Mason Jars

During the local growing season we fill a great quantity of Mason jars.  In an effort to prolong the local growing season, we pickle, can and preserve a variety of local ingredients; keeping us stocked-up with locally grown produce through New England’s long winter.  We make sweet pickles, dill pickles, pickled cauliflower, pickled peppers, pickled onions, pickled garlic, pickled okra, pickled rhubarb, pickled fiddlehead ferns, pickled ramps and pickled scapes.  In addition to all of the pickles we make a variety fruit jams, this year we made grape jelly, raspberry jam, strawberry jam and plum jam.  We also canned cherries soaked in spiced red wine, and we finish our canning season with many jars of apple butter.  Having all of these pickles and preserves available to us allows us to add locally grown sweet, spicy, acidic and interesting flavors to our menu.  Making all of the pickles and preserves is no small feat, many man (or woman) hours are used every week to stock up our inventory.

At the end of September when habanero pepper season is in full swing, and carrots, onions, garlic and tomatoes are all still readily available, we make enough hot sauce to last us the entire year; this year we made 15 gallons.  We use the hot sauce in our habanero coleslaw, it often finds it’s way into hollandaise, tartar sauce and wherever we need to add some heat.

EVOO Habanero Hot Sauce

Habanero Hot Sauce

Our most popular and most utilized Mason jar fodder is jalapenos.  We fill more than 200 quart sized Mason jars with our sweet – spicy pickled jalapenos.  During the local growing season, which runs from July through first frost, Kimball Fruit Farm in Pepperell, MA, supplies us with a bushel or two each week.  Fredy, our prep cook extraordinaire slices the peppers, rinses them with cold water to remove excess seeds; which contributes to the spicy heat, and then he prepares the brine.  He sterilizes the jars, fills them with the rinsed peppers and hot brine and finally he processes them in a hot water bath.  We set them up in hopes that we have produced enough for the full year, until we can make more.  I don’t want to run out of these peppers they are too popular.  At every family or friend  gathering I get hounded for these peppers.  I make sure a bring several jars with me to keep everyone from twitching.  I get it, I personally go through three to four Mason Jar quarts a year. They are really that good.

At EVOO we always have our pickled jalapenos on our lunch menu, served on our chicken sausage sandwich.  At Za our sister we use them as a pizza topping and in as an ingredient in our avocado salad.  Any recipe that I write that calls for jalapenos we use our home made pickles. Just like any of the other pickles you find on our menu they are all made in house, with recipes that we have spent a long time perfecting. We never use store bought pickles.



Death of a pig (part 10)

The head cheese is all gone.  We served it at our bar, on our homemade charcuterie menu, as is, just a few slices in a board with some of our homemade bread.


We also cut it into bigger chunks, breaded and deep fried it, serving it with some of last summer’s raspberry jam, pickled green tomatoes and a butter basted egg.


Now that it is gone we have moved on to rillettes.  A traditional french preparation of cooking meat, usually pork, very slowly in fat until the meat is so tender that it shreds apart. Its then chilled enough for the fat to congeal and form a paste.  Typically it’s served at room temperature with grilled or toasted bread.

We are serving the rillettes of Hoosier with pickled green beans, which we pickled last fall, first of the season chives from our rooftop garden, prunes we soaked in lots of booze with some sugar and grilled bread.


We are scraping the bottom of Hoosier’s barrel; all that remains is some smoked skin and bones, which we will soon use.

Death of a pig, (part 9) Head Cheese

Nearly 4 months after he was delivered to us Hoosier’s hoof-prints are still making big imprints on our menus.  We are using the leaf fat for the biscuits being serving with fried chicken on our lunch menu.  His jowls, that we cured to make guanciale are being served with a locally produced Buratta cheese.


Peppered Coppa

On our Charcuterie Chalkboard we are still featuring spiced coppa,  his back fat is in our kielbasa and chicken sausage, and the fat from the hams we smoked are being used to make ham fat – potato croquettes.  The remaining freezer fodder includes some smoked skin and bones, a fair amount of back fat and a few pounds of meat that will end up as sausage, rillettes or even braised.


Beyond all that, I just made a non-traditional head cheese, inspired by the head cheese I had at  Cochon a great restaurant in New Orleans.  A few winters back Colleen and I happened by, walking for miles, as we do every time we visit an unfamiliar city.  I had heard of Cochon and since it was about time for a refreshment break, mid-afternoon, we sat outside in the hot February sun, we ordered up some drinks and one of their house-made charcuterie platters.  All of the charcuterie was good, but the head cheese was memorable. It changed the way I have approached making it ever since.

head cheese

Typical Supermarket Head Cheese

Typically it’s the bits of the head; the tongue, ears, cheeks, skin and fat separated by overly gelatinous substance, resulting in a barely palatable concoction. It’s like eating a salty version of that Jello-canned fruit crap my mother would make for us back in the seventies.


At Cochon it appeared as though they pureed together some of the head fat with some reduced braising liquid from cooking the head and then folded in the other bits before pouring in all into a terrine to be chilled.




I made it like that a few times with great results, it really is so much better than the traditional version.


EVOO’s Head Cheese

I decided to take it one step further and smoke the head before braising it, wow, head cheese went from barely palatable to really good to I want some now!  The smoked version is by far the best; sweet, smoky, salty and super rich.  We currently have it on our charcuterie chalkboard, as is, sliced on a board.  On EVOO’s dinner menu we have made a croquette out of it, breading and deep frying a thick slice, serving it with last summer’s raspberry jam, pickled green tomatoes, scallion – green peppercorn sour cream and a butter basted egg.



Head Cheese Croquette

We’ll see if Hoosier offers up any other delicacies worthy of another post. He has had an amazing run on our menu, we greatly appreciate all that he has given us.

Death of a pig (part 8) Saucisson Sec

Making dry cured sausage is simple; grind some meat mix it with spices, stuff it into casings and hang it to dry in a fairly humid, cool space, then wait. To quote Tom Petty “the waiting is the hardest part”.  Three-ish weeks later, if all goes well you have a beautiful semi-dried full flavored, rich, fatty, dry, slightly tangy, cured sausage.  I have made this recipe many times with varied results, mostly great.  However, once in a while I have gotten a batch that just doesn’t work.  Don’t worry when it’s not right it’s obvious, it does not have the rosy meat color you expect from air-dried cured meat, it looks kinda gross and smells rotten.

Below is a pictorial of the steps we used to turn Hoosier’s fat and flesh into Saucisson Sec (dry-cured sausage).

Ground pork mixed with spices.


The trusty hand cranked sausage stuffer, many hundreds of pounds of sausage have been made using this beast over the 15 plus years we have had it.


I’m pushing out the sausage into casings.


Sizing them up.


Hanging them to dry in our curing room, next to some duck prosciutto that is just about done.


Three weeks hanging and they’re done.



Though we still have quite a bit of Hoosier left to use; most notably the head and a bunch of meat to braise, it may be a while before we get into it.  I will continue to write about as we utilize it.