23 minutes ago
It was unnerving, people.
I know all of you out there with your high-falutin "basements" and "sun-porches" may not know what I'm talking about (though curing meat is curing meat and first timers are probably skittish regardless.)
I followed The Ruhls. I monitored the temperature. I used highly scientific methods to measure the humidity ("Rob, does it feel moist in here? Moistish? Why are you walking away? Stop shaking your head at me!") Still, my nerves were jumpy. That first bite was tough. Even for me.
I think venturing into the world of charcuterie is somewhat like venturing into the world of sky-diving. At some point you have to put down the book, forget the theory and just jump, or, in our case, eat.
Not so secret confession: I have for some time lived in mortal fear of botulism, or, as I lovingly refer to it, The Botch.
I yearn to can and jar, but without someone to teach me (weep for the future if we don't start relearning these things, people.) I always shrink back, afraid, and use my ball jars for other things like lavender syrup and impromptu herb vases. Things that cannot leave you a retching mess if you screw them up. Innocuous things. Pretty things. Thing that don't require you to hang raw meat over your child's crib. I put it out there at the start of this whole Charcutepalooza thing: I had fear. I needed to surmount it. Cathy and Kim were my dual and much cuter Virgils, leading me down into hell and back up again. (Mr. Ruhlman is Beatrice in this scenario? Maybe?)
For the non-nerds I am proclaiming myself as Dante. And Charcuterie is my Inferno. Which, in turn, makes the inaugural challenge, duck prosciutto, my Paradiso.
Oh. And how.
But you can't get to Paradise without some trial. That just isn't how it works.
The book advises that after being buried in salt and hung for days and days your duck breasts should be firm and that "If the breasts still feel squishy (raw) in the center" they need more time in your temp and moisture perfect hanging space nursery. I had a major crisis over the words "squishy (raw)". Mine were squishy. I think. Maybe? How squishy is too squishy? Does squishy automatically mean "raw" or is there a level of squishy that is obviously raw. WTF. And also, STOP LOOKING AT ME BOTCH.
Furthermore, there was white stuff on the outside of the breasts. I was all....mold? crap from the cheesecloth? Botch stubble? Some sort of natural selection, perhaps? Ye who are stupid enough to make your own cured meat in the age of Murrays and FedEx shall be destroyed?
Finally, some initial directions indicated that the weight loss should be about 30% and, according to my fancy pantsy scale we had only lost 20%. Despair!
I ruminated on all of this while observing my hard-earned duck breasts. I had vacated Nico's nursery for the love of meat. I had left the window open in said nursery over the weekend, despite our lack of heat, despite the fact that we could come home to find a bunch of mean, East Harlem pigeons snacking on raw duck and reading Goodnight Moon to each other.
And then I was all "Whatever, this is boring" and just sliced and ate.
People of the world. Readers. Visitors from other sites. I have been to the promised land. It has a layer of velvety fat, so delicate it melts in room temperature and still further when it hits your tongue. It has a layer of deep pink and marbled meat, much like our beloved pork, but deeper, darker, more layered. Like a little piggie grew up and became a world traveler, saw the pyramids, played the Old Course, had steamy affairs with Brazilian divorcees, spent some time surfing off a boat in the Pacific, eating fish straight from the sea, listening to Pink Floyd and contemplating the moon. Serious, Most Interesting Pig In The World stuff. And finally, it has a layer of darker, slightly chewier meat. Something like speck. Jerky's softer, more refined cousin. Providing a bit of bite to all that soft and melty lusciousness.
I think it is fair to say: Kim and Cathy are geniuses. And maybe Ruhlman is our Virgil, after all. And not to be all dramatic about it but: 2011 is going to be bitchin.
TO THE MEAT!
posted Saturday, January 15, 2011