Salumi with Angelo Garro

Today, another guest post from Tom:

The best presents are the things that you wouldn't buy for yourself, but that you'd love. That's exactly what Elizabeth got me in the form of a salumi class with Angelo Garro, which I had this past weekend.

First, a word about Angelo -- if you've read The Omnivore's Dilemma, then you'll recognize him as the person who took Michael Pollan on his foraging and boar hunting expeditions in the last third of the book. A blacksmith by trade, and a Sicilian by birth, Angelo has started selling products based on his cooking (after having run a pretty successful Kickstarter campaign - nice to have Werner Herzog do your Kickstarter video).

Angelo recently started having classes -- our salumi class was the second one. We were instructed to show up at his place of work, the Renaissance Forge, at 10AM. No end time for the class was given, but it was billed as including a lunch, so I figured I'd be there for a few hours.

Door to the Renaissance Forge
A quick terminology note -- salumi is the generic term for Italian cold cuts; salami (or salame) is a kind of salumi, so is proscuitto, mortadella, coppa, pancetta, lardo, etc. Cured meats, usually pork, definitely yummy.
The class was a small affair -- I was one of just a handful of students. Two had flown up from Southern California for the class, there was a couple who run the Camp 4 Wine Bar in Modesto, and a young guy that chefs for a tech startup (cooking breakfast and lunch for 75 employees five days a week). Angelo had two assistants, Victoria and Beth. We started with some chit-chat, a walk around the forge, a peek into the walk-in cooler where he's got several types of salumi hanging, near where his four barrels of homemade wine are fermenting.

Forge tools
Soon, we started our salumi process -- many many pork shoulders needed to get trimmed, so we all stood around a long table, knifes in hand, trimming away fat, separating muscles, cutting into small chunks for grinding. We wound up with about 37 pounds of trimmed pork.

Many hands make light work
As we're cutting, we also start eating. Beth fried up some foraged greens that had been chopped, mixed with Parmesan, and fried into little bites. We had sliced lardo and other salumi on bread. We tasted some of Angelo's Omnivore Sauce. Beth made some fried battered broccoli and anchovy. Angelo brought out two versions of a new hot sauce he was trying, asking us which we liked better.

Just a few little bites
While the pork rested in the refrigerator (the better for grinding), we cut some back fat to add to the mix, and also uncorked a few bottles of Angelo's 2013 Syrah. Our work done, we then set to grinding.

This industrial grinder made quick work of our pork.
The ground pork was mixed by hand (for a loooong time) with the spice mixture, then he brought out his sausage-stuffing contraption -- a long cylinder with a hand-cranked plunger. We'd previously rinsed out some natural casings, and we each got a turn at both the crank and the extruder end, filling casings, tying them off, pricking the casings to eliminate air pockets, and giving them a bath in a starter culture.

The salumi would sit in a warm, humid spot for about two days to give the starter culture (i.e., mold) a head start, then it's off to the cooler to age for 2-3 months.

Our work complete, it was time for lunch - a fresh pasta with several kinds of seafood, some salad, more syrah, then for dessert some homemade biscotti, figs, some homemade nocino (walnut liqueur), and espresso.  We talked about food, we talked about places to go in Italy, we talked about gardening. At one point Angelo left to take a phone call -- it was Paul Bertolli, of Chez Panisse and Oliveto fame. (Can you tell I was completely star-struck?)

We finally said our goodbyes, goody bags of previously-cured meats, leftover pork bits, and Omnivore Salt in hand, around 6:30 PM.

Best. Class. Ever.

As Elizabeth and I have embarked on our homesteading efforts, we've become attuned to craftsmanship, and of the appeal of home crafted items. Yes, it's harder to make things from scratch, but how great to know what you're eating. How good it is to know the work involved in making things - it makes you appreciate them that much more.