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Kidneys and Pancetta

This post is going to touch on three ideas that on their own wouldn’t make a full post and don’t totally flow together but it’s about cured meat and animal parts so I’m sure you guys will eat it up.

Earlier this year I made pancetta from scratch (part 1, part 2).  In the posts and in-person conversations about this project I have mentioned that I was relatively nervous about the project because of the whole mold-on-meat factor.  First off, no ill effects have been observed.  Spot-washing the pancetta in a 50/50 vinegar/water solution controls the mold and eliminates undesirable flavours.  Problem is that even after treating all the mold spots I could see with the vinegar, refrigerator temperatures weren’t cold enough to keep the mold from spreading. Luckily, the pancetta keeps better in the freezer and in chunk form thaws enough to be cut in fifteen minutes on the counter–I re-freeze the rest but I’m not a health safety expert so you’re on your own.

Cubed pancetta

Those who read the first post will remember that the biggest decision in the pancetta process was whether to roll or not.  I went unrolled and left my pork belly as a slab largely for fear of what could grow in the inside of the roll if it wasn’t totally air-free.  In talking to other who have made their own pancetta they mentioned that an advantage of rolling is that mold only grows on the flat ends (because it doesn’t like the pure fat of the exposed round surface) and these can just be cut off.  Another good reason to go rolled when I hopefully repeat the experiment in the fall.

The lamb kidneys and piece of pancetta

Around Easter I found that Highland Farms had a great variety of lamb offal in their refrigerated case (a by-product of the brisk, whole animal business they do at this time) so I picked up some kidneys.  I know that a lot of people are wary of kidneys (especially from beef, but also lamb) and as usual I think that this aversion is caused largely by sub-par preparation.  The kidneys (at least as far as Highland Farms had taken them before packaging) have a fine membrane on the outside and a little white bit (inside the “C” curve) that looks like fat and attaches to the rest of the digestive system.  The membrane comes off easily but the white bit wants to stay on and the rest of the kidney feels like it is going to fall apart if you’re too rough with it but thoroughness will be rewarded.  Of the eight I ate a couple (like any offal, a tough sell to the rest of the crowd) so unintentionally got to compare good and bad.

Finally, these photos are good examples of my ongoing efforts to take better pictures to go with my posts.  Lighting is always the biggest challenge and here you can see the difference between shooting in a kitchen lit by one sunny window (overly dramatic? too tight?) and outside in a back yard (photo of assembled dish at top of post).  Admittedly this will probably never be my strongest suit but I hope I’m moving in the right direction.

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3 Comments

  1. Andrea says:

    Good post. Nice photos.

  2. foodwithlegs says:

    Thanks, Andrea. The pile of pancetta picture seemed a bit over the top at first but I think it is growing on me.

  3. [...] I push the boundaries of what those I cook for will eat.  Pickled fish, lambs’ kidneys, and brawn all come to mind.  The beef heart was met with some raised eyebrows but also got just [...]

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