I've been fascinated with the idea of cotechino ever since I first heard about them. I mean, its sausage, with pork skin! What's not to love? These are a cooked Italian sausage traditionally served at New Year's, so I'm out of season. But I wanted to try out a recipe and work out the kinks before the holidays.
Moikel did an excellent post on cotechino earlier this year, but in classic Moikel fashion used a lot more creativity and authenticity than I am going to display. My version can't compete, but I'm going to post it anyway since its been a while since I've posted anything.
Here's his post, please check it out if you haven't seen it yet:
I basically followed the recipe for cotechino that Jason Molinari used on his Cured Meats blog for 2009, except I reduced the salt a little more. If you've never checked out his blog before, you really should. Thanks for a great blog, Jason!
Since this sausage uses pork, pork fat, and pork skin, I started out with a 5 lb fresh pork leg section.
Most recipes for cotechino that I've seen, including Jason's, seem to go with a ratio of 50% lean pork, 30% pork skin, and 20% pork fat. Some recipes use pork belly or jowl for some of the lean and some of the fat. But I just used what I had on hand. I had to add in some additional pork skin from the freezer as my pork leg section didn't yield enough skin.
Skin is tough stuff. Some recipes say you can just freeze it and run it though the grinder, other recipes say to boil it until tender first. In my experience, if you can't cut something fairly easily with a knife, then don't try to run it through your grinder. I therefore simmered the pork skin for 10 minutes, which made it tender enough to poke through with a fork.
I scraped off most of the extraneous fat, and then chopped the cooked skin into small pieces. Chilled until semi-frozen.
And then ran it once through my fine plate.
And then ran the ground skin, meat, and fat through the fine plate.
I used the spice mixture specified by Jason, but reduced the salt a bit. This recipe does use Cure #1, which is used for color and taste.
I mixed the spices into the ground meat/skin/fat, and then let it cure overnight in the refrigerator. Then I pulled it out, and mixed it well by hand to get a good bind.
I didn't have beef middles on hand, and I chickened out on using the beef bung I had the refrigerator. So I used 2 1/2 inch diameter fibrous casings. I ended up making two 500 gram cotechino sausages.
OK, so recipes on cotechino say to prick the casing so that it doesn't explode when it cooks. But I decided not to as fibrous casings are pretty tough. Jason says he has had good success vacuum packing the cotechino and then simmering them in the vacuum packing. So I went with a no prick, vacuum pack approach for cooking these. Different recipes have the cotechino dry for 2 days or more before cooking them, but my time is limited so I just cooked them immediately. I could imagine that the flavor intensifies with aging and drying.
Place them in cold water and slowly bring them up to a gentle simmer of 190 - 200 deg F.
I simmered them for a total of 2 hours at 200 deg F, then let them sit in the pot for about 1/2 hour before removing.
The fibrous casings did not burst, and the vacuum pack held up. The sausage is now swimming in liquid fat and gelatin that would have been able to escape if I had pricked the casing.
I let it cool just a bit, then sliced into one.
You can really see the bits of gelatin and soft skin in the close up picture.
Plated with some polenta.
The spice mix of Jason's recipe is outstanding….the aromatics aren't overwhelming, and it has a nice peppery taste. The skin definitely gives the sausage a rich and silky mouth feel. My husband and I really liked it, and I will definitely plan to make this again for New Year's. Using the fibrous casing and vacuum pack bags seemed to work fine, no problem with explosion.
Thanks so much for reading my post, and hope everyone is having a great fall!