It’s rather intimidating curing pork for the first time, and biltong, gravlax, carpaccio and sushi all seem a bit tame compared to it. Eating an uncooked pork sausage that’s been hanging from some rafters seems a bit unnatural, so it was with some hesitance that I first decided to make chorizo.
After a bit of research I started purchasing some of the necessary equipment to make my first chorizo. In a few weeks a cardboard package arrived with an assortment of strange curing products: pig casings, curing salts, bacteria sachets and plastic funnels.
Zinovieff turned up a few days later with the pork shoulder and back fat and we were ready to start. The first thing we needed to do was to cube up the fat. This was then mixed with the meat and a mixture of smoked paprika, normal paprika and a rather large quantity of garlic. Then we added the curing salt, standard salt, dextrose and the bacteria and prepared ourselves for the stuffing.
After a couple of laborious hours we are finished and quite frankly a little fed up. It’s pushing two in the morning and both of us are exhausted. The sausages are weighed, pricked all over and tied up into rings to start their fermentation.
Fermentation is the first step in the curing process; the bacteria you add breaks down the dextrose and the meat and makes the sausage more acidic. This adds a delicious sharpness to the product and also protects the meat from the ‘not-so-friendly bacteria’.
The next day I come back from work to be greeted by an overpowering smell of garlic and paprika. Momentary panic. What if smell never leaves? Does this always happen? Am I a fool to attempt this in my own house? After opening all the windows I decide inspect all the chorizos. They look great, as far as I could tell. They are moved from the washing line (it seemed a good idea at the time) and up onto one of the beams in the ceiling.
Fortunately after the first day or so the chorizos have dried up enough to stop the garlic/paprika smell and the flat regains its usual musk. The next few weeks involve regular anxious checking, hoping that the temperature didn’t rise too much and keeping a watchful eye for any unwanted growth (ideally you want a small amount of white powdery mould, but any other mould is unwanted and needs to be removed with vinegar).
A little over two weeks further on and it was ready to try. With some trepidation I cut into it. The outside was a little too dry but otherwise it didn’t look so bad; the inside was verging on raw but it did bear a vague resemblance to something that you would see in the shops. The taste was pleasant but there was quite a bit of room for improvement.
Curing the chorizo at that time of year didn’t really give the meat enough time to properly dry out. Although it did just about work it would have benefited from a much slower curing time to give it a better consistency and greater depth of flavour. The verdict? A partial success and now I know not to cure meat during such a warm time of the year so as to avoid the case hardening.
This article has been rewritten since it was first started; the events took place in July 2011. Hence why an article about my first attempt at curing is appearing after I have already published a veal and pork saucisson article.