Aa you can see from the blue skies, short sleeves and cartons of wine, even though we are getting ready for a week of making Confit, Coq au Vin & Cassoulet, it’s not acting like autumn here in Southwest France. Never mind. We know how to appease the kitchen gods. Just Ask Jeffie, Karen, Charlie, Tony, Bryon & Cecile (of Domaine de Magnaut)
We began with a trip around the golden countryside to gather a few impressions of la Gascogne before cooking up a simple convivial dinner in the kitchen here at Camont. Did I mention that we stopped at the Chapolard’s Charcuterie farm to pig up a few goodies for this week’s cassoulet? Next. Pork Belly. Saucisson served with green lentilles du Puy. And a spiral of fresh Saucisse de Toulouse to servewith Tarbais beans as a teaser. All this porky goodness is made with tasty 12 month old pork which = red meat full of flavor.
The wine was poured, the plates passed and the stories began. Tomorrow, we’ll attack the farmer’s market at Lavardac for fat ducks and a big fat rooster or hen! Stay tuned for more goodness and glorious weather. feel like following along? Here’s my Kitchen-at-Camont French Basix Cassoulet recipe- http://kitchen-at-camont.com/2009/01/19/cassoulet-kates-basix-french-kitchen-recipe/.
And for another view of this fine day, meet Four Figs & a Duck- http://fourfigsandaduck.blogspot.com/2011/10/duck-at-camont.html?spref=fb !
What is significant, and is so difficult for the urban stranger to understand,
is that the two statements are connected
by an and not by a but.”
John Berger from Ladle- Pig Earth
These archives hold dozens of pork recipes that Judy & I have cooked, some of which I’ll move to my new recipe tab, and dozens of stories of porcine hi-jinks we’ve cooked up including this Some Pig Blogging Weekend that features recipes from around the blogosphere like the recipe for Judy’s Fergus Henderson’s Pork Belly pictured above.
What’s your favorite Food Poem? Mine- always always always-
by John Berger
Moon of the ladle
Rising above the mountain
Going down into the saucepan
Dredging what has grown from seed
In the garden
Thickened with potato
Outliving us all
On the wooden sky
Of the kitchen wall
Of the steaming pewter breast
Veined by the salts
Fed to her children
Hungry as boars
With the evening earth
Engrained around their nails
And bread the brother
Ladle pour the sky steaming
With the carrot sun
The stars of the salt
And the grease of the pig earth
Pour the sky steaming
Pour soup for our days
Pour sleep for our nights
Pour years for our children
Thank you Mr. Berger for these delicious words.
Photo of John Berger by Jean Mohr- http://www.randomhouse.com/acmart/catalog/author.pperl?authorid=2062
I swim in a sea of charcuterie every week as I plow the waves of good food produced by the neighboring farms of the Lot-et-Garonne: salted hams, meaty saucisson, head cheese, terrines, patés, and other cured and confited parts of the fatted pig. As a cook, I began my sea trials in meat here as I discovered the extraordinary flavors of each cured piece of the pig. I started to learn my hind leg for jambon from my forward leg- shoulder for fresh saucisse de Toulouse. Then it was loins and chops, ribs and collar. Next came the innards…
Like all novices, I worked my way up and down the coast of liver, kidneys, brain, lung, and blood. I watched as pigs were slaughtered and butchered on family farms, one at a time, with care and respect for the ‘year of meat’ to come. Then I began to help- trimming meat, carrying ourt orders from the grand-mères as whole pigs were put up in jars- canned, sterilized in a water bath and stored, or salted, peppered, and hung to age in a corner of the barn. But it wasn’t until I barged into the life of a small pig farm that I learned the most important past of this ocean of charcuterie. It’s the pig. Just simply the PIG.
Imagine the first visit to the Chapolard farm in 1997 with my good friend Elaine Tin Nyo. She wanted to do a series of photographs and videos for one of her edibly inspired art exhibits. I had already begun cooking my way through the pig with the market advice of Marc Chapolard, who selling me a piece of pork a week talked me through the process of cooking boudin, salting a tail, or roasting a collar. There is an image of that first visit to Baradieu- Marc holding out his hands full of ground grains- grain that they grew on the farm to feed their pigs.
Oh, Pigs eat too. I want to know what I am eating eats. What? What do pigs eat?
My brain was moving slowly forward. These pigs eat wheat, barley, corn, oats, sunflowers, favabeans, soy… How big are they? Oh, big. Very big as these meat growing pigs are intended for charcuterie as well as fresh meat. Twelve months old, 400 lbs+ of solid red meat and firm flavorful fat. The Chapolards know that their mature pigs’ meat is fully developed in both flavor and structure. Here in Gascony, we believe that the best charcuterie is not just from certain types of breeds finished on fancy diets, but rather from a well balanced diet fed its entire life and a ‘grownup’, fully mature animal. Oh, this pork meat is like beef. Not veal. Can you imagine making corned veal, veal jerky, or veal bresaola? The meat cells must develop sufficiently to be able to cure properly both in flavor and in texture.
There are technical reasons behind all this, but for us amateurs of good meat our best chance to getting good pork is to ken your pork producer or artisan butcher and learn as much as you can, piece by piece. I have the luxury of, after 14 years, knowing the Chapolards well. Baradieu is not a pigshit-free showcase farm; but they raise their Large White/Pietrai/Duroc pigs with the sort of care over 12 months from birth to slaughter that produces delicious and tasty meat. Like this slab of pork belly I used for my ventrèche géante.
“THE PRESENCE OF A BUTCHER IN A DISTRICT SAYS AS MUCH FOR ITS INTELLIGENCE AS FOR ITS WEALTH. THE WORKER FEEDS HIMSELF, AND A MAN WHO FEEDS HIMSELF THINKS.”
H. De Balzac- “The Country Doctor”
Ventrèche is bacon.
A sort of fresher, peppery, meaty, and naturally porkier bacon.
Almost all the Gascon recipes I know start with a little this- duck fat, a little that- thyme and bay, and a handful of lardons…usually cut from a thick slab of ventrèche. Salted just overnight, the ventrèche (ventre means belly in French) is covered liberally with fine fresh ground pepper then rolled tightly and tied before gently smoking overnight. It flies off the market stall chez Chapolard at Nerac in large pieces, thick slabs or sliced thinly. This is cooking charcuterie that adds flavor to civets, daubes, and cassoulets; or cooked and served as part of a main course, on a meaty salad, or with a couple golden-yolked, fresh farm eggs. Tim Clinch makes these meat portraits look so delicious!
This particular piece of ventrèche is made from a 12 month old Yorkshire/Landrace/Duroc cross, fed on home grown grains (wheat, barley, sunflower, corn, soy and feverol) and slaughtered, butchered, cured and sold- all within a 20 mile radius. I call it Seed-to-Sausage. You can read more about the Chapolard farm here. Tim photographed it as part of a Natural Light/Natural Food photography workshop. on my terrace table, outside under the vines.
Our Artisan Butchery & Charcuterie students usually work wrapped in white at the
Chapolard’s Baradieu farm in the cold stainless steel and white tiled cutting room build inside one of the old wine barns or chais. It’s not fancy, but it’s modern and meets the EU norms for hygiene. This is Marjorie, a French apprentice butcher in the cutting room. She’s attacking a ham to be cut into chucks for making saucisson.
But when real hand-to-hand patience is needed, we sometimes take a field trip over to the centuries old house where Madame and Monsieur Chapolard live- grand-pere and grand-mere to us. This day they were teaching Sarah Wong, Chef Educator at the Seattle Culinary Academy how to roll and tie the ventréche that are sold at the Saturday Morning market at Nerac. I shot some video on my Canon G11 without a thought of editing, sounds track etc. Now with Charcutepalooza at hand and the February challenge being salt curing, I thought I’d share how we do it …down on the Gascon farm.
The ventreches are salted overnight, sprinkled liberally with fresh ground pepper, then rolled and smoked over night. They are sold the next day at the market. Fast and delicious!
When we put up the Seed to Sausage video on YouTube, I began to get Twitter comments, emails and even phone calls about Christian Chapolard’s Paupiettes. Although there is a more traditional recipe for Paupiettes de Veau in my book, I want to share my current favorite version with you here. This is a simple classic Gascon recipe- straight from the butcher, herself!
Christiane is a soft spoken smiling Frenchwoman. Although she leaves the beret and mustaches to her husband and his brothers, she and her belle-soeur, Cecile, do just as much work in the butcher shop turning great pigs into great pork. Christiane transforms the lean slices of leg meat into a tasty piggy parcel which she and Dominique sell at the markets every week.
Per Paupiette per person:
- 1 slice fresh pork leg meat cut along the grain lengthwise like for scallopini.
- 50 gr or a large tablespoon of seasoned sausage meat (use some onion, parsley, salt and pepper)
- 1 slice fresh or cured bacon (we use the uncured demi-sel pork belly)
Then make the paupiettes like this. It’s as easy as 1,2 & 3.
- Using your palm of your hand, smooth out the slice of meat.
- Place the sausage at one end. Roll tightly.
- Wrap with bacon slice. Tie.
Then what you ask? I simply sear the bacon-wrapped parcels on all sides in a hot casserole pan. Add a handful of chopped onions, garlic, carrots, leeks… whatever vegetables are handy to flavor the short stock (or court bouillon) you will make with a glass of white wine and a glass of water. Add a bay leaf, some fresh thyme and black peppercorns. Cover, reduce heat to lowest temperature and let braise, turning the paupiettes occasionally. Cook approximately 30-45 minutes. The meat will be cooked thoroughly; the stock will be reduced slightly to form a tight sauce. Serve one Paupiette de Pork per person with a side of fresh vegetables and some whole grains like polenta, couscous or bulgar.
Fancy learning how from the Chapolards themselves? We are delighted to offer a 5-day crash course in French artisanal butchery & charcuterie at Camont and with the Chapolards at their farm Baradieu.