Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Charcuterie in the age of terrorism

I went through a brief period of trying to cure my own pancetta.  Mostly super-spicy – mix say one gram of sodium nitrite with 300 grams of salt and an enormous number of spices (including my trusty star anise) and put it with a pork belly in the fridge in a zip lock plastic bag.
Turn the bag over every day for about 10 days and then wash and dry.  Roll it up and tie up very tightly with butchers twine and hang it under the house.  Hope the mould that grows is only white.  (All the white moulds are edible…)

The stuff is salty, very strong flavoured and delicious.
You can try making traditional bacon too – easy enough as long as you have an oven you can keep at 80 degrees centigrade for a couple of hours.

This is exciting stuff – real cookery – making exotic stuff from the cheap pork bellies you buy in Chinatown.  It also leads to hours of conversation with some Italian bloke you meet in Haberfield who suddenly thinks you are worthy of his time.

The problem of course is you need the sodium nitrite.  It’s the stuff that makes bacon pink, makes preserved meats carcinogenic and stops you getting botulism.
But sodium nitrite is hard to obtain because you can also make explosives out of it.  At least it is hard to obtain in Australia though it might not be in the US because the gun lobby has ensured its availability for the sort of nutcases that like to make their own gun powder and pack their own traditional rifles (or muskets).  

So here I am stuck in Australia in the age of terrorism, unable to find critical ingredients to make my bacon and wishing (just for once) that Australia had the National Rifle Association ensuring that I can obtain my core ingredients.

John Hempton

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