Fiocco and Culatello
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For quite some time I've been wanting to make Fiocco and Culatello.  They are regarded as some of the finest charcuterie items in all of Italy, perhaps second to only Prosciutto, though I have read arguments to counter this opinion as well.  You see, Fiocco and Culatello are the two cuts of meat from the rear legs of the animal.  If you visualize the femur, they lie on either side of it, with fiocco being the smaller of the two.  These are the same legs that make Prosciutto, so the quality and density of the meat is similar. Jason Molinari seems slowly to becoming my idol, as no matter what it is I want to experiment with, he seems to have done it already in some form.  Fiocco and Culatello are no exception to that, and Jason does a fantastic job of showing you the proper technique of butchering.  You can see his post here: http://curedmeats.blogspot.com/2011/02/culatello-king-of-cured-meats.html

One thing you'll see on Jason's blog is a video of a master at work.  Tying these things is nothing short of a task and a half.  I truly think that tying anything in charcuterie has to be one of the most frustrating parts.  Be it breaking salame casings because you tied it too tight or not getting your bresaola even.  It will drive you batshit crazy, but there is no remedy for this other than practice, time and practice.

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I did want to review a particular product I used however, the 6 kilo bladder from Butcher and Packer.  Let me first state that I love B&P and order pretty much exclusively from them.  Their customer service is great, they are no frills and they ship promptly.

When making either of these cuts, your casing is going to be large... very large.  Traditionally they are hung in bung caps or in bladders.  Rest assured that if you don't have one large enough, you can easily split some of your large casings and overlap them.  Remember, this is a craft that's been around for 1000's of years and people learned to be resourceful and find a way to make things work.  This is half the fun.

But I digress— back to the 6 kilo bladder.  The bladder is not a bladder at all, but rather ground up natural casing formed into a "bladder". Here are a few points regarding this product that you may want to consider when purchasing.

  1. The bladder is processed which means it has none of the elasticity that you would except in actual casings.  While this would prove no problem for any sort of emulsified or stuffed salame, when talking whole muscle, you're going to have a bit of a situation on your hands.
  2. The top of the bladder is significantly more narrow than the bottom.  Think a balloon shape if you will.  This fact, combined with the lack of elasticity, will require you to slice the bladder vertically until your opening is large enough to place in your whole muscle.
  3. What it lacks in elasticity it makes up for in toughness.  This is a huge plus for folks with fat clumsy fingers like me.  As you'll soon learn, the craft of tying these cuts is far from easy.

All this being said, it is hard to get actual bladders in this country.  The only place I have seen them is through Sausage Debauchery, owned by friend Scott Stegen.

All in all, I'm excited as hell to see how this turns out.  I'm just nervous as hell given the sheer amount of meat that has the potential to be wasted, but no risk no reward right?  Fingers crossed and check back in 5 - 8 months to see how we end up.