Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Sausage and Cider: Perfect for Fall

Fall has arrived! With it comes a little chill in the air, a little color in the trees, and a little bit of pumpkin spice in everything (along with seasonal allergies if you’re among the unlucky). Fall also means it’s time for the apple harvest, and that always reminds us of hard cider.

Hard Cider History: Worldwide Favorite, American Classic

Even though it still may seem new—at least when compared with old favorites like beer—cider has actually been around for a very long time, with some strong-drink historians alleging that it dates back to at least 55 BC, when invading Romans found the local Britons drowning their sorrows in fermented apple juice. Even here in the states, hard cider was a staple as far back as colonial times. In fact, almost all the apples grown in America before the Revolutionary War were used for fermenting and drinking rather than baking or eating (Johnny Appleseed wasn’t thinking about pie). George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and other founding fathers all enjoyed their cider.
Here at the Sausage Maker, we appreciate well-crafted beverages, especially those with a strong and properly equipped DIY element. And for simply drinking while enjoying the crisp autumn tang in the air and admiring the changing colors of the leaves, good cider is hard to beat. But because sausage is never far from our minds, we also find ourselves pondering the question: Can cider pair with sausage as well as beer does? (Spoiler alert: Yes. But read on for details.)

How to Make Hard Cider

First: What makes good cider, and what makes cider good? As with most food and drink, the ingredients used will determine the characteristics of the finished product. With hard cider ingredients, the main distinctions in taste come from the amount of acid (mostly malic acid), tannins, and sugar found in the apples themselves. There are a few different classification schemes for cider apples, but one of the oldest and most used (and definitely the most fun to say) is the Long Ashton system, established by one Professor B.T.P. Barker while he was the inaugural director of the Long Ashton Research Station in Bristol, Southwest England (long recognized as one of the chief cider-producing regions of the world). Prof. Barker set up a four-way grid based on two attributes—malic acid content and tannin content—and named the quadrants Sweet, Sharp, Bittersweet, and Bittersharp. Incidentally, cider apples have amazing names: To choose just one example from each quadrant, you have Slack-ma-Girdle (Sweet), Tom Putt (Sharp), Brown Snout (Bittersweet), and Foxwhelp (Bittersharp).
In general, hard cider is produced by combining these types of apples in varying amounts. More Sharp or Bitter apples produce cider with a drier, more acidic flavor and mouthfeel, like some European ciders that are closer to dry wine, while going heavier on the Sweets gives you the kind of sweet cider that Americans are usually more familiar with. You can experiment with balancing apples from the different categories to produce cider that is more or less sweet (classifications range from Sweet through Medium-Sweet, Medium-Dry, and Dry) and has a higher or lower “sharpness” from the tannins and acidity.
Read our comprehensive homemade cider guide if you’re interested in choosing your own apples and going the DIY route. For the best results in pressing your apples (or other fruit), we recommend our Harvest Fiesta Fruit and Wine Press.

What to Serve with Sausage

So now that you have your cider—either purchased or homemade—what should you eat with it? From Sweet to Dry, and with variations in sharpness, a lot of ciders share certain characteristics which make them a good fit for particular foods. Steve Stradiotto, the brewmaster of Molson’s cider lines, has developed three simple rules for cider/food pairing: cut, contrast and complement. There are other schemes and recommendations, but we like this one for its directness and for how well it works in setting cider up with sausages. Below are some sausage suggestions to match each aspect of your cider, along with examples of hard cider brands that showcase the different flavors. Keep in mind that most ciders (including the homemade variety) will have some degree of cut, contrast, and complement, and will therefore probably match well with any of these sausages.

Cider and Pork (Swine)

“Cut” refers to the acidity in cider (even the sweetest ones), which can cut through rich fatty foods like cream sauces, heavy cheeses, and—of course!—pork sausage. To bring out the cider’s cut, we recommend making and serving pork-heavy Eastern European sausages like fresh Polish sausage or this Slovenian take on smoked kielbasa called krainerwurst: The fatty pork and bacon will resonate deliciously with the with acid tang of your cider. Another excellent pork-forward recipe that will match well with cider is Bad Bob’s “Brown ‘N’ Serve” Breakfast Sausage; not that we are recommending drinking hard cider at breakfast (although if it was good enough for George Washington…). For a cider on the dry end, which should have no trouble standing up to the rich porkiness of these sausages, try Crispin Browns Lane.

Cider and Spice

“Contrast” describes the ability of the carbonation, acidity and “sharpness” (tannins) in cider, working together, to contrast with spicy foods like the soppressata dry-cured hot pork sausage from Chuckwagon or this El Salvador chorizo. For a nicely balanced cider whose acidity and sharpness keeps pace with the sweetness, we like Samuel Smith’s Organic Cider (the same folks who make Samuel Smith’s Nut Brown Ale, among many other brews).

Cider and Sweetness

Food that cider will “complement” is anything sweet enough to harmonize with the apple-y goodness of Sweet to Medium-Dry ciders.  Fruit is the classic example here, and anything made with it. An excellent sweet sausage to complement your cider is the (simulated!) salamini Italiana alla cacciatora. The taste of this cacciatora sausage is “…sweet and delicate, gently enriched with a little salty touch and with the scent of garlic and pepper”.  A good example of a well-crafted sweet cider that would match the flavor of this sausage is Woodchuck Original Amber.

So wherever on the Sweet-Dry range your taste in cider falls, we’re sure you can find (or make!) one that will satisfy it. Pairing your cider with a good sausage makes the perfect cozy meal for autumn. Enjoy!

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

How to Make Coppa/Capicola at Home

This coppa tutorial is for those who have dabbled in the dry-cured and want to take it to the next level. We’ve aimed to make one of the more intimidating dry-cured recipes worth trying at home with step-by-step instructions, from ingredient prep to stuffing into beef bungs to the aging process, with plenty of tips along the way. We hope our guide encourages you to try your hand at homemade coppa to share with your loved ones. Buon appetito!

What’s the Difference Between Coppa and Capicola?

Coppa and capicola are two terms for the same kind of dry-cured meat. They can pretty much be used interchangeably, with one small caveat: Coppa originated in a region of Italy called Emilia-Romagna, while capicola was developed in Calabria. Either way, the meat comes from a muscle in the hog’s neck and gets dry-cured, then sliced thin for eating. You might also hear this cut referred to as capocollo (the most direct combination of the words capo and collo, which mean head and neck in Italian), capicollo, or even gabagool.

Can You Age Meat at Home?

An important thing to consider when making coppa at home is whether you have an environment that will encourage the best possible aging process. You may need to look around and see if you have a place (often a cellar or basement is fine) that during the late fall or winter months will hold temperatures from 50-59F and moderate-to-high humidity of about 70-80%. If the temperature is reachable but humidity needs a boost, consider a humidifier and/or humidity controls to get it just right. The Sausage Maker also makes a Dry-Curing Cabinet for the ease of set-and-forget.

Coppa Recipe

Note: Everything but the meat is available at end of the tutorial.

Supplies You’ll Need:
100mm collagen pre-tied casings OR beef bung
Note: Have backup collagen casings in case the beef bung tears and can’t be used.
Rub Mix
Compact food lug w/cover
#24 netting roll
Plastic wrap
Sharp knife
Food scale (10 lbs max)
Sausage pricker
Manual OR spring-loaded pliers
1/2” hog rings
Bactoferm Mold-600 (protects the surface from contamination)
Bactoferm B-LC-78 (protects the meat from spoilage bacteria)

Ingredients You’ll Need:
10 lbs pork butt/shoulder (AKA “Boston butt”)
Cure Mix
Capicola rub OR DIY coppa rub (per 5# coppa)
·         1 Tbsp crushed red pepper
·         1 Tbsp coarse black pepper
·         1 Tbsp Spanish paprika

Coppa Cure Mix Recipe (per 5# coppa):
4 oz salt – purified (non-iodized)
1 oz dextrose
1.5 tsp Insta-Cure #2
3 Tbsp coarse black pepper
3 tsp garlic powder
3 tsp Spanish paprika
2 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)

H2: Quick Tip on Buying Pork: Buy your pork from good local source and skip the chains and mega-marts. A quick search online will help find a local butcher, and if you’re in the area of one of our recommended meat markets, give them a try! If you talk and connect with your butcher, you’ll get the best quality cuts, support local business, and have an excellent final product to be extra proud of.

Phase 1: Prep Work (meat still in fridge)
Get your battle station ready, with your supplies in easy-to-reach places so you aren’t looking for them. Clean and clean some more—anything that will touch the coppa needs to be sterilized. Mix thoroughly all the ingredients from the cure mix into a clean container and set aside.

Phase 2: Cold Curing
Trim your butt and wrap it up!

Get the pork butt out of the fridge and trim away the fat cap on the surface. Cut it into approximately 2-lb pieces and trim away anything you don’t want to eat later. Leave the marbling intact and toss the pieces into the food lug. Season well with the cure mix by pouring it over the entire batch and rubbing it in thoroughly. Every nook and cranny of the meat should be visibly discolored by the paprika and peppers. Now plastic wrap each piece separately several times, pack the pieces side by side against each other into the food lug (stacking them is OK but no more than two high, and only if needed). Refrigerate for 30 days (not a typo).

During this month-long curing and marinating process, the salt, cure, cold and lack of oxygen nitrates to their more useful compound, sodium nitrite. This important stage will also allow the meat to develop shelf-stable properties under a more controlled refrigeration environment, instead of risking failure by hanging them right away in warmer, more vulnerable conditions.

will keep the meat from spoiling while the meat proteins gently begin to soften and absorb the spices and cure. The native beneficial bacteria in the pork also begins to break down

Keep the meat in an area that you will remember to check up on at least twice a week for any sitting “juices” in the bottom of the container that you need to drain periodically. You should also flip it upside-down and overhaul top pieces to the bottom if you have them stacked. Not much else to check on during this stage.

Phase 3: Stuffing
Day 29: Butts and bungs
First, get the capicola rub ready. You’ll either buy one from the Sausage Maker or make your own (recipe above). If you plan on using beef bungs, put them in cold water and in the refrigerator so they are pliable and ready for the following day.

Day 30: Pack ‘em and hang ‘em
Hope you remembered that coppa container that’s still in your fridge? Let’s get ready for the next big phase of the project. Prep your battle station again. Next, open both Bactoferms (Mold-600 and B-LC-78) and put them into separate containers. Add 1 tsp Bactoferm B-LC-78 to 4-6 oz of room-temperature distilled water and cover container to prevent contamination. Do the same with the Mold-600. Get the food lug with the coppa and beef bung (if using bung instead of collagen) out of the refrigerator.

Remove the coppa pieces from the plastic wrap and rinse them thoroughly under cold water. Spray or apply the Bactoferm B-LC-78 and then rub all pieces with the capicola rub or homemade mix. If you’re using collagen casings, soak them for only a couple of minutes in cool water. Jam each piece into the casings. Push pieces down to the bottoms of each casing and pack them in tightly. Be careful if you’re using beef bung casings so they do not burst under the force of stuffing. Once the casings are stuffed, feed them through the #24 netting roll and tie it off on each end. The netting helps gently squeeze air and moisture to the surface. Use a sausage pricker or sterilized needle to remove as many air pockets as you can, poking holes all over the coppa. Spray the surface with Bactoferm Mold-600, a quick coating on the entire casing.
Prior to hanging the coppa, document its weight with a calibrated food scale. When you hang it up for drying and aging, the final weight of your product should be at least 40% less than it was at the initial weigh-in

Ideally, hang first at 58F and 85% humidity for two days. This extra humidity will encourage the Mold-600 to grow and cover the surface of the coppa in a protective mold layer. Even if the mold has not shown yet, cool it down to between 50-55F and 70-75% humidity and hold at this setting for the rest of the recipe, which could be anywhere from 30 to 45 days. If the hanging area is small (<25sq.ft.), try to refresh that air or have a very small fan in the area to move air. If the area is larger, the movement is less important but some air movement is always helpful. This simply depends on whether the conditions were held somewhat constant and when you hit the right weight for shelf-stable coppa.

By the Way, What Is a Bacterial Starter Culture?

The B-LC-78 is a bioprotective culture that will encourage quality bacterial growth while discouraging harmful bacteria like listeria from growing to unsafe levels. The Mold-600 is penicillium nalgiovense, a beneficial/protective mold that will create a biological armor on the surface. The armor will protect against chance contamination of other native molds/yeasts and will help regulate the flow of moisture and prevent case hardening. It will also gradually increase the pH level of the meat over time (offsetting any ferment flavors that may occur) and it will add to the flavor and aroma of the coppa.

Say your grandpappy never used bacterial cultures and you still lived? Grandpappy, in the old country, used a method called “backslopping” to get those beneficial bacteria into the next batches. Backslopping requires removing some product from a batch that is already fermented and begun aging, removing it from its casing and mixing it in directly with the new batch prior to casing and hanging it. Same concept as making sourdough bread at home. While some villages may still use backslopping due to lack of access to starter cultures, it has been discouraged and even prohibited in much of modern production because it can increase the growth of pathogenic bacteria. Maybe grandpappy didn’t use starter cultures, but in our opinion he would have loved to, given the opportunity.

Phase 4: Hanging
Day 60!
About 30 days in is a good time to do the second weigh-in. At this point the coppa may have lost about 30-35% of its weight, and may still need a little more time to get to the optimal loss for stability and slice-ability. If it’s short of its desired weight, give it another weigh each week. If you’ve reached your desired target weight, congratulations! It’s time to give the coppa a good slicing, the thinner the better. Have a cheese board and crackers ready for the best snacking experience. For short-term storage, keep it in the solid state, bag and refrigerate. If you have a vacuum sealer, this would be the best time to slice, pack into vac-bags, seal and refrigerate for at least six months in storage (as long as the vacuum seal holds).

We hope you’ve enjoyed this tutorial on making coppa/capicola at home! It really is not as tricky as it all may sound, and we’ve attempted to boil down the process to include only what we would consider best practices. This tutorial may not be for the beginner sausage maker, but if you are familiar with making soppressata or other dry-curing recipes, you will likely be more comfortable making this one.

As always, if you have questions, please don’t hesitate to give us a call and we will do our best to help.