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 buttĀ 

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


Ode to My Meat Men #Charcutepalooza

I’ve been talking a lot about meat on this blog over the past few months… a lot. Maybe it’s because of my attempt to live up to the Charcutepalooza challenges, or the fact that I live in the great state of Idaho where our producers are second to none. For a time though, it’s appeared that I’ve been more on a meat quest, trying to find fresh pork belly, back fat, beef suet, and understand what part of the pig the pork butt comes from.

So today, an ode to my meat men of Southwest Idaho. The guys, who with patience and the typical Idaho helpfulness, have inspired my charcuterist ways and kept my fridge & freezer full.
I also call this guy ‘Market Sausage Man’. He doesn’t know it, but Lin Hintze of Mackay inspired my foray into charcuterie. Our household’s been making the trek to the Capital City market to fill up on Big Lost River links for several years and Lin is always there. 
Don’t be a rude market grazer and take advantage of his free samples! Sample one or two and make a purchase people. My favorites are the Garlic Rosemary, Chicken Apple, Italian Hot, and Chicken Parmesean Romano Patties.
Sharing the top grill with some Chicken Apple sausages from Big Lost River are the best damn franks I’ve had in my life, courtesy of…
Homestead Natural Meats and the fabulous Ed Wilsey. We first stopped by Ed’s booth during the first market of the season to try out the bacon (of course!) and a sample of the old-fashioned franks had us hooked. I’m a frank girl, grew up on Sabretts in NYC, but these knocked my socks off!

So when I put out the call on Facebook and Twitter for a purveyor to help me with the ingredients I needed for my latest Charcutepalooza challenge – Ed was there to help me out…hooking me up with pork back fat, beef suet, and the below pork shoulder needed for my Italian Sausage-making (blog to come!)

In the course of looking for the perfect cuts for my recipes, I’ve come across a few other purveyors I look forward to patronizing:

Meats Royale on Overland in Boise: "an Old Fashioned Meat Market. Friendly customer service and fresh meats. We’re always happy to custom cut and wrap for you. We will help you hand select the perfect steak, find that specialty item you want or help you fill your freezer at home with one of our bundle packages, all for a great price. Meats Royale carries fresh and frozen meats, we offer catering services, wild game processing and much more. 
(I can speak to the service – they were super helpful over the phone and I’ll be heading over soon!)

Double XL Ranch in Melba: "At Double XL Ranch we believe in raising natural products that are superior in taste and quality. We raise Berkshire "Kurobuta" pork, Wagyu "Kobe" beef and poultry which comes from animals raised on a 100% vegetarian diet with no animal proteins or byproducts in the feed, ever. This means no artificial ingredients. no preservatives, no antibiotics and no growth hormones in our products."  

(While I haven’t taken them up on their fresh pork belly – from kurobuta pork! – just yet, their willingness to deliver a custom ordered product and meet me at one of their market stands was impressive and when I take another run at homemade bacon I know who I’m contacting!) 

- Jess

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.

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.

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!

Charcutepalooza: Makin’ Bacon Part I

For a gal whose love of bacon and bacon flavored items (chapstick, chocolate, donuts, vodka) has been well-documented – I am ashamed to admit that I have never cured my own bacon.

Well, that changes this week.

In fact, this year will have me salting, smoking and curing many an item. Inspired by a post shared by Boisean & fellow foodie blogger Lynn Marshall, I’m jumping on the Charcutepalooza (“shar-coo-ta-pa-loo-za”) challenge created by Mrs Wheelbarrow and The Yummy Mummy and guided by the bible for Charcuterie by Michael Ruhlman & Brian Polcyn.
Come on, how could a foodie NOT want to be involved in something known as 12 Months of Meat?

And after reading the forward from Thomas Keller, I was hooked.
A final reason Charcuterie is important: it recongizes the pig as the superior creature that it is. From a culinary standpoint, the pig is unmatched in the diversity of flavors and tetures it offers the cook and the uses it can be put to-from head to tail, from ham to tenderloin, it’s a marvel. A pieve of pork belly can be brined, roasted, grilled, sauteed, dry-roasted, braised, or confited, with widely varying results. This is a very hopeful time for the pig in America, and this book underscores that fact.”

Charcutepalooza began with duck prosciutto as the January challenge. I’m a bit late to the meat-wagon so I’ll be playing catchup on that challenge (once I figure out how to configure a curing locale in my tiny house!)

But it is kind of fitting that I begin in February – the Salt Cure – and with the apprentice challenge option – fresh bacon.

A simple list of ingredients and not too difficult directions made me a bit overconfident. One of my toughest challenges? Finding the pink salt needed for curing (Ruhlman said I should order it online, but my instant-gratification-self didn’t want to wait). After hitting all my Bench grocery stores and Cabela’s cooking section I found Himalayan pink salt at the Boise Co-op. Is it the right pink salt? I have no idea. But it did look pretty and it is doing its salty-curey thing in the fridge right now.
The recipe did mention ‘high quality pork belly’. We made a round of calls to all of our familiar meat stops – Smoky Davis, Porterhouse, Boise Co-op. No such luck (though Smoky said they were ‘out’). Amusingly, searching ‘Boise pork belly’ on Google pulls up several Idaho Foodies posts :-) So we went to our Pork Belly standby of the Orient Market which carries it and many other fascinating meat items on Saturdays. It was slightly frozen so I may have misstepped again with not getting totally fresh belly. 
Me rubbing the belly with the cure mixture. (Warning: there will be many references during the 12 Months of Meat to rubbing, massaging, working my meat – so get the giggles out early!)
Although I’ve read chapters from the wonderful non-fiction book Salt: A World History, I didn’t quite realize the amazing qualities of a salt cure until I saw what happened within hours to my belly.  Here’s the Day Two view – juicy bacon-curing deliciousness as the salt cure works its magic extracting moisture.
Looking forward to seeing if I’ve screwed up my first challenge – or stumbled on a delicious foodie skill I can replicate over and over again.
Stay tuned for Makin’ Bacon Part II in a week! 

- Jess

Foodie friends, Charcutepalooza and Duck Prosciutto

One of the wonderful things about blogging, besides being able to archive adventures in foodies adventures and otherwise, are the people you connect to through shared interests, passions and sometimes obsessions.

Idaho Foodies has allowed me to connect with some wonderful culinary cohorts from around the globe – and in my hometown.

A comment on my most recent Mangia post led me to Lynn Marshall, and her foodie blog Eat Drink Man Woman Dogs Cat: One Woman’s Quest to Eat & Live More Sustainably A great blog to add to your blogroll and visit for some sustainable foodie inspiration.

One post that really caught my eye focused on cured meats (which, as you may know already, I’m a huuuuge fan of)

Plus – how can you  not love a post titled Gateway Duck?

From Lynn: Charcutepalooza is making me nervous ??? both on a practical and philosophical level. A year-long project conceived and organized by Mrs. Wheelbarrow, and the Yummy Mummy,  Charcutepalooza is a blog challenge, all about learning to smoke, preserve and cure meat. All the bloggers signed up will cook their way through Michael Ruhlman???s  Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and CuringI haven???t eaten red meat deliberately in more than 12 years. So why did I sign up? Two words: Duck Prosciutto ??? the inaugural challenge and something I???ve wanted to make for years. Prosciutto is literally Italian for ham, traditionally made from dry cured, uncooked pork. It is typically sliced paper thin and served raw. It???s an incredible flavor, and one I???ve missed on our no-mammal diet.

Duck Prosciutto? Hell yeah! Now I’m hooked on the Charcutepalooza initiative (I did say charcuterie at least three times this weekend while in Seattle, bemoaning that yet again my trip didn’t land on days that Salumi was open)

Thanks Lynn for the inspiration – and welcome to Boise! Happy to make the connection – and looking forward to a 2011 learning the art of smoking, preserving & curing meats!