Wednesday, January 6, 2010

On the 'nduja train

This past fall I visited London with my now fiancée. One of the places we visited was the Borough Market. I found some great things to eat there and others to take home. Things like the hundred great English cheeses at Neal's Yard Dairy, the bacon sandwiches at the Northfield Farm stall (who's display case is my profile photo), the mouthwatering menu from Roast, beautiful jars of pickles and preserves (with noteworthy packaging) from England Preserves and last but far from least, the Calabrian spreadable salumi called 'nduja. I came across the website for Boccalone, Chris Cosentino's pork goodies shop, which offers his version online. So I figured that if Chris can do it, I can at least give it a shot. So after some recipe research online I came across a couple recipes, and surprisingly, a lot of other people who are looking for some 'nduja, who are making 'nduja or who are writing about 'nduja. So alas, I am not alone.

In short, 'nduja, pronounced in my poor phonetics, en 'dew yuh, bares a name resemblance to the French sausage Andouille. But aside from including pork tripe it bares little similarities. It is closer to the Cajun version with its heat. The meat generally consists of pork and it often includes some 5th quarter offerings like tripe and a good amount of fat which helps keep it spreadable, a main characteristic. It is richly red, an attribute that comes from its other main ingredient, red peppers. There is a combination of both rather spicy peppers and fairly sweet peppers. Recipes offered either pepper in a powdered or a puréed form. This spice is obvious as soon as you take your first bite and will stick with you through the last! As noted in some of the readings I found, finding these Calabrian peppers right now is a bit tricky. Maybe it is because of the growing popularity stateside for this treat. Another Illinois based pork-nerd, Larbo, over at This Little Piggy notes a couple sources and several more posts on this spicy topic.

It was actually a combination of one of Larbo's recipes and another of Len Poli that led to my first recipe. When I make a recipe I do one of two things every time. Mostly, especially with cured/fermented or otherwise sensitive items, I follow a recipe exactly and use it as a building block for my house of knowledge. The other thing I tend to do is find several recipes and pick and choose items/ideas from them and build my own. When I do this I am usually using the ingredients as suggestions and the directions as just that, directions. It was in this latter form that I have created my 'nduja. In part because I am anxious to get this started, in part because I don't want to have to source authentic Calabrian peppers and in part because it's always more fun for me to put my own stamp on something!

So for this round of n'duja I changed the imported Calabrian Hot Pepper purée to Chipotle purée. And again, instead of trying to order and wait for the same imported sweet peppers, I simply used a sweet paprika. As far as the meat, I stuck to good old pork belly, not too lean or all fat. I also included salt, dextrose powder, and cure #2. I ground it 3 times. First I ground just the belly through the large plate of my Kitchenaid. After that I added in the dry ingredients and they all went for a ride through the small plate of the grinder. They had so much fun I figured I'd send them through one more time. I was happy with the texture at this point. It still had some rather small pieces but wasn't an actual purée, something I was very set on not allowing. I am not sure how much this will change in the next month of drying, but it looked promising.

Next I stuffed the farce into some beef middles. I was expecting something a bit bigger when I ordered them. These are about 43mm in diameter on average. The good news is they should lose their weight a little faster! The 5# recipe I did left me with 6 pieces about a foot long averaging 12oz. and 3 smaller test pieces at 6oz. each.

After stuffing them (left) I let them form a pellicule in the fridge overnight (right). This allows the immediate surface moisture to dry up a bit and often gives it a barely tacky touch, to which smoke adheres quite well. The next day I labelled and weighed the sausages and cold smoked them for about 30 minutes. I was distracted slightly by my honey-do list and missed the peak of my hickory smoke blast but I am not worried because I will repeat this smoking step every-other-day for a week, for a total of 4 smokings. I could smoke it daily if I wanted, but with the chipotles it might be overkill!


  1. Lovely. I was going to mention with the Chipotle, smoking may not be entirely necessary. But, what fun would that be. Good looking stuff.

  2. These do look great! As Scott says, if you use a smoked pepper, like Chipotle, then the cold-smoking may not be strictly necessary, but it does give the sausages that beautiful dark red color and it helps retard mold growth over the many months these sausages hang to dry out.

    So glad you made it to the Borough Market and had a chance to sample the Calabrian version of nduja there. I wonder if the guy at that tiny stall has any idea how many meatheads here in the US he's inspired!

    As for the scarcity of Calabrian peppers, Scott may be coming to the rescue of all of us! I'm sure he'll keep us posted.

  3. Most excellent. I live 30 minutes away from Bocccalone (no traffic). They have some wonderful stuff.

  4. I accidentally came across the brochure for that fella at the Borough Market. His name is Giuseppe Mele. His company is "de calabria," how appropriate. His website is if anyone is curious.

  5. It's no longer tricky to find the peppers, charcutier. I got 'em. Let me know if you want any.

  6. Hi All,

    Just to say that you cannot only get the 'Nduja in Borough Market. We are a producer of 'Nduja that imports the product into the UK. We also import other traditional foods from Calabria.
    For more info and products visit

  7. Thanks Morella. I was tempted to delete this since it seems to be directed only at advertising your company. But since we all love some 'nduja and other fine charcuterie, and since most of us aren't in the UK it can stay. Perhaps you have some advice to offer in our ventures towards creating our own red nutella. Thanks.