Tag Archives: Rare & Unusual Foods

New charcuterie

For the grinder…

Pig skin, pig fat and some unfashionable cuts of pig meat (scalp, cheek, heart and belly trimmings) all seasoned overnight and ready to be ground, medium die.  Have you guessed what charcuterie this is?  Cotechino!


My cotechino were made according to the Ruhlman & Polcyn recipe, though with about 50% less fat (just because I didn’t have enough fat sitting in the freezer).  Made with odd cuts of pig it is highly economical but very tasty all the same.  The texture is amazing, if you like wibbly skin and strong Italian spices – which I do.  I tried one when it came out of its poaching stock and it was (in all modesty) amazing.  Chilled overnight and lightly grilled or browned I think it will be not bad either.

Happy (belated) Eel Day!

This year Eel Day coincided with the Sumidagawa Fireworks festival.  We still ate eel.

Hot and humid as Satan’s codpiece

It is 34°C+ and overcast, and rains most days: we are in the Japanese monsoon!  One of the very few pleasant aspects of this time of year is that it is ume plum season.  I’m lucky enough to have access to two plum trees so I get free plums every year. Though the yield varies year to year, they are completely chemical-free and are perfect for making umeboshi or umeshu (plum “wine”).

On about the last sunny day this month I washed and dried the plums – about 1.5kg, with quite a mix of ripeness.  I made two batches of umeshu, one with the very green, small plums and the other with the riper fruit.  Umeshu is in reality not wine but just fruit steeped in shochu distilled spirits with white rock sugar.  These will be ready to drink this time next year.

Lots of meat

in the drying chamber: duck prosciutto, prosciutto crudo di spalla and two saucisson sec lurking at the back.

“Japanese charcuterie”

The 2016 batch of homemade shiokaraShiokara is a ritual I do every year.  This is genuine charcuterie, with the squid preserved with salt and the innards fermented using bacteria.  Whilst shiokara is ambrosia to some it is death to others who visit these shores; I belong to the former group.  This batch earned me a number of drinks at my local izakaya, from other enthusiasts.  The sad reality is, most of the shiokara you buy in the shops or are served in bars are the fake, non-fermented variety, with lots of citric acid to preserve it and give it tang, and plenty of sugar and food colouring to make it resemble the real thing.  Real shiokara uses nothing but squid and salt in its making, and maybe a slug of sake to thin out the fermented livers at the end.  Some people may add chopped yuzu or katsuobushi according to their wont – I do not.

French, this time

New charcuterie hanging up in the chamber: saucisson sec.  These have been in for about two weeks.  They contain only pork, salt (both kinds), crushed black pepper, white wine and garlic (and of course a bacteria culture to ferment them).  Nothing fancy and no overdoing it with the seasonings. In reality their colour is a much richer pink but it is hard to take good photos in the dark of the chamber.  We shall see how these come out.

Fresh squid

Not the freshest possible, but fresh enough that the parasites inside the squid are still alive…

Despite their best efforts to hide this was only going to end one way, the parasites were dealt with and the squid was gutted, skinned, opened out and set to dry on my balcony.  This is all part of my annual ritual of making shiokara, and this year’s batch should be ready in about a week or so.