March 7, 2010

Virginia City Proscuitto and Pepper Ghosts

There's Jimmy Nardello, a dried ghost having spent the winter in the greenhouse. He's still red! Amazing. You can see why this is a sweet pepper to fall in love with.
Here are Jimmy's pals dried in the dehydrator. The yellow ones are paprika. Crush one of these to add to stir-fryed veg, scrambled eggs, or spread over pork cuts for curing. I am starting pepper seeds today.

Last week we were invited to a 'Meat Tasting' at a friend's home in Virginia City (Montana). Have never been to a meat tasting, only cheese and wine tastings. What fun! Our Swiss friend cures all kinds of meats: elk, white tail deer, beef, pork and sometimes bison. She uses Old World recipes handed down in her family. Her father was a butcher and taught her the art of cutting and curing. She presented hard sausages made of pork and deer, smoked deer, cured elk slices, and Prosciutto made from a John Smith pig, raised just down the road. Just think, Prosciutto made in Montana, not northern Italy or high in the Swiss Alps! I bought three hunks to share with friends.
 
The story of Prosciutto is the story of pigs, since it takes the best pigs eating right to make a perfect ham. Each type has it's own flavors and aromas that make it unique and delicious. The process of making any Prosciutto crudo (raw portk) is basically the same: trim the skin and fat from the ham (the rear haunch of a pig), salt the ham, hang to air cure, grease with salted lard, and let cure for 1-2 years!


 The skin was left on this piece. See the layers and the curing pepper. Sliced and ready to eat.
Jamie Oliver, in his book, Jamie At Home, offers a recipe for Speck (another type of Proscuitto) and strawberries with mint and greens. When my lettuce seeds sprout and grow in the next weeks I will try this wonderful sounding combination: strawberries, halloumi (cheese) roasted, lettuce, mint, and Proscuitto drizzled with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Yummm! What a great spring offering.
Wrap the hunk of Proscuitto in cloth, then into a plastic bag and store in a cool place or refrigerator. I hope to try the ham wrapped around melon chunks as well...just have to make sure we have enough left when melon season rolls around. That's a ways away, o dear! Maybe our friend will have Proscuitto hanging around until then?

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