Homemade Pancetta

Pancetta is Italian cured pork belly. I had looked into making it myself before, but the recipes I found required a curing chamber. A curing chamber is a cabinet with controlled temperature and humidity. Even for me it seems over the top to own one. But then I realised that pancetta was originally invented to preserve pork belly when refrigerators had not yet been invented (let alone curing chambers), so I figured that a cellar should do the trick as well. We don’t have a cellar, but in winter our garage comes pretty close with a temperature around 16ºC/60ºF. So I compared many recipes I found online on Italian blogs, on American blogs, and in the end based my first homemade pancetta upon a Dutch blog called missFromage (I bet Shanna likes that name!).

Making your own pancetta is quite easy and not a lot of work, it just requires a bit of patience. The result was great! My first homemade pancetta has a more elegant and detailed flavor than store-bought pancetta available around here. As an added bonus it is cheaper as well. Thanks missFromage for making it look as easy as it actually is! I will definitely make this again. Continue reading “Homemade Pancetta”

Home made Puff Pastry From Scratch

Puff pastry has a reputation of being difficult and a lot of work to make from scratch. I had never attempted it before, but now that I have I thought it wasn’t so hard at all. The main point is temperature control, which is easier right now because it is winter and thus not warm in the house. Puff pastry puffs up because it has a lot of layers of flour and butter. In this recipe, there will be 256 layers! Temperature control is so important because the butter should be soft enough to be able to handle the dough, but not melted to keep the layers intact. This means that a cool room temperature of 18ºC/65ºF is ideal in your kitchen when you make this.

There are several reasons for making your own puff pastry rather than running to the store:

  1. Your own puff pastry will only contain flour, butter, water, and salt. Nothing else.
  2. You will have bragging rights.
  3. It will probably taste better (depending on the quality of the store-bought pastry).
  4. It is cheaper than store-bought.

Running to the store is faster (depending on where the store is), as making your own puff pastry does take about 4 hours. However, most of that time is inactive time with the dough resting in the fridge. Continue reading “Home made Puff Pastry From Scratch”

How to get the Seeds (Arils) out of a Pomegranate

Yesterday I wrote about my ‘discovery’ of fresh pomegranate juice, and complained about the messy procedure to get those arils (seeds) out. Paul and Fae reacted that there is an easier way, which is to whack the pomegranate with a wooden spoon to let the arils fall out. Since I had another pomegranate waiting to be turned into more delicious juice, I decided to try this for myself. And although I still got some small splashes of juice (probably due to my clumsiness), it worked a lot better and quicker. Thanks Paul and Fae! It is always great to learn a new technique. Continue reading “How to get the Seeds (Arils) out of a Pomegranate”

Fresh Pomegranate Juice

I’ve never really liked pomegranate juice because I always thought it was too astringent. Boy was I wrong! I had just never tasted fresh pomegranate juice before. Just like with orange juice, there is a huge difference between the real thing (i.e. freshly squeezed) and store-bought stuff. A post on REMCooks.com inspired me to try making my own pomegranate juice, and I absolutely loved it. Thanks, Richard! Fresh pomegranate juice is as different from store-bought pomegranate juice as freshly squeezed orange juice is different from orange juice from concentrate. Fresh pomegranate juice is sweeter, less astringent, and has a wonderful flavor. It also is very healthy. Continue reading “Fresh Pomegranate Juice”

Duck Stock

The flavor of soups, sauces, and especially risottos depends heavily on the quality of the stock used. Bouillon cubes are terrible because they are usually more than 99% salt. Store-bought stocks usually also have a very high salt content, which renders them useless for sauces and risotto. And it is so easy to make your own stock, it only takes a bit of patience.

From the comments of my readers and recipes on many other blogs, I’m starting to get the impression that many cooks out there believe there are only about four types of stock: vegetable stock, chicken stock, beef stock, and fish stock. However, stock can be made from virtually anything and each ingredient gives off a characteristic flavor. So you can also prepare lamb stock, shrimp stock, pork stock, rabbit stock, hare stock, pheasant stock, etc. If you make a lamb dish with a sauce or a lamb stew, you will get more lamb flavor if you use lamb stock rather than beef stock.

So even though making duck stock is not different from making chicken stock (except that you use duck rather than chicken), I’m posting about it anyway to emphasize that duck stock exists, easy to make at home, and preferable to chicken stock in most cases for duck dishes. Continue reading “Duck Stock”

Pickled Chipotles à la Richard

Ancho chile rub was not the only homemade goodness that Richard sent over, his wonderful package also included pickled chipotles. Chipotles are smoked jalapeño peppers and they are not only spicy but also wonderfully smoky. I had never tasted them prior to Richard’s surprise, and liked them instantly. I especially liked them in pork burgers. Just like the ancho chile rub, I ran out of the original batch pretty quickly, and so I had to make my own. I followed Richard’s recipe for them, and they turned out just like the batch that he had sent. Continue reading “Pickled Chipotles à la Richard”

Crispy Cucumber from my new Chamber Vacuum Sealer

Because I cook sous-vide so often, a vacuum sealer is a necessity in my kitchen. The simple ‘clamp’ or ‘edge’ vacuum sealer (also known as ‘Foodsaver type’ vacuum sealer) that I have been using for three years is starting to fall apart and so it was time for a new one. That was a good excuse reason to purchase a chamber vacuum sealer. Continue reading “Crispy Cucumber from my new Chamber Vacuum Sealer”

Richard’s Ancho Chile Rub

Months ago I received a surprise package from Richard McGary with a challenge and lots of chile peppers. One of the contents of the package was a jar with Richard’s homemade Ancho Chile Rub. This is a spice mix with ancho chile as the main ingredient that I liked a lot. I tried it with salmon and tuna. The ancho chile rub is not just spicy — it has a deep earthy flavor that goes well with both meat and fish. I liked it so much in fact, that I finished the jar that Richard sent pretty quickly. And so I had to make my own. Continue reading “Richard’s Ancho Chile Rub”