Sunday, May 17, 2009

Porcine Dreams...

Today I will prep for a private Medieval event at a good friend's property in Sonora. It is probably my favorite SCA event of the year and within their close knit household they have an amazing number of capable and competent people. So I was pretty honored to be asked to make a food contribution.

I am reading Scappi a lot lately and delving ever more into medieval meat preservation methods... I am sure that sounds all very scientific and pretentious but I assure you, after your first bite of duck confit rillette you will agree it is to serve a base hedonistic desire... for good food.

So today I will go to the local Asian store and pick up pork belly and lean and fat meat and fresh spices for sausage making. I haven't made bacon in about a month and my last few batches have been overly salty, so I need to stop being lazy about pulling them out of the cure in a timely manner.

I am making the event's Friday night simple one pot meal and I was going to do a beef barley, but I think I will do my meatballs instead with some kind of starch, either pasta or bread (maybe make a slider bar?) so I need to pick up some ground beef and chorizo. I also need to spend some time today planning out my menu for the Esfenn Feast so it can start making it's way into that event's copy.

Back... found something intriguing at the market. Something labeled "pork chin" that has similar striation and meat/fat ratio as bacon...

I asked the guy behind the meat counter and he gesticulated to the jowl area, so I am going to try and make guiancale again.

I got four pork bellies this time, I will cut one or two up for the fat for the sausages and then make 2 new batches of bacon. I will likely make one sweet and one salty. It is getting to warm to hang meat for curing (this is the only depressing thing about the change to warmer weather for me), but I will hopefully have time over the summer to make a new sheath for my meat closet that is out of a natural fiber. The plastic-ish covering it has now is not breathable enough and if I close it all the way the sausages have more of a proclivity to mold. I also will cover the window in the curing room. It is really pretty dark in there as it is, but I would like even less light. Light can make the fat more opaque looking and rancid.

I am starting to collect my thought for my W/AT War class on medieval preserved meats. I will have to narrow it down a lot more than just "preserved meats" because depending on which climate you lived in and what your natural resources were, there was a prtty wide variety of preservation methods including salting, pickling, wet and dry curing, covering with oil, confit etc. Each of these methods could be an entire class. And different regions did them a little differently as well (mainly having to do with natural climate... you will see more drying and smoking in a cooler climate, more pickling and wet brining in a hotter climate... even tho you will generally see both almost everywhere).

The thing I like about it is even if it is kind of esoteric, if people wanted to learn some of these techniques, they could really add to their real life SCA camping experiences by preparing delicious food that was meant to keep without modern conveniences like a freezer/refrigerator. So it is really a pretty practical skill for your average person who regularly camps in the SCA, or really who camps period.

It is such a large mental shift tho, refridgeration and canning has totally revolutionaized how we think about food and managing our food products... I cannot stress that enough. I will use some of the information from my Food Safety and Sanitation class to highlight the differences... and the similarities. How PH effects food safety, and how they used acids and oils and removing moisture instead of refrideration to keep food in the "Safety zone".

Generally moisture, heat and mid level PH are the three things that can feed bad bacteria. So the medieval way to do that was to often salt something (either cover with salt, or cover with a salty brine) or cook it (killing bacteria) and then preserve it by either drying it (with smoke or air) or covering it with an acid (vinegar or citrus) or oil (like olive oil, which is alkeline). This retarded bacteria growth.

I also got the meat for the meatballs for next weekend. If I make those up today or tomorrow I will just freeze them for the weekend. I also got to geek out with some of the chefs at Wente last night. Two of them are playing with meat smoking and we all agreed to bring in some of our products for trying. I will bring in some of the next batch of bacon and some of the dry cured sausage. I had this terrible panic attack last night that I had used all of the Scappi mortadella at the St. Mary's feast and for Vittoria's Salon of Awesome. But I got up this morning and there is still a good four pounds of it in the freezer for Eirreanwood. WHEW!!!