Now that my nduja salami is ready to eat, I'm excited to play around with different applications for this savory, salty, spicy pork butter.  One traditional recipe is for arancini, fried balls of rice, cheese, and a tomato ragu.  While some arancini are small, marble-sized hors d'ouerves, Calabria makes larger, conical arancini with a heart of cheese and nduja.
Taleggio and Homemade Nduja
Showing Carla a video of someone cracking through the crusty shell of the arancini and releasing the gooey, cheesey innards, Carla put her hand over the video and declared "I don't want to see that again until I'm actually eating it!"
So it began.  I made a risotto using arborio rice, pork stock, and dry vermouth.  Once the risotto was cooked, I spread it into a large Pyrex mixing bowl to cool slightly.  While the risotto was coming down to room temperature I took a nugget of nduja and packed creamy taleggio around it.  Some recipes suggested mozzarella or provolone, but I thought the funk of taleggio would be  better match for the nduja.
Next I packed the walnut-sized taleggio/nduja ball into a larger ball of risotto.  Now this process seemed to be like making a Scotch egg of sorts.  A roll in flour, egg wash, and breadcrumbs sealed up my growing-ever-larger arancini.
I was a little worried about the risotto breaking apart in the fryer, but the risotto eggs held their shape perfectly.  After about 7 minutes the arancini looked crusty and brown.  Cutting each egg in half let out a gush of savory steam, scented with hot chilies from the nduja core.
Served with sauteed Swiss chard (to make a desperate plea towards a healthy dinner) the arancini were fabulous.  I'm hard pressed to think of something I would change about this recipe, but I'm curious how it would be if I inverted the cheese and nduja nugget.  Would the nduja be runnier?

This is another recipe I've been fooling around with for a while.  Silken tofu blends so well, it seemed like a good, high-protein replacement for mayonnaise in a salad. Just whisk, whisk, whisk.  The tofu will break down into small curds, then finer curds, and then finally just collapses into a smooth puree.
While some people fault tofu for it's lack of a distinct flavor, here it's perfect.  Silken tofu's mild flavor is perfect for layering flavors like dill, red onion, apple cider vinegar, fennel, and fennel fronds for a tasty chicken or turkey salad.

This is my favorite winter salad.  Fennel, grapefruit, and aged Manchego cheese.  I forget where I heard of this, or if it's something I partially saw and tweaked, but it's a staple salad for at least 5 years in our household in the snowy months.
The salad couldn't be simpler: core and thinly slice the fennel, thinly slice the manchego, and peel and segment the grapefruit.  Combine and drizzle with good olive oil.  The crunch of the licorice-scented fennel, the stronger notes of lemon and lanolin from the aged, raw sheep's milk cheese, with the juicy grapefruit segments collapsing into a citrus dressing that brightens the dish as a whole.  The olive oil reinforces of the richness of the small slivers of cheese, while bringing some fruity notes to the salad.
So this is my second time making nduja.  This time I'm taking what I learned from Evan Brady at the KuneKune workshop.
Berkshire Nduja Hanging to Cure
Tasting the finished nduja from the class, I loved how the smooth texture of the nduja was peppered with flecks of dried chilies.  Last time I ground everything to a fine paste, but the pepper flakes really added to the mouth feel of Evan's nduja.  His nduja also had chunks of fat mixed throughout, but I didn't love the chewiness of the fat.
Excited after tasting Evan's nduja, I decided to put up a batch of nduja at home.  I got an 11 pound Berkshire pork belly and ordered some real Calabrian hot chilies from Evan's store, Craft Butcher's Pantry.
Grinding the belly, I mixed in the salt, curing salt, dextrose, and powdered chilies, reserving the crushed chilies until the final pass through a 1/8th #22 grinding plate.
Interesting comparison, but Evan's recipe calls for 25% of the weight of the sausage to be from the chilies, while Ruhlman's recipe is 33%.  I'm curious if that's because Evan chooses the Calabrian chilies, which (I imagine) are more potent than the smoked Spanish paprika Ruhlman uses.
This was also the first salami I made using my Christmas present from my parents, a 1.5 HP commercial meat grinder.  As one might imagine, it made things go much, much quicker.  I love having a large hopper to continuously feed meat into the grinder.

Another first was using these hog middles, also purchased from Evan's store.  These large format casings have a number of pouches and pockets in them, which kept making me think of seeds getting caught in the whorls if you had diverticulitis...

But I digress.  Hog middles are know for being fragile and finicky, but I'm happy to report that I only punctured one during the stuffing process.

A big issue with hog middles is how thin the casings are, which is why the rupture so easily.  I was thinking about this, as I just cased up a batch of fennel-perfumed finocchio salami in double-walled hog casings.  The double layer of intestine makes the salami cure slower for a delicate, nuanced flavor.

Hog Middles for Nduja
But in the case of nduja I believe the thinner the casing the better, and thus the choice of hog middles.  Since nduja is smoked after being fermented for a few days, a thinner casing will allow better permeation from the cold smoking process.  A thick or double-lined casing would limit the amount of exposure the forcemeat actually receives from the smoke.
So here's to a porky, spicy start to 2016!

I've made hot sauces before, but haven't ever really been pleased with them, as the vinegar seems to wash out a lot of the natural flavor of the peppers.  So at the end of October, with the farmer's market season on a week or two away, I came across a late flush of hot peppers.
There were beautiful Hungarian carrot peppers, plus a good number of red serrano peppers for sale.  I picked up both and thought it was time to give homemade hot sauce another swing.  Following this blog article, I split and gently crushed the peppers into the bottom of a glass jar, along with star anise and fresh garlic.  I topped the peppers up with salted water, then inoculated the peppers with a ladle full of the juice from my fermenting sauerkraut crock.
After about 2 weeks the peppers had softened and began to gently bubble.  All the while the peppers kept a bright, fresh aroma.  At the six week mark I decided it was time to get my sauce on.  I pureed the chilies into a mash, then added some more fresh garlic.  The pepper mash was thick, so I thinned it out into a pourable consistency with the fermenting juice.  The hot sauce came out with a super vibrant flavor, some garlicky undertones, and a searing heat in the end.  For a first time making lacto-fermented hot sauce, I can't see doing anything else in the future.