Friday, April 05, 2013

The Prosciutto Project: Hurry Up and Wait

"Good things come to those who wait."

This old proverb extolling the virtues of patience has been appropriated by advertising agencies—Heinz ketchup and Guinness come to mind—and generations of moms with squirmy kids. (The moms, of course, potently implying that its opposite is also true.)

Katherine meeting her meat.

I'm embarking on a project with Katherine Miller, editor of the Oregonian's FoodDay section, which will test my patience to the limit. That is, we're making prosciutto, the Italian style of dry-curing a whole leg of pork.

The process of dry-curing, I've come to realize, is not like making bacon, which cures for a week in the fridge and is then smoked for a few hours, whereupon it is completely edible. Nor is it like pancetta, which requires a week of curing and is hung in a cool, dark place for a couple of weeks before you can indulge.

Kendra and Ivan of Goat Mountain Pastured Meats.

No, prosciutto is a much, much more protracted process, curing in salt for at least twelve days and hanging to dry-cure for up to a year. Yes, a year. Twelve months. Three hundred sixty five days—you catch my drift. No wonder wannabe charcutiers get wigged out just thinking about it. That's a long time to find out that you've just invested considerable time and money into what has become a big pile of moldy, not to mention potentially lethal, protein.

Eric of Mt. Angel Meat cradling our prosciutto-to-be.

But hey, I thought it would make a good story, not to mention a tasty experiment, so I convinced Katherine we should do it together. Plus I think it helped that she got to meet a couple of my favorite meat farmers, Kendra Kimbirauskas and her husband, Ivan Maluski, of Goat Mountain Pastured Meats in Colton, and canoodle with their placid porkers.

We picked up the 25-lb. leg this morning from Eric at Mt. Angel Meat Co., a USDA-certified meat processor, salted it down, wrapped it in plastic and set it under weights in Katherine's fridge. I'll be able to tell you how it went in a year or so!


Kyle said...

Was your pig acorn-fed?

Kathleen Bauer said...

Actually, Kyle, at this moment the pigs from Goat Mountain aren't finished on anything but the grass they eat every day, along with supplemental grain from a local mill. Our pig was eating sweet, spring grass right in his pasture with his siblings and cousins until his last day. It'll be interesting to try the meat that's fed this way!