table salt and urucum (natural food coloring) and then rolled, wrapped in cloth, tied, and then hang to air dry.
The instructor was not too adamant about us wearing all the gears such as cap or a mouth mask. Some washed their hands only on the first day, in the beginning of class. Soon everyone was handling meat and talking over it unashamely without the mask. One of the pictures showed the details of very dirty nails of a dear classmate. Yes, no gloves were offered to us. Yuck.
The Boston butt, ham, bacon, and spareribs got injected with seasoning (ham flavor), tucked in baking plastic and then smoked. The skin was stripped and air dried (and later refrigerator dried) to be made into cracklings.
At one point, a chunk of meat fell onto the ground. The student butcher (the retired one with bad knees) quickly pick it up, and, as he saw me observing him, he put it iside on the table, suspiciously too near the tray. When I got distracted, he added it into the big marinade. (And then he doesn’t know why some people cancel their orders… Yes, I took that into consideration). But he is a nice man, so I promissed to look for him whenever I needed some good sausages.
The rest of the meat and fat turned into salami (with added ground beef), Portuguese, Italian (we call it Calabrese), Tuscan sausages, which only difference between them is the seasoning. Some takes fennel seeds, colorings, peppers, others take commercial seasoning. Some were added red wine, white whine, rum. All the sausages (except for paio) were hand cut first, seasoned and left marinaded from one day to another, and next day ground through the machine. Paio meat was not ground. It was filled in chunks. Commercial paio looks and tastes very different. It is more like a big hot dog with better seasoning. But the novelty for me was the “codiguin” sausage, made with cooked pork skin mixed with minimum sausage meat. Codiguin can only the cooked (like in bean stew) otherwise it will splatter if fried.
Two advantaged weightwise ladies were hard to stand ones. Too bossy and roomy. Besides being bossing around, they also remained sit most of the time. Only their mouths were busy (either talking or eating).
The last processed meat we learn he called “hamburger”. Cut up pork and half measure of breadcrumbs, mixed with eggs, herbs, garlic, and salt. At first, the mix looks rather dry, but as soon as it is pass through the meat grinder, it becomes well combined to be made into patties and pressed with any small lid to take a shape.
“All those men are retired, right?” – so asked my father. He was right. All older men was taking the class as a leisure, while the younger ones had just leaving the teenage years. None of them was taking the class to become a professional or even to make sausages at home. Most women were either curious or a gluton. One even declared that she had a depression and the class was a blessing for her. She left early one day to go to the mental health clinic (I gave her a ride). A more strange case was of a woman who is vegetarian and came to class. I still couldn’t understand her presence there. She ate half of a durian someone had brought for dessert (and a pomegranate a lady had brought for table decoration).
The first day we cut up the hog and seasoned it. The second day, we filled the variety of casings and placed some sausages and meat to smoke. The smoker and everything used in the kitchen were common household tools and some were adapted ones. The ham casing was filled with the help of a medicine bottle cut on the bottom, the seringe was cow’s mastite treatment used one, the needle used to poke the filled tripe was from a regular shot, and hamburger was shaped with a large mouth bottle lid. But the best one was the smoker. Two 100-litter metal barrel were made into the most perfect smoker. The instructor recommended us to use a 200-litter barrel. The smoke was produced by sawdust, fruit tree ones being the best. The meats got smoked for less than 6 hours in a hot method. They turned out beautiful colored and tasted fine. The meats that could drip fat were tucked into baking plastic that held the fat, and therefore, avoided all the fume to impregnate them. After they were cooked, they were put to brown.
The third and the last day, it was the feast day. We started eating crackling with French bread and sweet coffee. For lunch, we prepared a all famous national dish called feijoada. It’s black bean stew with all kind of pork parts. It was traditionally a slaves food that kept all the spare parts to make a bean soup. Later, the lords learned about this delicious dish and started to prepare it themselves. But still today it is a popular dish. Not “tres chic”. Feijoada takes side dishes such as garlic rice, sauteed collard greens, hot pepper sauce, mandioc flour and sliced oranges. As my contribuition, I brought my organic collard greens partially washed and aphids left untouched. One of the “like to give instructions lady” rolled the leaves into her hands, sit down with a big bowl and started to cut into thin strips. “Come here, instructor”, she demanded. “I am going to cut all the greens, as I know how. Don’t let anybody else do it”. Too bad she didn’t know how to wash them before she cut it up (and I told her it was unwashed). As one may have noticed, hygiene was not the special of the day. Nevertheless, I hushed to brush off the aphids and asked someone to wash them for me. If I were lucky enough, I wouldn’t eat the aphidical portion”.
After we all had feijoada, we took home the leftovers and the meat we shared equally. It’s late night, but I am getting hungry and I am heading to eat some more swine.

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