Holiday Italian Sausage

My family on my mother’s side has a tradition of infusing Italian culinary delights into the holidays.

While it may be odd to those more familiar with turkey and ham this time of year, I love our ‘Italian Christmas’ – lasagna, Gramma Tootsie’s meatballs, sausage and antipasti platters.

My mom usually tackles the lasagna and tomato sauce, and we sometimes make the meatball-making a family affair. But this year, I asked if I could put my charcuterie love to use and make homemade sweet Italian sausage.

Butcher Shop Meats Royale on Overland

Butcher Shop Meats Royale on Overland

Thanks to Boise’s Meats Royale for the needed pork butt, back fat and hog casings, and Michael Ruhlman’s recipe in his book Charcuterie for the guidance.


Pork Back Fat

Pork Back Fat

Dicing up the pork butt

Dicing up the pork butt 

Adding in the seasonings - salt, pepper, sugar, garlic, sweet paprika, fennel seeds

Adding in the seasonings – salt, pepper, sugar, garlic, sweet paprika, fennel seeds

The grind

The grind

Lined up deliciousness

Lined up deliciousness


Fall Harvest: Bountiful Basil

Every year we put in a garden. And every year, the bounty is a tad lopsided.

This year, we grew the heck out of basil. 

The Italian side of me was thrilled, especially since I’d just returned from a trip to the motherland with a recipe for Pesto alla Genovese from the hills above Cinque Terre.

While it is delicious fresh slathered on a crusty piece of bread, or tossed with pasta, it also freezes well for that fresh pesto vibe in the middle of winter. 20141018-045855 pm-61135293.jpg


- 100g (5 cups) basil – leaves washed and dried

- 50g (3.5 TBL) Parmesan or Pecorino cheese

- 30g (2 TBL) pine nuts or walnuts

- 1/2 cup olive oil (good quality)

- clove of garlic

- salt to taste

Put all ingredients in a mixer, blend to a smooth cream. Serve immediately OR pour into freezer-safe container, top with thin film of olive oil and freeze. To defrost, chop and mash with spoon and add in extra virgin olive oil.

Buon appetito!

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A Girl & a Pig

There once was a girl who wanted to butcher.

She talked about it. She blogged about it. She handled meat and made sausage and got on stage to talk about it.

Then she put her money and knives where her imagination was – and butchered that hog.

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There were many reasons why I wanted to go to the second year of Feast Portland, but getting to stand on one side of a butcher block while Portland Meat Collective’s Camas Davis schooled us in the art of butchery was definitely the main draw.

As my dear friend Liz once shared,
A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.” – Robert A. Heinlein

Perhaps that sentiment is why I’ve wanted to learn to butcher a beast. Or to do something physical and tangible and non-sit-at-a-desk-type-on-a-device. Or because I embrace being a generalist in life because like Robert Heinlein so eloquently stated, specialization is for insects.

2013-09-22 14.07.50In that frame of mind, Camas is a sherpa. An idol. One badass woman with a blade.

Finding herself out of work in 2009 she went searching for knowledge, butchery knowledge to be exact. Not finding it in her home town, she jumped the pond to France to apprentice with a family and learn the art of whole animal butchery. Once back home, she kept following her gut and launched the Portland Meat Collective – to bring knowledge of the art of butchery to the masses, and connect communities to their food in a more tangible way. Camas helps bridge the knowledge gap that exists between the animal in the pasture and the meat on your plate.

In the words of Wusthof when honoring her for their Edge Awards, “Camas is challenging expectations, breaking stereotypes and bringing intellectual depth to the art of butchery. “ 

And in an interview for those same awards, she summed up just why I got such a thrill out of her class, “I really could feel my brain – these connections happening – while I was cutting up meat”  

Here’s a photo journey through my day of butchery. I’m the one in the Seahawk hat grinning wildly while hugging a ham hock.

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Having a rabid fan base (pun kinda intended) that quickly sells out most of the PMC classes isn’t the pinnacle, now Camas is leading the charge for Meat Collectives Across America. Here’s the Kickstarter campaign that was quickly funded earlier this year.

Don’t think I haven’t been scheming about one in Boise. Who’s in? Raise your cleavers.

(P.S. For the latest admiring writeup on Camas – check out Martha Stewart’s feature honoring her as an American Made Tastemaker )

Bring on the DIY


Can’t wait to break this bad boy open and whip up some homemade Sriracha and Horchata (& Feta & graham crackers & cultured butter aaaaaand the list goes on)

A Good Reprieve from the Daily Grind #Charcutepalooza

I learned something surprising about myself last night as I belatedly tackled my May Charcutepalooza challenge.

I REALLY love the process of making sausage. Heck, I just really love the task of hacking up big hunks of protein.


Going from the image in the front – a chunk of Pork Shoulder Butt (no, it’s not an oddly shapped animal but the end piece of the shoulder) – to the diced pieces at the back was oddly fulfilling.


And then, putting my multi-tasking new kitchen gadget (a meat grinder AND pasta maker? Heck yeah!) to use with my chile-coated chunks of pork. The site honestly brought me back to my Play-Doh days and had me utter to Kevin, “Wow this is so fulfilling.”


He thought I was joking. Do I look like I’m joking in this picture? I’m a focused gal. The honest truth is it is immensely fulfilling to me – just like the other Charcutepalooza challenges have been and all the other times I tackle a family recipe or try to channel Alton Brown. What’s great about cooking for me, especially when trying something out of my comfort zone, is seeing the fruit (or meaty goodness) of my labor RIGHT THEN.

After a day filled with strategy discussions, problem solving and putting out fires, days in which I rarely produce a tangible example of my work, it is extremely fullfilling to turn a hunk of raw protein into something delicious. Do I follow the recipe exactly? Of course not, I’m a creative mind and part Italian after all. That’s where I get to go all Iron Chef on a recipe when I don’t have the exact spice or misread a specific direction. You take what’s in front of you and you make it work.


And frequently, it works out in a delicious way. We blended Italian and Mexican flavors for the above result – homemade smokey spicey chorizo atop polenta, finished with roasted tomatoes, black beans and the first cilantro from the herb garden. Fulfilling and filling.

Waiting on my Grinder #Charcutepalooza


Never thought I’d be so anxious for kitchen gadget shipment. But it’s been nearly a week since we ordered our first meat grinder and I’m getting a little impatient. Heck, it’s not just a meat grinder. It can also make pasta!

Yeah, I thought that sounded weird as well.

But when the Charcutepalooza May challenge called for grinding your own, our trusty Men’s Journal roundup of the best grinders for your buck came in pretty handy.

Meet the Norpro #151 Grinder/Mincer/Pasta Maker – which, according to the foodie scribes at MJ is “tiny, inexpensive, and made of plastic, but when Chernow and Holzman test recipes at home for the Meatball Shop, this is what they use. Thanks to a sharp blade, ???it works effortlessly,??? said Holzman. ???We ground 40 pounds of meat a week with the Norpro, and it never got dull.??? Plus, the suction-cup base keeps the diminutive body steady. ???It???s perfectly engineered,??? said Holzman. [$30;]

Nothing says Happy Mother’s Day like freshly ground pork or beef right? I’m hoping to put this bad boy to the test for the Mom’s Day brunch I’m in charge of – either a sweet breakfast sausage or sassy chorizo. 

Blame Canada…for this delicious bacon! #Charcutepalooza

Pretty stoked about how my homemade Canadian Bacon turned out for the April Charcutepalooza challenge.


Sooooo delicious fresh out of our grill which we jerry-rigged to be a smoker. A few days in a savory brine and the pork loin (which I swore looked like a freaky turkey neck when raw) finished its journey to Canadian bacon by hot smoking it with applewood chips.


Feel like we’re on a roll with the Charcutepalooza challenges now. March’s Corned beef would have satisfied any Irish lad.

And this month’s Canadian Bacon is just screaming “Pour some Hollandaise on me!” Consider that request answered – but not until this Saturday.

That’s because April 16 is National Eggs Benedict Day. Why thank you culinary godmother!

So while the bacon is done in time to meet the Charcutepalooza challenge, I’m going to wait and fully celebrate NEBD by whipping up some homemade English Muffins, piling up the Canadian Bacon and slathering on the nectar of the brunch gods.

Say “Cheese” via Boise Weekly


Great to the point writeup on making Farmer’s Cheese. I have rennet tablets for making my homemade mozzarella – but am tempted to try white vinegar this weekend and whip up a batch of this.

A Girl & Her Guinness…& her Brined Beef Brisket #Charcutepalooza

Just in time for St Patty’s Day – the March Charcutepalooza challenge was to tackle brining. For the Apprentice level (which I am) it was to brine a whole chicken or pork chops. Well, I tossed a turkey in a brine overnight this year so consider that brining challenge vaulted.

So for this month I chose to channel the ancestors and take on the Charcutiere Challenge and brine, then corn, a piece of beef.

Bring it on, brisket!

Of course after 5 days of delicious brining (& waiting) then three hours of boiling meat (& waiting) I had to celebrate in the proper attire with the proper frosty brew (tried to capture the Guinness waterfall but the iPhone doesn’t really do it justice)

The brisket emerging from the briney goodness late this afternoon was a bit scary looking – a tad grey. 
Love how Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn describe making corned beef “…an extraordinary transformation of a cheap cut of meat…to cause the metamorphosis from brisket to delicious corned beef is a different pleasure altogether.”
And while I wish I could remember seeing my Grandma Ceil and Grandpa John Flynn whipping up corned beef & cabbage while growing up, I do remember the smell, taste and memories of biting into the Irish Soda Bread lovingly made from a recipe passed down from my Great-Grandma Anna Rowland (County Mayo). So simple, yet so delicious. Especially fresh out of the oven and slathered with sweet cream butter.
While I usually tout my half-Italian roots when I wax on about my foodie heritage, it’s this time of year that I remember to appreciate the warmth and memories of the Irish foodie half.
Here’s to a fabulous celebration of hope and family on this Saint Patrick’s Day.

Here’s to you and yours,
And to mine and ours,
And if mine and ours ever come
Across you and yours,
I hope you and yours will do
As much for mine and ours,
As mine and ours have done
For you and yours!


Makin Bacon Part Deux: The journey continues

So…my first foray into Charcutepalooza territory didn’t end up as I had hoped.

Apparently Himalayan pink salt was not the nitrite rich curing salt I needed.

So while I didn’t give myself botulism with a bad cure, I kind of created a salt cured roasted pot roast item.

If bacon makes everything beter then adding maple syrup to not-quite- right bacon was how I saved that meaty debacle.

This week Makin Bacon Patt Deux was created using DQ Curing Salt from Butcher & Packer Supply.

The result (just roasted and fried up tonight…) was decidedly more bacony but still not quite right.


Might be the quality of my pork belly (frozen not fresh and not high quality) or the inaccurate temperature control of my fridge. So I’m going to order up some higher class belly and give it a go againm

Honestly I don’t have a problem being a guinea pig for coming up with the perfect homemade bacon. :-)

But I’ll have to make my bacon journey secondary to my next Charcutepalooza challenge – mastering brining!

For amateurs it’s to brine a whole chicken or porkchops but Ive already brined a turkey so I’m going to take on the Charcuterist challenge and make corned beef – just in time for St Pattys Day!