My first cotechino -- practice run for the holidays!

Discussion in 'Nose to Tail' started by snorkelinggirl, Oct 19, 2014.

  1. snorkelinggirl

    snorkelinggirl Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Hi everyone,

    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!

  2. bdskelly

    bdskelly Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Certainly a post that is above all posts! Well done! I looks delicious with all of my favorite food groups represented. Gourmet quality grinding dear lady. Points. b
  3. snorkelinggirl

    snorkelinggirl Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Hey Brian!

    Thanks so much for stopping by and reading my post!  I greatly appreciate the compliments and the points.  Sorry not to have been keeping in better touch with everyone….I'm sure that you have been having lots of great culinary adventures yourself, at least when your travel schedule permits!  

    There has been quite a bit of excitement going on in your area.  Hope that things will settle down soon, and that you and your loved ones are keeping in good health and out of harm's way.

    Take care,

    dirtsailor2003 likes this.
  4. c farmer

    c farmer Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    WOW.         This post is great.     

    It looks like it has a great texture.
  5. dirtsailor2003

    dirtsailor2003 Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Fantastic post as usual Clarissa! Tasty looking sausages! POINTS!
  6. snorkelinggirl

    snorkelinggirl Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Hi Adam,

    Thank you very much for the points, and for stopping by and checking out my post!  The pork skin gave this sausage a really unctuous mouth feel, and a great flavor.  Fun stuff.

    Thanks again, and have a great week!
    Hey Case,

    Thank you so much!!  I really appreciate the compliments and the points!!  I hope you had a great weekend and good smoking. 

    Have a great week!
  7. moikel

    moikel Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    I love it[​IMG].

    Nice work changing the casing around.I dont have a mincer so I left skin out only for that reason.

    I think the ingredients are really up to the cook.I understood that they were made originally in salami season so all sorts of bits went in ,jowl,head bits, .The poaching meant that some of the fat came out in the cooking.

    I like mine with lentils but thats mainly because thats the way I first ate it.

    I think its origins are that "cucina povera" poor kitchen where  you used everything . I remember from my first salami/pig kill ,liver with caul fat wrapped around it panfried & a guy washing then blowing up the bladder like a balloon for some purpose that made no sense to me[​IMG]

    Its great cold climate food, you did a great job on it.
  8. snorkelinggirl

    snorkelinggirl Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Hey Mick!!

    I'm so glad you stopped by!  Since you are moving into late spring, cotechino probably doesn't sound good to you any more.  But wow, it is a delicious sausage, and I'm really glad that you did a post on it during your winter so that I could see (and admire) your technique!  The skin did add a pretty special taste and texture, but would be a real pain without a meat grinder…I don't blame you for leaving it out.

    I have some of the cotechino left over, so I'll heat some slices up in a frying pan and try them your way with lentil salad tomorrow night.

    Thanks very much for your comments, and especially thanks for your great post leading the way!

    Enjoy your week!

  9. moikel

    moikel Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Its a great thing to have in nose to tail. I think poaching is an under utilised method when it comes to meat.Great idea serving it with polenta.

    I had pigs stomachs so thats what I went with as a casing. I have had  cotechino with those mustard fruits preserve. I can buy it in my 'hood.

    I will do a batch of hot peach pickle this season which I serve with poached meats or cold cuts. Its sort of a British India feel,chilli,ginger,fenugreek,cinnamon etc. 

    Peaches & mangos coming into the shops just now. I will have to wait to well into the season then buy a box of 2nd grade peaches.

    Our mango's come by variety & by region ,still early yet.
  10. foamheart

    foamheart Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Very well done Clarissa. Its hard to follow up behind Moikel on anything, he's a master but yours looks (note I say looks not is), where even a rookie like me could try it. Excellant job of the step by step.

    LOL..... BTW I think we all have bought and thrown away bungs..... Seriously I don't think that smell could wash off with turpentine! <Chuckles>
  11. disco

    disco Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Wow, Clarissa. This post really taught me a lot and inspired me. Thank you.


  12. snorkelinggirl

    snorkelinggirl Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Hi Kevin!

    Ha!  Yes, I opened up the package of beef bung, took a sniff, and thought about it for quite a while.  And then…artificial casings it is!  I had enough trouble getting the tuna smell off my hands after canning tuna this summer.  [​IMG]

    My sausage wasn't any harder than a normal sausage, once the pork skin is softened.  But going full-on nose-to-tail with a pig stomach (a` la Mick) ups the cool factor and difficulty quite a bit.  

    Thank you very much for the compliments and points, and have a great week!!

    I canned a bunch of cherry mostarda this summer using a recipe from the Preservation Kitchen.  It is delicious on ham and turkey, and now I'll have to give it a try on the cotechino. Thanks for the suggestion!
    Hi Disco!

    Thank you so much for the compliments and points!!   I'm hopelessly behind on reading posts, but I'll have to stop by your blog and catch up on what you and She Who Must Be Obeyed have been up to recently.  

    Thank you for stopping by, and have a great week!
  13. chef jimmyj

    chef jimmyj Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator Group Lead OTBS Member

    That looks great! I love the flavor and texture of Pig Skin. I need to try some of that...JJ
  14. Very nice Clarissa!!!!

  15. snorkelinggirl

    snorkelinggirl Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Thanks so much, Chef JJ!  Pig skin is great stuff, I love it too.  If I was writing a "my favorite things" song like from The Sound of Music, my version would figure heavily with pork parts! [​IMG]

    Have a great weekend!
    Hi Martin, thank you!  I stumbled across your comments on deboning pig trotters over on the Michael Ruhlman website.  You sound like you really know your way around a pig trotter!!  I would love to give the pig trotter (or pig snout) version of cotechino a try sometime.

    Thanks so much for stopping by and reading my post, and have a great weekend!

  16. This is great grandpa use to make this. " The only thing we don't eat
    Is the oink" thanks for sharing. I showed my dad and it is now on my todo list. Us older folks will like this but the grand kids I duno. I guess I liked it when I was little.


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