Monday, January 25, 2010

'Nduja update.

So, yesterday I finally gave in and had to try one of the small tester pieces of the first 'nduja batch. It had started out at 170g and was at 100g when I finally cut it open. All of the pieces are at the 40% loss point. So I took them off the drying rack and put them in an unsealed plastic bag with room for some air circulation. While I want to stop/slow down the weight loss, I want them to remain untouched to prevent bad growth. I am leaving them at the 60˚ temp to continue to promote some internal maturation.

When I sliced it open and took that first whiff it was smokey, peppery and a little porky. I knew right away that the fat content was too low. While it wasn't firm in any way, it also wasn't spreadable. I peeled off the casing, which was pretty easy, and took a bite. Not very porky. This is likely because of the fact I used "commodity" pork from the carniceria and because it hasn't had enough time to develop its flavors through aging. The heat took a second to hit me, but it did on the back of the palate after a few seconds. It wasn't as hot as I had expected though. Another aspect that wasn't as prevalent past the first smell was the smoke. I thought that with the chipotle purée and 4 smoke sessions it might be too smokey, but it was only barely smokey. And the last thing that disappointed me was the occasional "sandiness" from what I am assuming was the paprika powder. I thought I had mixed everything well, but maybe I hadn't. I guess it sounds like this was bad, but it wasn't. It is still quite tasty, but just not as I had expected and aimed for. I am going to let these continue their affinage and have some every now and then. But in the meantime, I am going to get started on the next batch, with some changes!

As for the texture, to get a more spreadable version and also a more consistent product I think I will use a less fatty muscle (shoulder perhaps) and add some blanched fat back so I can maintain a more consistent ratio. And hopefully I can get it better on the next try. I am thinking about a 2:1 muscle to fat ratio. I would also like to get ahold of some better quality pork that will give a better pork flavor. There is still some hope for this in my first batch, but time will tell. As for the heat and sandiness, I have a one time fix for both. I have ordered and received some authentic calabrian pepper sauces from Scott at the sausage debauchery on his eBay store. I also ordered the powdered versions, which I will try in another batch after a long mixing time to avoid said sandiness. And as far as the smoke, I will not use the chipotles (I have the real thing now!) and do the 7 days of smoking as proscribed by Len Poli. I kinda really love smoking, so this might be the most fun part of this whole process! But before I do any of this over again, I must get a drying chamber put together. I lost too much weight too fast with this and the bresaola, not allowing good aging. This can also wreak havoc on fermented sausages. Which reminds me, I'd also like to add some starter culture (induces fermentation) into this next batch. It lacks at this point any acidity. Depending on what size casings I go with and my chamber, I will use bactoferm F-RM-52 (fast, higher acidity, what I should have used here), T-SPX (light acidity, shorter aging) or F-LC (acidity depends greatly on fermentation temp.).

Last night I used the first sausage to make a great pizza sauce. I roasted some red bell peppers and puréed them with the remaining sausage and used this as my sauce instead of a tomato sauce. It was pretty damn good, some heat, a touch of smoke and lots of peppery goodness!


  1. A couple suggestions. I've made N'duja with and without starter culture. I was much happier with the finished product without the culture, just strictly #2. In fact, my next version may not even have cure #2 in it. Traditionally, there is no cure in it. As far as the meat is concerned, I've done it with a standard salame ratio(70/30)knowing it would get too hard, and it did. Knowing that, and the fct that Larbo's best result was with straight pork belly, I'd opt for the latter. In my next batch, I'm going 70% total weight from jowl, 30% pepper. I'm glad I could provide the authentic ingredients..........enjoy.

  2. Thanks for the thoughts and comment Scott. My concern is that the fat/muscle ratio on belly is about as consistent as Chicago baseball. I am curious about your jowl run though because the jowl fat is such a different element than belly fat. And 30% on the pepper seems pretty usual, but how do you adjust between the puree and the powder since the powder is technically a lot more concentrated? I have also found that #2 (nitrate) adds a bit to the flavor, more so that #1, but it takes longer to work since it actually converts to a nitrite (#1). So for short cures #1 is a better choice. I just didn't plan on this being dried so soon!

  3. As Scott says, I've found that sticking with lots of pork belly in the recipe is essential to reproduce that creamy texture we both had the chance to experience at the Borough market. My bellies come from a Berkshire/Chester breed, which lots of rich fat to work with.

    I make a bison nduja, which has about 1 part bison to 2 parts belly, and the bison is so lean it dries out in a month, and then only keeps for a month before it becomes too dried out. In contrast, the all-pork-belly version can dry for months, and still remain spreadable. I keep trying to make enough to see what the outside limit is for aging it, but have never been able to keep it around.

    As you say, when using the Calabrian hot chilis that Scott is supplying, the dried, powdered chilis are both more concentrated and lighter than the paste, so it's a matter of guesswork to find the right ratio. So far, I like to use twice as much, by weight, of the concentrate in the jar to the dried powder. By volume, the ratios are pretty much reversed.

    I tried a 4:1 ratio of belly to chili, but by the time it dried down, it mellowed a bit. So, for my latest batch, I'm going with a ration of 3:1 or 25% hot chilis. It'll be months before I know how it turns out, but I put some of the dribs and drabs on pizza the other night, and it was awesome!

  4. Just finished our yearly sausage and nduja day this past weekend. Does anyone know of any way to make/store the nduja in order to make it hard enough to slice, in ways to put on sandwiches and whatnot?

  5. This batch has actually dried-out/firmed up enough to slice. I imagine either lowering the fat content or allowing a longer drying time should both help make a more firm version. Let us know how it turns out!