Saucisse de Couenne- pork rind sausage

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“Everything but the oink.” Nothing goes to waste on a pig. Of all the nose-to-tail recipes I love, from Fergus Henderson’s slow-braised pork belly to Michel Dussau’s Brioche de Boudin Noir et Pomme, I love the fat and simple pork rind sausages that stud my cassoulets and deliver an extra flavor and texture bomb to braised cabbage, sage-infused beans and my own poule-au-pot.

The Recipe for Saucisse de Couenne

Ingredients: for every kilo of mixture use 1/3 rind to 2/3 meat

330 g fresh pork rind (cooked and chilled*)

     *To prepare the rind, cut into long strips about 5 cm wide, scrape off all the fat, roll loosely, tie with a string. Cook in clear water for 2-3 hours. Remove from liquid and let cool. (I threw in 500 grs. or a pound of dried beans with these and let them cook a the same time.)

660gr freshly minced pork (lean meat and belly)

17 gr salt 

6 gr freshly ground black pepper (this is a flavorful peppery amount- reduce to 4 gr if you are scared of pepper)

seasoning:

  • one large bunch parsley
  • chopped chives and green onions

or

  • small glass of white wine
  • generous pinch quatre épice

Grind the cooled, cooked rind and meat on a small hole (6mm) plate.

Add salt and pepper.

Add seasoning.

Mix well and stuff in thick casings (saucisson- 50mm); tie well on both ends. Let set overnight (24-2=48 hours)

Poach in water 15 minutes or confit in fat over a low flame- for 30 minutes.

Serve with lentilles du puy, beans or greens.

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pig + time = ham

bandw piglets-2 daysThis is where it begins.

A cuddle of black and white piglets under a heat lamp in a barn perched on the side of a mountain in the Pyrenees-

Meet the Porc Basque.

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And this is where it ends- 3 years later.

A hall of ham in the same Pyrenees Mountains ageing with the help of the dry Foehn wind.

Meet the Kintoa Ham.

eric showing lepoa

The journey our food takes from live animal to edible product is a long and precarious one. Even a simple carrot is a year of careful work and attention to a complex web of details from soil care and weather to weeding, harvesting and preserving. In the four weeks that our students spend here in Southwest France, on the Chapolard farm and in the markets, shops and kitchen at Camont, they also make that journey. From an idea of what pork is to the visceral understanding of making food from seed-to-sausage, I watch as the one by one, each butcher, cook, or want to be farmer takes the steps in his or her own way. On the way to the mountains we stop at Hasparren- home of  the Louis Ospital workshop. Here, Ibaiona Pork Master Eric Ospital shares his little gourmet cult cut- lepoa, destined for the finest restaurants in Paris. I met Eric and the World of Ham a year ago here.

aldudes pig walkOn the last trip to the Pyrenees Valley of Les Aldudes, the Spring ’13 gang of four (Kirsty, Adam, John and Analiesa) were joined by guest Welsh Pig Guru Illtud Llyr Dunsford. For a look at his own French Jaunt journey, check out his thoughtful blog here. Reading about his trip, inspired me to think about my own. Each small group I teach is different and although personalities do factor into learning and time spent together, I see a common pattern emerge. In the beginning, we all look for the similarities.

Oteiza Sows and BoarA pig is a pig is a pig until it becomes a PIG. While working at the Chapolard farm- Baradieu- all pigs are big- 400 lbs plus. Although housed in various European pig sheds just outside the meat cutting room door, they keep a rather low profile as our focus is on the final product- farmstead charcuterie. One of the reasons I whisk the group away from the cradle of a single farm focus is to shake our comfortable relationship with the family farm and introduce the idea that there are a hundred ways into the harbor*. 

pigville Spring snowThis is a very different harbor indeed. This is where the differences begin to tell. These fern-thatched nursery sheds are located just outside the Pierre Oteiza production facility and boutique in Aldudes. Mother sows and porcelets  are kept here under a watchful eye until the piglets are weaned at 6-8 weeks when they are moved to mountain parks for the rest of their adult lives. It’s easy to spend a couple hours just watching the  juvenile antics of the young within walking distance of the restaurant where we enjoyed a long and porky lunch- from prized Kinto jambon to stuffed pigs’ ear terrine served with pickled cherries and a good bottle of Irouleguy.

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We talked a lot on the road.

About people’s expectations in buying high welfare meat. About how good animal husbandry isn’t always as pretty as consumers would like to see. Producing good quality meat is a lot of work and yes, there is mud and pig shit. Just ask Kiwi Kirsty as she completes a couple weeks of continuing education mucking around with pigs. Her Plog  here is an insider’s few of Pig School here in Gascony.

pig fodder

 

 

 

Analiesa, John and Kirsty tuck into pig parts at Oteiza’s canteen/boutique.Belaun kinto ham

Next, there are a myriad of small differences that begin to make themselves known. Here at the Chapolards, we make small boneless Noix de Jambon, like culatello but smaller cuts. But this high Basque valley area is famous for ham- on my own map of SW France I call it Ham Heaven. From these farms to this table, or in this case  from those Basque piglets to this beautiful Kinto ham rubbed red with the Basque panacea Piment d’Espelette,  there are a lot of small important steps: the careful tending and feeding of the animals who live most of their adult life outside until the age of 12-15 months; the slaughter and butchering of the carcasses; the salting, drying and ageing of the hams in this specially designed ‘sechoir’ or curing facility for another 12-18 months. A total of three years plus if add in the gestation period of the piglets.

2013-03-15 13.53.49Most often we eat the salty fruit of all these labors with barely a thought of the day-to-day work that goes into making our basic food. But I trust that after 4 weeks of up front and personal contact with the French farmers, butchers and charcutiers that grow, tend, slaughter, butcher and transform, this well-dressed group, including me, will spend an extra little moment of reflection on the people who make the food we eat. Thanks to all our welcoming hosts-charcutiers Eric Ospital, Catherine Oteiza, and farmers Josette Arrayat and Gerard Bordagaray!

Team Pig @ OteizaTeam PIG Spring 2013

at the Sechoir Collective de la Valle des Aldudes

* ‘Cannibal Ed’ Boden (1981-USVI)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Jambon de Bayonne en fête! A Basque Country road trip with Kate.

What’s red and green and red and white… and ham all over?

The Foire au Jambon in the colorful Basque port of Bayonne.

A memory of a Bayonne surfaces from a long ago road trip looking for marine goods along the Atlantic coast for my barge, the Julia Hoyt. Rope, cord, and lines I was searching. I drove along the river port of the Adour outside of Bayonne in the very southwest of  Southwest France looking for some fishermen, a working boat or chandlery.  The newly fitted nose of wooden fishing boat peeked out of an over-sized hanger; I braked for a quick look inside. Yes. Men working with wood and fiber glass, paint and canvas. Ocean going small fishing boats. Sturdy, serious and hard-working. The boats and the men. I knew they would know. I have a nose for these things.

I thanked them for the directions to the Co-op Maritime in St. Jean de Luz, I turned to say au revoir  and stopped dead in my foodie tracks. Although the Captain in me was looking for cord, the Cook in me spotted a treasure trove of maturing hams hanging from every square foot of rafter space. A boat yard/charcuterie shed? Welcome to Baiona!

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Pancetta + Ventrèche= it’s about the pig…

Pork Belly by Tim Clinch

I swim in a sea of charcuterie every week as I plow the waves of good food produced by the neighboring farms of the Lot-et-Garonne: salted hams, meaty saucisson, head cheese, terrines, patés, and other cured and confited parts of the fatted pig. As a cook, I began my sea trials in meat here as I discovered the extraordinary flavors of each cured piece of the pig. I started to learn my hind leg for jambon from my forward leg- shoulder for fresh saucisse de Toulouse. Then it was loins and chops, ribs and collar. Next came the innards…

Like all novices, I worked my way up and down the coast of liver, kidneys, brain, lung, and blood. I watched as pigs were slaughtered and butchered on family farms, one at a time, with care and respect for the ‘year of meat’ to come. Then I began to help- trimming meat, carrying ourt orders from the grand-mères as whole pigs were put up in jars- canned, sterilized in a water bath and stored, or salted, peppered, and hung to age in a corner of the barn.  But it wasn’t until I barged into the life of a small pig farm that I learned the most important past of this ocean of charcuterie. It’s the pig. Just simply the PIG.

Imagine the first visit to the Chapolard farm in 1997 with my good friend Elaine Tin Nyo. She wanted to do a series of photographs and videos for one of her edibly inspired art exhibits. I had already begun cooking my way through the pig with the market advice of Marc Chapolard, who selling me a piece of pork a week talked me through the process of cooking boudin, salting a tail, or roasting a collar. There is an image of that first visit to Baradieu- Marc holding out his hands full of ground grains- grain that they grew on the farm to feed their pigs.

Oh, Pigs eat too. I want to know what I am eating eats. What? What do pigs eat?

lil'pig by Tim Clinch

My brain was moving slowly forward. These pigs eat wheat, barley, corn, oats, sunflowers, favabeans, soy… How big are they? Oh, big. Very big as these meat growing pigs are intended for charcuterie as well as fresh meat. Twelve months old, 400 lbs+ of solid red meat and firm flavorful fat. The Chapolards know that their mature pigs’ meat is fully developed in both flavor and structure. Here in Gascony, we believe that the best charcuterie is not just from certain types of breeds finished on fancy diets, but rather from a well balanced diet fed its entire life and a ‘grownup’, fully mature animal. Oh, this pork meat is like beef. Not veal. Can you imagine making corned veal, veal jerky, or veal bresaola? The meat cells must develop sufficiently to be able to cure properly both in flavor and in texture.

There are technical reasons behind all this, but for us amateurs of good meat our best chance to getting good pork is to ken your pork producer or artisan butcher and learn as much as you can, piece by piece. I have the luxury of, after 14 years, knowing the Chapolards well.  Baradieu is not a pigshit-free showcase farm; but they raise their Large White/Pietrai/Duroc pigs with the sort of care over 12 months from birth to slaughter that produces delicious and tasty meat. Like this slab of pork belly I used for my ventrèche géante.

“THE PRESENCE OF A BUTCHER IN A DISTRICT SAYS AS MUCH FOR ITS INTELLIGENCE AS FOR ITS WEALTH. THE WORKER FEEDS HIMSELF, AND A MAN WHO FEEDS HIMSELF THINKS.”

H. De Balzac- “The Country Doctor”

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Projet Cochon- the Butcher & the Kids

The white blackboard read: Project- “dans le cochon tout est bon” . And so it was.

This week, twenty-four French lycée students between 16-20 years old and their professors M. Franck LAPIERRE and M. Jean Marc BOUILLY allowed three American kitchen-crashers to look over their shoulders as Dominique Chapolard, artisan butcher and pork producer, demonstrated in the expansive  school kitchen that “in the pig, all is good!”

The attentive white-clad chefs-in-training crowded around as M. Chapolard reconstructed the whole pig carcass, piece by piece, organ by organ. Silence reigned as Dominique, our master butcher mentor here at Camont, explained what goes into making good pork from field to table.

Only when he split the skull to reveal the tiny brain did squeamish teenage yelps erupt.  Quickly silenced by Chef Lapierre, he teased them that they see more blood on the horror films they watch. After the initial hour of dissection, as the muscle groups began to resemble familiar meat cuts, this next generation of France’s good cooks began to chop and grind, season and taste, while the scent of Gascony’s prized pork filled the kitchen. A hind leg became a Jambon, a shoulder a Roti de Porc. The large rib cage transformed into ventreche, poitrine and travers. Legs broke down into jarret and pied de porc while the caul fat was washed and leaf lard rendered out before grattons were drained and pressed into a terrine.

les 3 garcons

This fine piggy day was a part of “Cooking at the Source-Gascony“, a collaboration between Robert Reynold’s Chef’s Studio in Portland, Oregon and my own Kitchen-at-Camont. We spent the morning with our good friend and farmer/butcher Dominique Chapolard as he did a day long demonstration for the students of  the Lycee Jacques-de-Romas in neraby Nerac. For upcoming Duck workshops in the U.S. and France consult our program pages.

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Could this be your Perfect Pig on an October morning?

free range Frenhc pigs

The Agen market is full of surprises on a perfect fall morning.

Today, shopping for quince, cress, and cilantro I ran into a drove of pigs.

Free-range, pasture-raised French pigs.

pigs in forest

Like a stage setting, simplicity itself- one knife, a cleaver, a wooden block,

bacon boy

& a smile.

Julien Veyrac

of Tournon d’Agenais

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No one was more surprised than me to meet the new butcher boy on the block

and discover some damn good looking charcuterie and fresh pork.

Merci, Julien for taking over the family farm.

See you next Wednesday for your andouillette-

my secret ingredient for an onctuous cassoulet.

producer of pasture-raised pigs

Wednesdays- Agen Central Market

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Piggy Newtons Part 1- My Perfect French Fig Jam

When visiting Flower Power Lisa and her two kids t’other day, Miles- the wee one with the duck down hair, offered me a ‘Piggy Roll’ with my tea. He cracks me up with his 2 1/2 year old hospitality, dead serious and smiling at the same time. Yes, I’d love a “Figgy” Roll, I corrected.

Figs. Pigs. What’s the diff? A figgy newton-like cookie is always good with Earl Grey.

This week, I gathered the first harvest from the GIANT fig tree at Camont and I knew just where I was going. No recipe needed to make a batch of dark, delicious figgy/piggy jam. But I will tell you what I did with what was at hand. Next post, I’ll make a homemade a cookie dough with lard and butter (like my Grandmother’s biscotti) and cook the ‘Pig Newton Rolls’ for Smilin’ Miles- my new beau.

Kate’s French Figgy Jam- notes on a cooking riff.

The most important ingredient is my pot. For years, I used a too-deep 20-liter stainless steel stock pot or a too-wide braising pan with lid that was big enough to hold 2 chickens. One was not wide enough for the volume of fruit, the other too wide. So just like Golden Locks, I now have refined my perfect small batch confiture bassin- a not too big, not too small, JUST RIGHT, second hand, acid-green le Creuset acquired last year at a brocante for a few paltry euros. Measuring about 24 cm and holding 4 liters, it is the PERFECT size for fast cooking a 2 kilo or 4.5 pounds of fruit plus sugar, etc. Now, I know by sight that when the casserole is half full (about 2 liters of cut up fruit), it is time to stop picking, pitting or peeling.

Next.

2 kilos or 4-5 pounds of figs with the stems trimmed off and cut or pulled into quarters. When the figs are as ripe as these, its easier just to pull them apart.

500 grams or one pound of rapadura sugar (the SECRET ingredient) The caramel/molasses flavor immediately darkens the fruit mixture into a deep jammy color.

500 grams other sugar- white, brown, raw, etc. This is where we start to get creative with what’s at hand.

One whole organic lemon: zest, juice and pulp- zest it, squeeze it, then scraped the pulp out with a spoon. Add it all.

I also added:

  • a handful of wild blackberries
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 vanilla bean- split and scraped
  • a large glug (that’s a metric measure) of orange juice

COOK. I put the flame on high under the fig-filled le creuset; dumped the sugar on top of the figs. Added the rest of ingredients and then waited. Just waited. As soon as I heard the juice from the orange, lemon and figs start to burble, I stirred. A quick stir to mix everything together and placed the lid on until it was boiling away nicely.

THEN. Take off the lid, adjust the heat so it won’t boil over and let cook about 15-20 minutes.

BLEND. I use the immersion/stick/magicwand blender and gave the mixture a half stir. Some chunks, some puree. Taste and adjust lemon if needed.

That’s it. It was sweet, dark and thick. Perfect. How did I know? It said so on the jar.

le parfait


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Meet the teachers #1- a solo act.

french pigs m-h tarn2

This is the pig that roots in the woods then lives in the barn that eats the grain that becomes the bacon that I bought in the market that came from the house that Jill built.

French pigs m-h tarn

Jill is really called Marie-Helène but she did indeed plant the corn that she feeds her long-snouted pigs that she takes to the abattoir that she turns into fine traditional charcuterie that she sells at the weekend markets in the Tarn department about 2 hours from here.

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Marie-Helene defies the beret-wearing burly butcher stereotype here in France. She is a feminine and soft-but outspoken butcher/pig farmer who singularly raises and processes her own pigs before selling them to a small but loyal group of farmer market goers. She tells me that she sells a relationship as well as the fresh pork and cured meats, one based on trust and confidence in her everyday hard work. Her week is long, like most farmers, but she has learned how to maximize the time spent in the ‘laboratoire‘ to slaughter, cure and pack just enough pork each week to sell out. And she does it alone. Yup! All by herself. single-handed. Alone. She raises, slaughters, butchers and cures two to three pigs a week, every week, all year long. She is my new hero.

The bacon made with these pigs tastes and smells of that earthy farm perfume that distinguishes  ‘small-batch’ farm-raised charcuterie from the sanitized version of pork products that Americans have come to know and love. It only happens when the farmer is the cook and in this case, the butcher and charcutière as well. I call it ‘close-to-the-earth’ gastronomy.

What do you know about pigs and pork? Think again. Think France. Think 5 generations of raising pigs.

This could be your new teacher.

(Fergus Henderson admonished us years ago to ‘hug our butchers’ and today Ed Bruske inspired to me hug my teachers.  Hugs to the garden teachers here at Slow Cook.)

Photography by Eugene Frerichs while at the Kitchen-at-Camont this summer. To see more of her work while in residence here, click here.

Merci!

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Estouffade: crowing hens…cluck, cluck, cluck whole hog!

Do you know that hens crow too?

The new red hens are starting to lay their first eggs.  When the commotion in the chicken garden reaches a crescendo, I know there is yet another golden yolked egg waiting in the straw nest. But here in Gascony, even little Pigs crow. So when Judy Witts  and I start crowing this morning, it’s because after 4 years of reporting on all things pork at the Whole Hog Blog we made Saveur Magazine’s best of the web. Cluck, cluck, clucckkkk!

learning about pork from the ground up

learning about pork from the ground up

While Judy has been giving online courses to chefs  in making Porchetta, I have been waking up at 4 in the morning (ouch!) to drive charcuterie apprentices to the abattoir, hauling 150-pound half carcasses in the trunk of my Renault Clio back home, and helping them learn the names and cuts of the French Pig from jarret to jambon.  Then we cook, cure & preserve all week until the larder is full, the pantry est plein.

My favorite French ‘pulled pork’ is called escaoudoun in the Gascon patois. Tasted in a hideaway of a cafe in the Landes forest called La Croute du Pin where it was made with the typique Noir de Gascogne pig, I re-created the dish here at Camont with most of the shoulder from Camas’ graduation pig.

Camas' graduation ham

Once it cooked in the sweet onion sauce for a two hours, I ladled the sauce pork into large canning jars. When unannounced friends arrive for dinner, I’ll cook some Monalisa potatoes and serve them floating on an island of sweet onions pork, just like Madame did.

Recipe- for  Estouffade de Porc- l’Escaoudoun

  • 2 kilos / 4 1/2 lbs. of farm raised pork shoulder, cut into large cubes
  • 1 kilo of onions, sliced thinly
  • 2 soupspoons of duck fat
  • 1 bottle of sweet wine wine (jurancon or cote de gascogne)
  • 1/2 bottle madera, sherry or white port
  • 1 generous glass of armagnac
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and sliced
  • a large bouquet garni- lovage, bay leaf, thyme
  • sea salt to taste
  • freshly ground black pepper, a lot of it!
  • a large pick of quatre épice  (ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves)

The basic recipe is to cook all of the above until the onions have melted, the pork is falling apart and the flavors of the sweet wine mingle with the onion in a caramel-colored sauce.

Cook the onions in duck fat until they start to be translucent.  Add the pork and herbs, season (using only a little salt at this time to allow for reduction of the sauce), pour the wines and armagnac over the meat, cover and cook over a very slow heat for 2 hours or until meat is falling apart and the sauce is thick. Taste to reseason for salt. Serve warm with boiled potatoes.

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