the Salumi adventure begins – culatello step 1

I had anxiously awaited the arrival of my copy of Ruhlman and Polcyn’s latest book, Salumi.  As I have been dreaming of dry curing my own prosciutto, the idea of getting the word from my “mentors” in charcuterie for best practices at home was a thrill.  After getting lovely Red Wattle pigs from Pork and Plants, I’ve started the process.

Since our local meat lockers don’t have the facility to butcher with the skin on, and the fact that my curing space is somewhat limited, I have decided to take three hams and cure culatello and fiocco from the major muscles, using the laminated “bladders” and fibrous casings, to keep the meat from drying out too quickly.

Here’s where I started:

The pigs were processed at Burt’s Meats in Eyota, MN.  This was the first time I’ve worked with the people at Burt’s, and they were a bit surprised at my non-traditional cutting order, but were interested in what I was going to do with the stuff.  I think I need to take them some guanciale, so that they will better understand what I am doing with jowls.   But back to the hams.

First, I needed to separate the two major muscles.  American butchery standard cuts are a bit different from those used in Ruhlman and Polcyn’s Salumi for this particular part of the pig, but I knew that on my first attempt with Burt’s Meats, it would be unlikely that I’d be able to get as specific as they do in the book.  (I’m hoping now that I’ve worked with them once, I could get more specific next time)  The result is that the shank ends of these boned out hams are a bit shorter than they are in the pictures from Salumi, making the hams a bit lighter weight.  Given my curing space constraints, that’s not a huge problem for my first attempt.

First, I recorded the weight of the total ham, and dried the meat, to get it ready to separate into the two main muscle groups.

Here we are looking at the top part of the ham (shank end is toward the top of the picture).  The white triangle of fat in the lower center of the shot is about where the ball joint of the leg bone was, I think.  The right side of the ham is what will become the culatello, and the left flap is essentially what will be the fiocco.

I basically ran my knife down the edge of the fat line that separated the two major sections.  This ham, of the three that I portioned this way, had the most obvious line of separation.

Here (above) is what will be the fiocco, the small piece cut away from the larger ham.

Here (below) is what will be the culatello.

After cutting the pieces apart, I tied them up with twine as best as I could into compact packages, as shown below, with one of the culatelli.

Then, it was time to weigh and record the pre-salt weights of the pieces, and then cover them with as much Trapani sea salt that would stick to them, and get them into some large plastic bags to cure, and determine how many days they should spend on the salt in the Back Fridge.  Luckily, this turned out to be as many days til the weekend, given that the small amount of salt gives you a little more leeway than something completely packed in salt.

Given that I had three boned out hams, I’ve now got three each of fiocci and culatelli.  The next steps will be the preparations for the drying process.  I’m excited to actually be dry curing these at home.

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