I have two pork jowls in my freezer.
This should go a long way as to explain why I recently bought Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing by Thomas Keller and Michael Ruhlman. Or not; I guess it really all depends on whether or not you know what pork jowls are used for and if you care.
For me, it began when Beloved fell in love with charcuterie while in Charleston earlier this year. He often has a hard time when he travels because of our diet – so many restaurants cook with and serve crap ingredients and those that don’t cost a small fortune. Fortunately, both Slightly North of Broad and High Cotton serve charcuterie – basically a delectable collection of various dry-cured sausages, hams, pâtés, mustards, and pickles, and all made in-house at the restaurant (if the restaurant is worth a darn). At any rate, when I accompanied him to Charleston in early August, I was introduced to the wonderful charcuterie at High Cotton, and one of the things on the platter was guanciale, an unsmoked Italian bacon prepared with – you guessed it – pork jowls. (If you’ve ever had real spaghetti alla carbonara, you’ve had guanciale.)
It turns out you can cure guanciale, plus a host of other hams and sausages, in your own home if you’re of a mind to; you just need to know how, hence the acquisition of this excellent book. It also just so happens that you can make sausage easily and quickly in your own home, without any books, special equipment or odd piggy parts. Fresh sausage, the type most commonly eaten for breakfast, is absurdly simple to make – all you need is ground pork (ground turkey thighs work extremely well if you don’t eat pork) and whatever combination of seasonings for whatever flavor of sausage you want to make. Maple breakfast sausages seem to be all the rage these days, and this one is better than any commercial sausage you can buy at the store – and it has no MSG, artificial flavors or nitrates.
And don’t worry – I’ll tell you all about the guanciale once I’ve got it going. You didn’t think I was going to stop at beef tongue, did you?
Maple Sausage Patties
1 pound ground pork
1 tablespoon fresh sage, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1 pinch red pepper flakes
few grinds of black pepper
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
Gently mix all ingredients together in a large mixing bowl; shape into eight 2 1/2 inch (2 ounce) patties. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least half an hour.
Heat a large, heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the patties and cook 4 to 6 minutes per side, or until cooked through.
Place patties on a paper-towel lined plate and keep warm until ready to serve.
Nutrition (per serving): 162 calories, 12g total fat, 40.8mg cholesterol, 149.9mg sodium, 174.3mg potassium, 3.4g carbohydrates, <1g fiber, 3g sugar, 9.6g protein.