Charcutepalooza July: Blending: mortadella

cross-section of mortadella

cross-section of mortadella

I’ve discovered an interesting ratio between my love of photography and my love of cooking, more specifically, my love of cooking all these excellent Charcutepalooza projects. The more I enjoy a project and have fun doing it, the more I think to stop and pick up my camera to make photos. When I’m as thoroughly frustrated as I was making this month’s mortadella, and last month’s sausage, making photos isn’t the first thing to come to mind—and I make photos almost every day.

To make matters just slightly more down this month, while I and my family loved the June project’s end result of duck sausage and spicy Italian sausage, none of us really liked the mortadella. It’s not that it was bad at all. It’s just that for the amount of work and mess I created, I was hoping for something that tasted a little better than just really good bologna. Especially since I don’t really enjoy bologna. I have had mortadella many times in the past and never thought much of it, but I was really hoping making it myself with good, locally raised, pastured pork would make it great. Greatness, while achieved with several other Charcutepalooza projects, was not within my grasp this time.

Instead of regaling you with more tales of my stuffing clumsiness and emulsion-making-mess woes (I’ll just say emulsified meat does wash out of children’s hair and leave it at that), I’ll move on to what I did with the final product. CharcutepaloozaAs you can see from the photo above, I chose not to use pistachios or other “mix-ins” in my mortadella. I never much cared for nuts in it in the past, and my wife Brenda doesn’t love olives. In thinking about it now, that may have been my mistake, because the only time I’ve ever really enjoyed mortadella is in a muffuletta, which of course is always loaded with an olive salad.

So I’m looking at this gigantic round of mortadella that I’ve sliced in half to take the above cross-section photo and, besides that weirdly unnatural pink color, I see a lot of fat, beautiful pork fat that I was kind of cursing myself for wasting inside this emulsion. All the while Brenda was washing and spinning greens and, after tasting the mortadella, declaring she would prefer not to have that on her salad. I thought, but what if it was a crispy lardon? Look at all that fat. It’s got to render and crisp up nicely.

Out came a frying pan and in went 1/2″ cubes of mortadella (see last photo, extremely zoomed in for effect). Fifteen minutes later and we had the below salad. Then I went the extra step of deglazing the pan with balsamic vinegar, creating a rough 3:1 ratio of rendered mortadella fat and a little olive oil to the vinegar, stirring in some Dijon and cracked black pepper, and we had a vinaigrette.

I’m going to sound like a complete downer, but I still didn’t love it. I know, perhaps there was something wrong with me. Just to be on the safe side I had a chicken skin club sandwich with homemade bacon today. It was fantastic, so thankfully my taste buds still work. I’m not about to give up of course, especially not since I already know that next month’s challenge involves terrines, which I love making, so I’ll see if my photo making ratio theory holds up.

Thank you again to Cathy Barrow and Kim Foster, and I do mean that sincerely. Maybe it wasn’t my cup of tea, or cup of emulsified meat, but it was a new experience for me to stuff a bung (did you really think I’d get through this whole month’s post without mentioning bung once?), and new experiences are always much appreciated.

salad with mortadella "lardons"

salad with mortadella "lardons"

close-up exploration of a cube of mortadella

close-up exploration of a cube of mortadella

7 thoughts on “Charcutepalooza July: Blending: mortadella

  • It’s fascinating how many charcutepaloozies didn’t like the mortadella they made this month! I have to say, I’m a fan of good mortadella, and yours looks delicious. And I like how you, me, and saffronandsalt are always trippin’ in at the very last minute. Least I’m in excellent company 🙂

    • I’m still not sure I disliked it. I think paying for good pork and great fat and doing all that work for an end product that was only a little better than something I could get in Providence at a really good Italian store for $5/lb. or thereabouts was frustrating. Ah well. I actually started the post on Thursday night, but felt I was going too negative. Then seeing other posts on Friday made me finish it up.

  • I’m glad the meat mixture washed out, that could have been traumatic. 🙂 I had no want to touch bung, go near it, smell it, none of it. I give a load of credit to those that did. I have a love affair with a good all-beef hot dog so I had to go with that. As we’ve now discussed, in length (or in 140 characters a lot), it’s always the clean-up that frustrates me in these challenges. I need to just shut it and deal. (or pay my husband to do it for me.)

    • After stuffing sausage into tiny little casing last month, I knew hot dogs weren’t going to make me happy. I had hoped stuffing into that big bung would be better. Ah well, onto terrines! A little less messy. 😉

  • David, thanks so much for letting me live vicariously through your mortadella antics. killer looking food that would eventually lead to my early death from plugged blood flow or punitive beating from my physician. How do you get the mortadella down when you are always pulling a slice of pizza out of your mouth?:-)

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