Preserved Lemons

Preserving Lemons

Last month’s Charcutepalooza challenge was the salt cure, specifically fresh bacon and pancetta from Charcuterie – The Craft of Salting, Smoking and Curing. The one salt cure recipe in the book that I had yet to try was Lemon Confit. This is essentially just lemons that are preserved in salt for 1-3 months. The inspiration for this was a blog post by Michael Ruhlman, the author of the above mentioned book.

So prepared with a one quart jar, 9 freshly scrubbed and halved lemons and a kilogram of kosher salt, I now have a spot in our pantry committed to a 3 month lemon curing adventure.

What are preserved lemons for you ask?

They are a staple of Moroccan cooking and are used in a number of traditional dishes such as tagines. They are also used in Cambodian cooking for a chicken soup called Ngav ngum. They can also be used in vinaigrettes and almost any dish that combines lemon and salt.

Hopefully my first attempt and lemon confit works well and I will be able to share the recipes I use them in. Stay tuned for the beginning of June for the results.

Pancetta Stuffed Mushrooms

Pancetta

The Charcutepalooza Challenge #2 came and went without my pancetta being ready. (Thank goodness the fresh cured bacon came through for me in time!) But better late than never is actually true when it comes to bacon. Pancetta is pork belly that is cured with salt and spices for a week and then is hung to air cure for a further two weeks.

After 2 weeks in the curing chamber, the pancetta still felt a little mushy in the middle so we left it for another 4 days before we determined that it was ready. We had to wipe some mould off of the surface of the pancetta with vinegar in a couple of places but it was only on the surface and came off easily.

We cut the pancetta into slices about 1/4 inch thick and quickly were able to dismiss our major fear of air pockets. For a first attempt I think we really nailed it. Between the fresh cured bacon and the pancetta, I don’t think we will ever have to buy bacon again.

So what to cook? We had a bunch of cremini mushrooms leftover from the pickled mushroom recipe as well as fresh thyme and a can of artichoke hearts in the pantry. Obviously pancetta stuffed mushrooms were destined to be.

Pancetta in Mushroom Form

Pancetta Stuffed Mushrooms

1 lb cremini mushrooms, stems removed and finely chopped
6 oz. pancetta finely chopped
1 medium white onion finely chopped
6 oz. artichoke hearts finely chopped
2 garlic cloves minced
1 Tbs. fresh thyme chopped
1 egg beaten
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1/4 cup white wine
1/4 cup pecorino cheese grated
1/2 tsp black pepper

Preheat oven to 375º F

Add olive oil to a hot pan and saute the pancetta over medium high heat until brown and crisp. Remove the pancetta from the pan and set aside. Add the onions to the pan and saute until tender or about 5 minutes then add the garlic and saute for a further minute. Add the mushroom stems and the fresh thyme and saute for another 5 minutes. Return the pancetta to the pan and add the white wine and cook until the liquid has evaporated. Remove the stuffing from the pan and cool.

Mix the bread crumbs, eggs, black pepper and pecorino together in a bowl and then add the cooled stuffing mixture and combine. Stuff each mushroom cap with a heaping teaspoon and arrange on a baking sheet.

Cook in the oven until the mushroom caps are tender 8-9 minutes then remove from the oven.

Turn the oven to broil and move a rack to the upper half of the oven.

Sprinkle a little pecorino over the top of each of the mushroom caps and return to the oven until the cheese is melted and slightly browned.

These are a great appetizer and would work with just about any type of bacon.

Charcuterie Challenge #2

Pancetta and Fresh Bacon

The second challenge for Charcutepalooza was issued on January 15th and I am really behind the eight ball on this one. I need to complete the curing and have an article and recipe for one of the two meats by February 15th and I have only finished the fresh bacon. The pancetta will need two weeks to cure and so will be past the deadline. To make the timing a little more difficult, we are heading to Mexico for a week and so will only have one day once we are back to do the post.

Anyhow…we bought an 11 pound pork belly and brought it home last week.

Pork Belly Skin Removed

Removed the skin and cut the belly in half and cured two ways. One a basic salt cure and the other a traditional italian cure both again from Michael Ruhlman’s book Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking and Curing.

The Pancetta Half

Both the pancetta and bacon cured in the fridge for a week until the pork belly was nice and firm and then removed.

Fresh Bacon Out of the Oven

The bacon was roasted in the oven under low heat until it reached a temperature of 150º F, removed from the oven to cool and then sliced and frozen.

Fresh Frozen Bacon

The pancetta was rolled tightly, tied and then hung in my new home curing chamber for 2 weeks at 60º F and a humidity of 60%.

Rolled Pancetta

The bacon tastes great and I am looking forward to trying it in a recipe to be determined. The pancetta looks really good but we will see in 14 days.

Pancetta Curing in the New Chamber