(Disclaimer: We started this blog to record our many food-ventures. I am sure we are doing certain things the wrong way. Anything we do on the blog, you can try at home ( at your own risk). We are not claiming to be experts. Please follow proper health and safety practices when preparing food. Enjoy. -Arthur)

We have been doing food projects for a long time now and have been recording it along the way. Our memory cards and smart phones are full. We are finally offloading it all and putting it online.

Since we moved to New York five years ago we have been inspired by many things food related. Lately, our access to fresh organic food, like minded folks and great restaurants has been off the chart. Often times we feel as though we have dove head first into food valley. Our ever expanding waistline is proof of our insatiable appetite for food and our interest in how it is made.

Thursday, May 9, 2013


Soooooooo. This would be the third turducken I have had the privilege of being part of.  I have to admit that the first was probably the best. The second was the worst and the third somewhere in between. 

So just define a turducken..... A turducken is a dish consisting of a de-boned chicken stuffed into a de-boned duck, which is in turn stuffed into a de-boned turkey. The dish is a form of engastration, which is a recipe method in which one animal is stuffed inside the gastric passage of another.  The stuffing part is a misnomer.  It is more like wrapping.

Some people are just completely grossed out by this.  When had friends-giving and announced we were doing the turducken a number of guests immediately canceled.  I have to admit, then when done properly it is magical. I have to admit that I probably enjoyed it the most considering I was the only one that went back for seconds...and thirds and turducken sandwiches all that week. 

Some history:

Back in 2007 a large number of us got together to raise the dead.....er create the frankenbird.... We had a party and decided to make a turducken. That version we de-boned ourselves. I believe that it weighed 48 pounds and smoked for over two days. All the while we partied and passed out then partied then passed out then woke up and ate every last bite. In 2008 we actually got a lead on where we could buy one. We placed the order with our local butcher. The first sign that it was going to be bad was that it came frozen in a box. It was also box shaped. Not even going to talk about. Worst $30 we ever spent. 

So fast forward to last thanksgiving. Oh man. What a feast. This one probably weighed somewhere in the range of 35 pounds. This is how it was made. 

Step 1: We actually have a great butcher. So good that they will de-bone anything while you are waiting. We picked out our birds from the case. I think the duck ended up being organic. We handed it over to the man in white behind the counter and about 30 minutes later we had two bags. One with the insides and one with the outsides.  We used a large sheet pan to lay it all out.  Have them leave on the wings and the legs of the Turkey (they chopped ours off because I forgot to tell them).

Step two:  Prepare your stuffing.  So there are different variations on all of this.  Some people stuff it with Rice others with oysters.  I prefer sage sausage stuffing.  This also pads the layers and in my opinion keeps the birds from drying out.   We happened to have two loaves of the dutch oven bread made a couple of days prior.  I cut the loaves into cubes and actually broiled them on low for a while to dry them out even further.  So just a quick recipe for our stuffing.....We browned sage sausage in a cast iron skillet.  Drained the meat.  Brought about 1 cup of chicken stock to a boil.  Added the grease from the sausage.  Pour the hot chicken stock grease mix into a large stainless bowl and tossed in the dried bread cubes and meat.  After tossing for a bit I covered it with a dish towel to ensure that the moisture was captured and all the dried bread cubes became moist.  

Step three:  Get your supplies.  Being the resident expert turducken maker that I am I knew that we needed three things, a suturing needle, a pair of medium sized clean needle nose pliers and 100% cotton butchers string.  The suturing needle you can get from the drugs store.   The butchers string you can get anywhere and the pliers...well you can get them at the hardware store.  I cleaned ours off with rubbing alcohol.  

Step four:  Lay out your first layer...the Turkey.  Take some of your stuffing and make a nice layer for your next bird which is the duck, make another layer of stuffing and and then place your chicken down.  You could now introduce the hard boiled egg in the middle but we thought it was a little over the top. 

Step five:  This is it... the surgery.  I had a buddy hold it shut while I started at one end and sewed, and sewed, and sewed it shut.  About halfway through it started getting really tough (this is where the pliers come in).  A couple times we would have to use the pliers to pull through the skin. Periodically we had to shove stuffing in or push in some meat.  It was a little tricky.  Try to get tight and closed up completely so the juices wont escape.  

Step six:  .....We decided that it was not up to our level of gluttony so we actually decided to make a bacon weave on the top... yeah bacon.  

Step seven:  I forgot something.  Go back to step five.  When you sew up the birds you should think about sewing in a probe style thermometer.  This is really the only accurate way to cook this thing.  Once you have the thermometer in it is super easy.  Just follow the guidelines for cooking a normal stuffed turkey. The best part about all of this is the no bones.  You can slice through this monster like you are cutting through meat loaf.   

If I remember correctly if cooked for a number of hours at 425 degrees covered in foil then an hour or two outside of the foil.  It was amazing. You are welcome to comment. 

Wednesday, May 1, 2013


So we made salami. Good salami. So good, it was really hard to share. It became painfully obvious why dried salami is soooooo expensive.

The first time we all got together to make some was in 2010.  We made 20 pounds or so. The second round we made 60 pounds.  This last batch was around 80 pounds of pork and maybe 20- 30 pounds of venison!  I think when we do it again we may need to enlist a meat army and conquer the world. 

Before we start, here are some tips.....

You need a large cold dry place to dry this stuff (preferably rodent free).  Basements around the end of fall in the Hudson Valley makes for perfect sausage curing.   The space needs to be constantly under 50 degrees Fahrenheit for about six weeks (I bought one of these to check in on things everyday).  Making salami once a year is perfect.  You can almost make enough for the entire year....if you don't share.  You can vacuum pack them and they could last over a year in the fridge maybe more if you freeze them after sealing.

When you buy meat in bulk consult your local grocery store butcher.  The meat comes in to the grocery store in large pieces and then the store cuts it up, packages it and marks it up.  You can save some money by cutting out the middle man and just buying it as it comes in to them.  BIG GI-GANT-O PIECES OF MEAT!  

Get a proprietary grinder.  Get something powerful and easy to clean.  The first time we made sausage we used our sausage stuffing attachment on our kitchen aide and almost burned it up.  Totally underpowered. 

Get a proprietary stuffer. You could use the plunger style stuffer or the kitchen aide attachment but.....you will not be happy with the results and you will never want to stuff anything again.  Those things are a pain in the rear.  You can get a good large cast iron stuffer on ebay all day long.  We actually picked up ours from a yard sale.  The handle was broken but being the metalsmtihs we are our partner in arms made short work of re-attaching the handle.  After a good cleaning it was ready to go.  

Get quality casings.  I think we used lamb casings and pork casings.  Also obtained from our local grocery store.  They made their own sausage  in house so there was plenty to be had.  They were also pre-cleaned.  I recommend the pre-cleaned.  I wont go into the details of cleaning them.  Just get them pre-cleaned casings.  Trust me.  

On with the show.

So we actually made two types of sausage (fresh and dried)  We also made many flavors (chorizo, sage, spicy, venison etc etc).  The one thing that we were adamant about was NOT using chemicals to preserve the sausage. Now before we continue....I am not saying that this is safe.  You might get sick.  You should continue at your own risk.  I would recommend using chemicals  if you are squeamish or use organic pasture raised meat. You never know whose dirty paws gives everyone salmonella. The chemicals do speed up the curing process.  

Ultimately, this is how I was convinced not to use the chemicals: "..... prior to the invention of chemical preservatives sausage was made all the time."   Being that we were super clean and the temperature was cold there was a VERY low risk of contamination.  Also the meat was prepackage and cleaned (probably with some kind of chemicals) from the meat packing plant.   We did use venison but it was properly dressed by a company after it was shot (Just as a side note it was shot on an orchard so it had been grazing on hudson valley apples most of its adult life).

There are a couple of rules of thumb to adhere to.  The high salt content is crucial to the drying process.  Make sure the salt is roughly 2.5% of the entire weight of the meat (It can be more but it should not be less)  After that you can flavor the sausage with what ever you want.  Make sure that what ever you are flavoring the dried salami with is dry.  Do not use fresh herbs or anything that will absorb moisture (dehydrated onions etc). Use powdered ingredients or things like dried red pepper flakes, fennel, whole peppercorns. 

When you buy your meat look for a bone out, boston butt.  This is the shoulder of the pig (see below).  This cut has enough fat to meat ratio to make perfect sausage.  If you are making venison sausage you will need to buy pork belly or pork fat to add to the super lean meat.  We are looking for about a 2:5 ratio. 2 being the fat. 

Keep your meat cold.  We were lucky enough to have a little snow when we started our project.  When we cut up our meat we put it in big, covered, stock pots and stored them out in the snow.   You may want to get a bag of ice and do like a double pot to keep things cool.  If you start with semi-frozen meat you will be better off.

Cut you meat into long grind-able strips.  We did maybe 1.5" x 1.5" x 6" square strips.  It is much easier to shove it down in the grinder.  Small skinny strips get caught between the push stick and defrost a lost faster.  You want course obvious chunks.  The colder it is the more separated it will be remain.   The more separated and loose the meat is the more fat spots you will have in your sausage.  You are also going to break down the grind when you are mixing in your spice mixture.  

Once you are done chopping you can get on with the grinding.   If you are not using the boston butt and you are adding fat.  Separate the ground material.  Do the fat then the meat.  Once the meat is ground you will have to figure our by weight how much salt and spices to add. We did a little dance between a stainless bowl, a digital scale and a calculator.  Try to be as precise as you can.  Remember the salt!  I would also recommend giving it a kick (when you think you have put in too much red pepper flakes....add some more)  Our first two batches were spiced very differently but ended up tasting very similar.  


We actually started by researching how to make salami from this book Pork and Sons.  It is all about pork!  It has almost everything you would ever make out of pork.  If you are serious about your pork you should buy a copy.  Plus it has these awesome little drawings in the corner. 

Once you have measured out your spice mix you will need to mix it all together.  Most recipes or online tutorials will have you put it back in the grinder with the mix.  Do not do that.  It just turns it to mush or meat paste.  We got a large stainless bowl and mixed it all by hand.  Use gloves!  It is like slow torture.  The meat is super cold, the salt grinds away at your finger tips and after a while you loose feeling in your hand and have to stop.  We took turns mixing and got it done pretty fast.  It is essential that you thoroughly mix in the salt to optimize curing.  Again if you think you have mixed enough....mix it more.  

Once your spice mixture is completely incorporated, scoop it into the stuffer.  Keep it clean.  One hand for scooping. One hand for other stuff.   Read up on the directions for stuffing.  Here are a couple of tips.  First I would have a sewing needle at the ready.  You can steralize it with some alcohol or flame.  This is for popping air bubbles.  On your first attempt you will for sure have air bubbles.  

Put the casing on the nozzle then start cranking until the meat comes to the tip of the nozzle.  Then roll a little of the casing off and tie it off.  Start cranking.  Don't over do it.  I would suggest twisting every eight or nine inches.  You should also use some butchers twine to tie off each link.  So one person cranking, one person twisting, one person popping air pockets and one person tying off links.  Like I said MEAT ARMY!!!  Roll the links between your fingers.  Pretend you are trying to rub glue off your finger tips.  When the casing gets thin, twist.  Be careful. The casing is prone to popping.  This just means that you are stuffing it too tight. If it does pop just squeeze out some meat, cut the casing and tie it off.  

Once the meat is in link form and tied off you are ready to hang them up.  You should  make sure that they do not touch.  We used a long stick between basement joists and the butchers twine to create loops form which to hang them.  We dried them out for five weeks!  It may have been too long but better safe than sorry.  
Just a few things.  Make sure they are rock hard before you harvest them. If they do touch, where they touch will remain raw.  So triple check to make sure there is room for air to get at all sides.  When the meat dries it will turn a dark deep red. This is normal but if you make different spiced salamis if may be hard to figure out which one is which.  The only way you will know will be cutting one open and trying it.  I suggest keeping things on separate lines or maybe double knotting one.