This month’s task was grinding sausage, which was exciting because the post announcing that fact came out just after I had ground and stuffed a bunch of sausage, and some salami meant for aging as well. The fresh sausage has made for some wonderful meals, but it was the salami that I was really excited about.
So, after some suspenseful waiting–like watching Kanye eat cookies–the salami fermented, dried, shrunk, and darkened to the point where they are indistinguishable from actual salami that you’d pay too much for at your local import type store. Which was, after all, the point. The tangy, meaty, addictively cured flavor of the salami was the missing piece of something that I’ve been working towards for quite some time: the from-scratch antipasto spread.
Now of course there’s no fixed formula for said spread, and that’s as it should be. As I see it, one needs at a minimum three cured meats, two pickled vegetables, excellent bread, and some form of dairy for it to be a well-rounded presentation that will thoroughly distract the
rabble guests from the fact that dinner is running an hour late. And that happens to be exactly what I had on hand.
I used kimchi brine in the salami instead of dried bacterial culture; live brine is teeming with lactobacilli, and I did add a pinch of sugar to give them something to eat. The result had that wonderful sourness that marks good salumi. Fennel and pepper were properly proportioned, and the thin slices disappeared fast. The only thing I’d do differently for these next time would be to give the links a second twist after a week or so; they shrink pretty dramatically and could have used further compaction of the filling. The deli slicer made short work of the most recent batches of bresaola and duck prosciutto. I put the beef on its own plate and drizzled it with olive oil (and garnished it with fresh-picked baby radishes) because it likes a little lube. The duck needs nothing.
I added a little plate of the pickled wild garlic I wrote about last month. They’re pickled like cornichons, and unbelievably great to eat with cured meat. Sour and crunchy goes so very well with fat and meaty.
The most recent Camembert joined them, and added some serious funk to the mix. I’m basically alternating between this and cheddar now when I make my weekly cheese, since they’re just so irresistibly good.
The other pickled vegetable was a new batch of kimchi: local black radishes, our own overwintered carrots, and napa cabbage from somewhere else. Extra funky from the high proportion of radishes, and not too spicy so it didn’t bigfoot the other flavors. A small bowl of this on the side makes everything better.
The bread was a multi-grain sourdough boule baked about two hours earlier, sliced fairly thin and then toasted to reawaken that magical fragrance.
As I nibbled these treats and watched my family do the same, I did a rough calculation of what a spread of similar quality would have cost if I had gone to one or more fancy stores to procure the components. Setting out something like this for a small gathering could easily run one $75. The cost of these ingredients might have added up to one tenth that; $75 would buy enough ingredients to make big batches of all these things to keep on hand for eating over the course of weeks (which is exactly what I do; these days my lunch is often a browse in the garden for salad with bread, meat, and cheese in some form on the side). Besides avoiding the massive markup, there’s great pleasure in adding the value to food oneself. And they just taste better. I don’t even remember what we had for dinner afterward.