Rick, Sarah and I left for the trip up to Sault Ste Marie yesterday. We drove to Rose-and-Derrick on Friday and Saturday morning we headed north. We got to my parents at 3:30. We had some coffee and some cookies and then went off to Metro to buy the meat for the prosciutto, soppressata and salsiccia. My 90 year-old dad drove.
At this time of year every grocery stores with an Italian clientele carries pork cuts to make the various salami. The refrigerated meat-cases were at the front of the store and signage was in both Italian and English. Also, the meat was incredibly inexpensive, because it’s priced like turkeys at Thanksgiving. My dad and Rick get along real well, and when Ciccio suggested maybe buying a fourth butt, Mr. Wertheimer quickly agreed. We bought 70 pound of meat. The bill was $160 Canadian. And for us buying with American money, the meat was a steal. (The Canadian dollar is trading at .69 cents against the US dollar.) So my very bargain-conscious friends were ecstatic.
We loaded two huge pork-legs and four pieces of pork-butt into my dad’s van and headed home. And given our short stay, my dad suggested we cut, debone and process the meat once we got home. He had everything ready – the table from the garage, the meat-grinder attached to a motor and bolted to a home-made cabinet, the knives, the sharpening rod and the aprons. Everything was set up in the old basement next to the stationary sinks. And my mom and my he agreed to hold off dinner until the meat was processed. Very unusual for a man who insists that dinner is always at 5:30.
The pic is of my dad and Rick. The legs and one of the butt pieces have been deboned and they are now cutting the meat into strips so that it can be fed into the grinder. I had expected to buy the prosciutto leg already deboned, but it’s sold with the bone and you either do it yourself or pay the butcher to debone it. (My dad has been butchering meat since he was a young man. There is no way he was paying someone to do something he can do.) Also, my dad is the last hold-out still making his prosciutto with the bone. All the other immigrants have switched to a boneless prosciutto. Leaving the bone means that the prosciutto will need a year to dry and cure. The boneless prosciutto will be ready to eat in about 9 months.
The bones next to my dad came from the legs and the one butt. In Italy, these bones along with some of the fat would be boiled down and made into a pâté called frisoli was made. My dad would leave a bit more meat on the bones insuring a more meaty frisoli. I just put the bones in a bag and brought them out to the outside garbage.
My mother worried that we were eating late, put together a plate of meats and cheeses for us to snack on. The plate has last years prosciutto and soppressata. Also, there are four wine glasses, filled with my dad’s homemade wine, on shelves and ledges just outside the picture. You can’t have prosciutto, soppressata and cheese without vino.
The next step in the process was to grind the meat and to season it. In the pic, Rick is feeding meat strips into the grinder and Sarah is collecting the chopped-meat in a pan. The pan is the bowl of a casserole my mother brought from Aprigliano 60 years ago. (Growing up, it was my job to turn the crank on the grinder. Now, my dad has the manual meat grinder attached to a motor.)
My dad separated the chopped meat into mounds; each mound a huge ball that fit between his hands. For each mound he added a handful of coarse salt. And he finished the seasoning by adding two small mason jars of red-pepper paste. In Italy, I remember seasoning the meat with salt and paprika. But today a red-pepper paste replaces the paprika. Next, the seasoned meat needed to be mixed and for this my dad used his industrial mixer.
Over the years, my parents have purchased all the modern devices that make cooking, wine-making and salami-making easier. The industrial mixer came from a restaurant that a friend of the family ran. When the restaurant closed, my parents bought the mixer. It’s used to mix bread and cookie dough and meat for soppressata and salsiccia.
The seasoned meat was put into the cold-cellar and we went and had dinner. Tomorrow we fill the soppressata and sausage casings.
The meat grinder is re-assembled for stuffing. The knife and extruding plate are removed and a funnel is attached. The large funnel is for soppressata. My dad was up early tying one end of the casings. In the bowl are 13 other tied casings. He puts in the orange peel to mask the intestine smell. In the image on the right, he and Rick are tying the other end of the soppressata. This end has an extra long string so that the soppressata can be hung up. (And my dad, being the ultimate utilitarian, hung a spool of string from the ceiling. The string in the middle of the pic is from the spool. It’s out of the way, but easily accessible.)
At the end, we made six sausage links. The center image is of the grinder, its motor and the drawer with all the parts. (My dad assembled the whole contraption. It works from a peddle.) The star shaped items are the knives and the round face-plates with the holes determine the size of the meat being extruded. The face-plate with the larger holes is for soppressata and the one with the smaller holes is for salsiccia – sausage. The image on the right is Rick bolting the grinder back onto the cabinet.
In the image on the left, my dad is salting the prosciutti. The four prosciutti – two large and two smaller ones – stayed in the plastic tub for 48 hours. The middle image is of the salami my dad has already made. The second item in is pancetta. The last image on the right are the soppressate and the salsiccie we made. The outside-casings on the soppressata squeeze it and make the drying easier. (Sarah and I put the soppressate into these outside-casing. My dad had me gather the outside-casing onto a piece of PVC piping. Sarah and I slid the soppressata through the pipe and when it emerged it was wrapped in the constricting string casing.)
The middle and right images are in my dad’s cold-cellar. (There is enough food-stuff in this space to feed a family for at least six months. The demijohns with the wine are behind me.)
Connie invited us to take a ride out to the cottage and after lunch, we headed out. Maki Road that last month was snow-free was now buried under packed snow. Am so glad I don’t live here.
We stopped at the windmills. I like the tractors and snowplows at the bottom of the sleek elegant tower. When it comes to clean energy, Canada is ahead of us. The windmills on the Red Rock ridge have been turning for almost 10 years and the number of solar-farms in the area is a surprise and a hopeful sign.
We also stopped at the rise above Lakeshore Road; the same location where I shot the Boxing-Day pic. And of course I shot the same landscape now covered in snow. ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………….
It’s Monday morning and we’re packing the salami for our trip home. My dad bought a plastic tub (The black container is on the floor, under the mops, between Rick and my dad.) and I think everything will fit. The apron Rick is wearing was the prompt for the pic. Isn’t it the best? It’s one of my mom’s aprons. The image also has all the mechanics of the laundry room and I wanted to show them.
The proscuitti have been in a salt brine since Saturday and this morning my dad cleaned off the excess salt and coated them with pepper and paprika. They will be the first things into the plastic container, but until we’re ready they’ll hang in the cold-cellar for a couple of hours. This will shed or dry any excess moisture.
The highlight of the day will be lunch. My dad promised to serve moose meat. And sure enough by 11:30 a beautiful roast sat on the table surrounded by soft roasted carrots. It looked really good, but I stay away from game much to my dad’s displeasure. I ate a fava and pasta soup and some salad. There’s no way I can eat a full lunch and not want to sleep afterwards. And given that I’m all hepped up over getting through customs with our meat products, I had little appetite.
In packing the car, I suggested we casually throw our winter coats over the luggage and meat container.
It’s been a very short visit, but we have a four hour trip down to Oxford, an overnight at Rose-and-Derrick’s before we head out for the five hour trip home to Pittsburgh.
During the winter months, the area between the Mackinaw Bridge and Grayling is infamous for raging storms. The area is also the narrowest part of the peninsula with Lake Michigan/Grand Traverse Bay on the west and Lake Huron on the east. Winds from the west are generally considered the mildest and most favorable, but up here they are deadly, because they mix with the winds coming down from the Arctic. These two systems sweep over Lake Michigan/Grand Traverse Bay picking up moisture and then dump it onto this 100 mile strip. The area is a micro-climate, a snow-belt.
We drove through white-outs where visibility was non-existent; we got caught behind a foolish driver and ended up swerving into the left lane; and at Gaylord we were routed off I-75 and onto local roads. The miserable conditions didn’t end until we made the bend east at Roscommon. Once out of the snow-belt, driving conditions were amazingly good.
This is the last entry of the making salami posts.
In five days, we drove 1200 miles; made proscuitti, soppressate and salsiccie with my dad; brought everything back; and hung them in Mim’s cold-cellar in Forest Hills. Both my dad and Rose suggested hanging the meat low. This keeps it away from the warmest and least humid ceiling area. And the shelf in the cold-room should be a good elevation.
There were two stressful times – at the Sault-Michigan border and driving through the Mackinaw/Grayling snow-belt. At the border, the worry was getting across with the meat; in the snow-belt, the worry was getting safely through the blinding conditions.
We now have to monitor the drying to make certain that the proscuitti and soppressate cure.