So this salami is new for me in three exciting ways:
Tamworth Finocchiona Salami
1.) I've never used these double-walled hog casings before.  Each casing is pretied at the base and has a second layer of intestine inside the larger, outer casing.  This helps the salami cure slower, which gives it more time to develop a nuanced flavor.  I was especially attracted to these casings to help with evenly curing my salami at home.  The humidity fluctuates a bit, so I'm hoping these extra-thick casings will act as a buffer to any drops in humidity.

2.) This is my first time using European hemp twine to tie up my salami.  Along with being stronger than regular butcher's twine, the hemp twine gives the salami a beautiful, rustic look.

3.) I usually use the starter culture T-SPX for inoculating salami, but this batch was inoculated with B-LC-007.  B-LC-007 is considered a superior strain to T-SPX, as you get the gentle, less-acidic flavor T-SPX is known for, but B-LC-007 has added protections against listeria, gives better color retention, and reduces the final amounts of nitrites in the finished product.

All three of these items came from the Craft Butcher's Pantry, which I purchased at the Kunekune workshop last month.  I'm very excited to taste this in the coming months, although I do feel bad for the guy that has to slip hog casings inside one another for a living.

This might be the best bread I've made in a few months.  I picked up a large Marina di Chioggia squash from Cramer Farm two weekends ago and roasted it under wood embers.  Bruce and Diane Cramer told me this was a traditional Italian squash used for making ravioli or other filled pastas.  The squat, warty pumpkin was oddly beautiful and made me think of Autumn fires and hearty roasted dishes.  I think that's when I decided to bury it in coals.
Emerging from the coffin of embers, the rough skin turned into a thick, blackened crust, while the inside stayed bright orange and very moist.  Scraping out the seeds from the steaming core, the kitchen filled with a smokey, ashy aroma, permeated with the sweet perfume of roasted squash.  Tasting a bit of the squash brought these same aromas to my palate.  My wife agreed that we had something special here, while my dog crept up to lick the last fibers of roasted squash from my fingers.

I ended up mixing a pound of the roasted squash pulp with a sourdough bread dough.  The dough didn't rise up very much, due to all the added squash, but it did have a nice little puff of a rise.  Cooked in a cast iron Dutch oven, I was thrilled to find that smokey, ashy, beguiling flavor was captured in the bread.  It's hard to describe.  It doesn't taste like "smoked bread," but something from an old fashioned hearth, where the sourness of the dough acts as a foil for the sweetness of the squash.

Now all I can think of is other roasted vegetables to add.  Fired roasted sweet potatoes, white potatoes, acorn squash, leeks, onions, beets...  Now I know the feeling Jim Lahey had in My Bread when he realized he could replace the water in bread with all types of fruit and vegetable juices for different effects.

Mama Kunekune relaxing.
Earlier this month I spent two wonderful days at Black Valley Farm at a charcuterie class in Everett, PA.  The event was hosted by Alana and Brian Schoffstall, the ranchers raising organic Kunekune pigs, while the charcuterie/butchering class was taught by Evan Brady.

In short, it was an amazing time.  While it was cool to work on a new species of pig, I think I got the most value on this class from the discussions on curing meat and creating salami.  The instructor, Evan, has worked with a number of American salumeria's, and writes HACCP plans for them as a consultant, along with running the specialty online shop, Craft Butcher's Pantry.  I've taken pig butchering classes before, but Evan's workshop on cutting specifically for charcuterie was very informative.

Prepping Testa Arrotolata
The Kunekune looks like a fat little barrel on stubby legs.  They're very gentle pigs with a wonderful demeanor.  Alana mentioned she chose the Kunekune because of their nature.  Her father has an apple orchard, which she knew would be perfect for the pigs to romp and eat, but they don't destructively root and turn up soil like other breeds.

They also have peculiar little waddles on their jowls, so I had to take a jowl home to make full-waddle guanciale.

A big kick for me was seeing Evan's excitement to work on Alana and Brian's Kunekune pigs.  In the weeks leading up to the class, the pigs gobbled up the last of the autumn's windfall apples and acorns.  As someone who works professionally in the industry, to see Evan's surprise and delight at the rare quality of these pigs gave the class a really special vibe.

Along with learning new Italian and German recipes, Evan taught me a lot about working with European hemp twine and the importance of tying to create a product that will cure evenly. The twine is much stronger than cotton string, but it's fibers can cut into your skin if you're not careful.  

Evan also had a great discussion on bacterial cultures, plus an interesting talk on new peer-reviewed studies that show how tocopherols (vitamin E) and rosemary extract added to a forcemeat can extend the shelf life by an entire week.  Evan's blending of time-tested tradition and modern research in his instruction really helped to expand my culinary skillset.  My head feels like it's bubbling away with enough ideas and projects to get me into 2017.

While we're not getting any major storms here from Hurricane Joaquin, it has made for a cold, damp day that's been filled with nothing but rain.  I did get a small break to take Bonne Bouche out for a 40 minute walk, but otherwise it's been a good day to putz about in the kitchen.
Beef Tongue and Oxtail
I felt something rich and warming would be good for today, so I combined Fergus Henderson's Chicken and Oxtail pie with Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's Tail and Tongue of Beef in Rich Red Wine Sauce, 1.) because I had the required ingredients on hand or in the freezer 2.) because what's better than stew and pie crust?
I didn't really change anything from the recipes, although I substituted Noilly Prat Dry for the red wine, and skipped adding any chicken or capers.  The meats were braised, the tongue peeled and cubes, the oxtail shredded and picked over.
Although a marrow bone is a rather ineffective pie bird, due to it's large size and marrow filling, I love the look and the added treat of roasted marrow to scoop into the pie.
The pie was wonderful: savory, peppery, and rich from the tongue and tail.  Carla loved the tender cubes of tongue, while I preferred the unctuous strands of oxtail.  Turnips, carrots, and celery gave it some healthy components, I believe.
Since stew is always better after a day or two, I've come up with a pretty satisfactory method for reheating the stew and pie crust.  Preheat your oven to 350 F, then heat up a portion of the stew in a sauce pot or in the microwave.  While the pie filling warms, reheat/recrisp the crust on a baking sheet in the oven.  While not as good as fresh from the oven, it keeps the crust from getting soggy in the microwave.

This elephantine-sized squash was a lovely and delicious gift from Diane and Bruce at Cramer Farm.  A few weeks ago, while visiting the Bellefonte Farmer's Market, Bruce asked me if I had ever heard of a "candy roaster squash."  I hadn't and he offered to give me one the following week to see what I thought of it.
Candy Roaster Squash
If I remember correctly, he received the seeds this year from a friend in one of the Carolinas, who is having great success in growing these peculiar squash.  So this year Bruce started to grow some, and soon he had these enormous, torpedo shaped squash popping up in his garden.
This particular squash probably weighed in at about 10-12 lbs and had a rind the color of a butternut squash.  The tip of the squash turned a peculiar bluish-green, like a blue Hubbard squash.  It's a spectacular eating squash. The candy roaster has very firm flesh that's more like a sweet potato than a stringy winter squash.
Slicing the candy roaster down into manageable chunks, Carla remarked to me that the thick rings of squash would be perfect for filling with something.  Perhaps a poached egg?  Toad in a Hole squash?  That sounded like a great idea and I set to work.

I cut the squash into 1" rings, peeled them, then removed the seeds.  The rings were baked at 375 for about 30 minutes until tender.  Then I removed the rings, placed them in a hot skillet and cracked an egg into the center hole of each squash ring.  Two eggs are perfect for me, so I also fried a second egg to top off each ring.  Some poached leeks and fried shallots finished off the plate.
I really enjoyed this dish, and kudos to Carla for coming up with it.  The tender squash was perfect with the runny eggs, all mopped up with a few leaves of leek.
The next step is to continue this squash on it's journey.  I've saved all the seeds and have them drying on a counter to pass out to family and friends for growing next Fall