Up the Mountain in the Development Kitchen – Home Cured Pork

Ok, so I don´t really have a development kitchen and most of the actual experimentation went on in a small blue plastic bucket in my storage shed, but I have successfully cured (in brine) a piece of pork for the first time.

Even tastier than the first time I made it

You may recall a while back I showed you a recipe for Boiled Gammon. At the time I talked about the fact that it is impossible to buy it here in Andalucía but that I wanted to figure out how to make it at home.

Well, I turned to my old pal Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and he had some great information in his River Cottage Cookbook.

I started with a small piece of loin of pork that weighed 800g as I didn´t wanted to waste a large piece of meat if it all went horribly wrong.  I decided to play around a little with the flavours, amounts are flexible.

Ingredients

  • Pork (your choice of weight and cut)

For the brine

  • Water
  • Dark beer – 2 bottles
  • 1 kg Salt
  • Treacle or molasses – I used half a cup of Miel de Caña (or you could dissolve brown sugar in with the salt and beer)
  • Crushed black peppercorns and cloves (I used about a tablespoon full of each)

I boiled the salt with the beer and spices until it was dissolved then stirred in the molasses and added enough water to ensure the liquid would cover the meat.

The pork was put into a new (and then sterilised) bucket and covered with the brine once it had cooled completely. I had to put a plate with a weight on it to keep it from floating out of the water.  This was then left in a cool dark place for 3 days.  The recipe suggests this as a minimum period per kilo with a four day maximum period per kilo. You should note that your meat will not be a pretty pink colour like the brined hams bought in shops unless you use something like saltpeter or a chemical additive to keep the colour.  I didn´t do this, as I prefer not to.  For me, it´s all about keeping it natural and tasting great.

Pork after brining

When the required number of days have passed, drain the meat (discard the brine, it should not be reused).  Bring it to the boil in a pot of fresh water, drain it again and then cook.  I cooked it in the same way as previously, this time adding a couple of dried chillis to the stock and some celery.

When I posted the previous recipe my best friend called me to ask what the heck I had been doing serving the gammon with parsley sauce when it should have been onion sauce.  I stand corrected.

This time I made a delicious onion sauce by gently frying a medium onion in a little olive oil until it was soft and transparent. Then I added 2 tablespoons of flour and cooked it slightly then stirred in a cup of the meat cooking stock and half a cup of milk.  Add salt if it needs it (mine didn´t) and pepper and serve alongside the meat and vegetables.

Any leftovers can be made into a soup, but more of that another day…I´m off back to the Development Kitchen. We keep the wine in the shed.

Pickled Olives

Ok, so I know that for most people, pickling their own olives is fairly unrealistic.  Having said that, my parents have been on holiday around this time of year and bought olives in local markets abroad and then successfully pickled the olives back in London.

We´re getting to that time of year here were the olives are fattening up nicely after the rain finally started and the boughs are beginning to bend under their weight.  Custom here says that they should be picked when the moon is waning, that is, in the week following a full moon.  I expect we´ll be picking early December for crushing and making olive oil, but this month I picked a few buckets full for us to eat over the coming months.

We have a few varieties growing in our little olive grove.  Large fat olives, the kind they often put in a dry martini.  They´re called Manzanilla and have a pleasant nutty taste. These are the olives in the bowl on the left.

The most common variety round here is called Verdial (right bucket) and makes excellent olive oil for eating “raw” i.e. in salads or on bread. They are medium sized and have a sweet fruity flavour.

We also have some tiny olives (centre bucket) which are a variety called Picual with a slightly more bitter and peppery taste.

I picked a mixture of these and put them into my most glamorous buckets, and covered them with water.  Luckily we can get spring water here as chlorinated or tap water does tend to give them a slightly different taste.

The water is changed daily until they lose their bitterness. Smaller ones take less time, and if you split them first they take even less time.  The process can take anything from a few days to a month…patience, patience.

Finally, when they´ve reached the right stage (and you´ll be tasting them to check them), they get a final rinse and are packed into containers, flavoured with herbs (I used dried chili, garlic, lemon peel and rosemary) and covered in a salty brine.

Just a few days more of patience and they´re ready to enjoy.  They´ll keep for months, up to a year if you´ve made enough to get you through to next November.  As time goes on they may get a little softer and a harmless scum, which can just be removed, will appear on top of the brine.

Now, how do you like your martini – shaken or stirred?

PS. For some other great ways of making your own olives to eat, check out these great posts here and here from Olives and Artichokes