Bologna gets a bad rap, as do cold cuts, hot dogs and other such tube steaks. Some of it is rightly earned. There were reasons the butcher figured out how to make these forms of meat, frugality being high on the list. But when frugality turns into cheap, that’s where you get into problems. Adding fillers and other non meat products reduces the process from craft to crap.
We are currently making all of our sausage and cured meats and it proves that the end product is no better than the beginning ingredients. There is no alchemy in starting with junk and thinking you will create culinary gold. Garbage in, garbage out. It applies to food as well as computers.
But one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. The scraps that some would toss, the frugal would figure out a way to make use of it. Liverwurst, kidney pie and pickled pork tongue are a few of the creative uses someone figured out could be tasty, and passed on the practice to successive generations. Some would probably say that it’s time to stop that tradition. I beg to differ.
I don’t have to do charcuterie. There are easier, less time consuming ways to make a product for the menu, but when is ease the standard for deciding what to make? If I succumb to the notion that easier is better, a world of opportunity gets overlooked and subsequently, its pleasures get passed by.
The mortadella project was a next step toward one of those pleasures. It’s an emulsified sausage that contains pistachios and olives and little flecks of pork fat. It has a beautiful cross section when cut open, and its flavor of mace and garlic are distinct and prominent.
It is a labor intensive meat product, and keeping it held at a cold temperature is crucial in maintaining its emulsion. Then you have to worry about packing it into the large casing. And if that’s not enough, if you aren’t careful, it will burst if the poaching water in which you cook it is too hot.
The satisfaction of accomplishment, of learning a new cooking skill, and of knowing how an ingredient behaves at a certain temperature to start. Add to that a memorable flavor, texture, and appearance of a finished product that you can say, “I made that.”
To me, that’s reason enough to bother.