Thursday, February 21, 2013

Homemade Bologna

So you’re gonna need a meat grinding attachment, a cuisineart and some gumption, as my great grandmother used to say. Admittedly this making your own bologna business is a bit tedious in today’s world of convenience, but wouldn’t it be nice to have a slice of the most delicious bologna, cut to whatever thickness you desire, all the while knowing there was no creepy processing or mysterious chemicals involved? Of course it would.

Making your own forcemeats – sausages etc, is of course an old school practice I had the pleasure of learning in commercial contexts, but hadn’t had the nerve to tackle at home until I was kicked back with one of my first issues of Lucky Peach magazine. It’s a newish quarterly from the snarky minds of David Chang and Anthony Bourdain, and yes, quite a few of the cover images are unnecessarily disturbing but, hey at least it’s not a boring food photo or mug shot of Rachel Ray.

Inside this Summer ’12 issue, on my crinkled page 54 begins a recipe from Marco Canora. Balogna a la Bologna. After a trip to Williams Sonoma with a gift card to purchase a ginder attachment and Valentine’s dinner plans with a dude-food theme as motivation, I finally picked up a pork shoulder and took it on.

I started with a 7 pound shoulder and after boning it out and trimming fat and sinew (to a reasonable degree) I had 5 pounds of trimmed pork. It took a while, what can I say? yeah yeah yeah, fat ratios in forcemeats – there’s supposed to enough fat to get things to emulsify, but … sorry, I’m still a chick trying to keep her figure, so I trimmed most of the fat off and edited out the 1 3/4 pounds fatback in the recipe. Just seemed like a reasonable place to go a little leaner.

Then I cubed it and tossed it all with the spices and dried milk.

You have to keep rotating batches of the meat into and out of the fridge and freezer. The colder you keep the meat, the better. Once upon a time in culinary school and various restaurant kitchens I knew why that is, but know I just accept it as one of those universal truths. So for that reason I kept the grinder in the freezer and pulled it out just before grinding.

Grinding Pork with KitchenAid

I love my KitchenAid and it is great to have this option, but I will say it is the slower going, Harry Homeowner version of grinding meat. About 20 minutes and halfway through grinding the 5 pounds I began muttering ‘this better be one helluva a tubular meat.’ Fortunately that would come to pass.

Again, working in batches and keeping things in the freezer or fridge I then put the ground meat in the Cuisineart with the secret ingredient, Amaretti! I had frozen the milk, but still it sits in the freezer… I forgot all about it. Nevermind, the Amaretti makes it and Marco was kind enough to share this secret after years of pureeing and poaching pork, searching for the right recipe.

ground pork with cuisineart

I had some water simmering to poach a taste test and then continued on with 3 more batches through the Cuisinart.

Fold in peppercorns and pistachios that are tossed with whipped egg whites – the whites help hold those tasty bits in there when you get to slicing.

homemade bologna with pistachios


Time to roll and cook! Well, not so turns out. I realized that the meat was supposed to cure for four days, but I had fried bologna sandwiches to make, so I went ahead and poached most of what I had. You need plastic wrap that can handle heat – if the package says you can use it in the microwave, then you can use it to poach in hot water.

stuffing homemade bologna

Roll, tie one end, roll and squish until it’s well stuffed and tie the other end.

bologna in saran wrap

The recipe calls for them to be completely submerged but I used a large, deepish pan and rotated the sausages and kept the top on. That worked fine.

poaching bologna Marco Canora recipe

When a ‘thermometer inserted into the deepest, most private regions of the pork registers 155 degrees F’ move the cooked sausage to an ice bath and chill completely. It’s good for about three weeks.

first slice of homemade bologna

I was wasting no time. The next night I was making a Valentine’s week dinner that began with fried bologna sandwiches and homemade potato chips.

fried bologna

The bologna fried beautifully and then I made panini with Ribiola Bosina cheese, weighting the sandwiches down with another heavy pan. Do I get a tv show if I say yumbo?! No, huh. Well, this was a damn good sandwich, and at least the bologna went over big time with my valentine.

fried bologna sandwich


Bologna a la Bologna

Yield: 3 bologna

Prep Time: half a day

Cook Time: 1 hour

Total Time: about a day

This is an adapted version of the recipe by Marcos Canora in the Summer 2012 edition of Lucky Peach


7 lb pork shoulder, boned out and cut into 1 1/2" cubes (or buy ground pork)
1/3 cup kosher salt or 1/4 cup kosher salt and the balance in pink curing salt
1 1/2 Tbsp paprika
1 nut nutmeg (and microplane or spice grinder for grinding)
1 tsp almond extract
1/3 cup dried milk powder
1 1/2 cups whole milk, frozen (suggest a ziplock)
3 Tbsp black peppercorns
2 egg whites, lightly beaten
3/4 cup pistachios
Amaretti liqueur to taste (I used about 1/3 cup for the whole batch)


- place grinder attachment and a couple of bowls in the freezer or fridge
- toss cubed (or ground) pork with salt(s), paprika, ground nutmeg, almond extract and dried milk
- alow meat to chill out for 5-10 minutes and keep any meat not being handled in the fridge or freezer
- assemble grinder attachment and working in batches, grind pork
- keep the meat cold while setting up the food processor and get a pot ot large pan of water to a gentle simmer; also whip the egg whites in a small bowl and toss with the pistachios
- fill the processor with 1/4 to 1/3 of the meat and crush up the frozen milk, adding 1/3 to 1/4 of the milk, and Amaretti to taste
- take a small scoop of the mix and poach it off to see how it tastes and make any adjustments to seasoning
- keep the first batch cold and process the remaining 2 to 3 batches
- fold in the black peppercorns and the pistachio and egg white mixture
- lay 1/3 of the meat into the center of a large piece of plastic and pull the plastic around it so you form a cylinder; twist the ends as tightly as you can without bursting the package open; don't worry if it isn't perfect
- gently poach submerged in a large pot or in more shallow water with a lid for about an hour or until a thermometer inserted into the middle reads 155 degrees F
- move to an ice bath until chilled completely through
- unwrap, slice and enjoy on a picnic, in a sandwich or standing at the kitchen counter

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