When I lived in Melbourne, not far from my house in the northern suburb of Thornbury was a small shop on High St called “Velimivoric – Continental Butcher”. It was run by an elderly Polish couple, the woman would attend the front of shop and call in a loud voice to her husband whenever he was needed. Mr Velimivoric would emerge from the rear, in a very well seasoned butcher’s coat, but looking very much like he had been in the smelter and respond in a heavy eastern european accent to any questions you may have.
Hanging in the window and the chiller was a vast array of cured meats all with two things in common, vivid colour on the outside, ranging from burnt orange to shiraz, and a deep yet mellow smokey fragrance and flavour. Each was as delicious as the next, and I had tried all of them. These delicacies were all “made on the premises” or as I later learned, in the back yard of the old fellow’s home. Each week I would venture in and do my best to pry the secret of these treasures from the old couple, and each week I would be denied ANY information at all. “Everybody do this differently young man, spanish has his way, italian, everybody different,” was the standard reply.
Frustrated by his lack of divulgence but boosted by my sense of entitlement as a loyal patron, I finally demanded at least a taste of information. We stared at each other hard before finally, he cracked and imparted this limited yet invaluable whiff of knowledge, “This meat is Polish, if you want to make this you need to give it a goot hart smok”. And with that the gates of wisdom closed forever.
So, here is how I make my Polish style smoked pork neck. It is similar to the Italian Coppa in that it is air cured and uses the muscle from the neck but aside from that it definitely has its own distinctive, almost rustic character.
You will need:
Pork necks – I purchased four whole necks of Plantagenet Free Range pork from Torre.
Cut each one lengthways, with the grain as needed to create portions about as thick as your forearm.
2 cups of Basic Dry Cure mix
1tbsp coarsely ground black pepper
1tbsp ground coriander
1tsp ground cinnamon
1tsp juniper berries
Step One – Blend the basic dry cure with the remaining ingredients and massage into the necks. Working one at a time ensure each is thoroughly coated then shake off the excess salt and pack tightly into a non reactive container. Cover with cling film and refrigerate.
Step Two – Leave in the cure overnight to a maximum of 36 hours, rotate the pieces in the tub for even coverage at least once. Remove the necks and wash each individually and thoroughly. Wrap in muslin and return to the fridge for at least another day to dry out; 2-3 days in the fridge is better.
Step Three – Time for the “goot hart smok”! String up your pork and get the smoker going. This instruction is completely open to discussion. My interpretation of this has always been a minimum of two lengthy sessions (10-12hrs each), though preferably three or four, during which you expose the pork to a billowing cloud of apple wood smoke for as long as possible. our Oak Barrel Smoker with Venturi Generator does this beautifully. I also find thatcold smoking for the first session, followed by refrigeration, thenwarm smoking (60C) for the remaing sessions works best as the fat begins to render and seems absorb more smoke enhacing the deep red colour.
Step Four – Wait. Remove the necks from the smoker and hang in a temperature stable location, ideally 16C to a maximum of 22C with at least some air movement. The humidity should be no more than 65%. If it feels humid or stuffy, you are better off doing this last step in a refrigerator set to the highest setting to avoid mold setting in. As with all cured meats, if it presents white mold you are in luck but green, blue or yellow should be avoided. You can wash the affected area with vinegar if it is only on the surface and find a drier location to hang it.
Step Five – After about a week, the heavy smoking will have had time to mellow out and the thinnest neck should be ready to try. You can test it and learn the consistency you prefer by giving the meat a firm squeeze before you cut wafer thin slices and try it. The colour of each piece will continue to darken. I will try to make sure I take a photo of the perfect piece before I eat it next time!
One of the magnificent things about this stuff is the depth and length of flavour; like a quality biltong or beef jerky, the more you chew the more flavourful it becomes. Pork neck is a great conversation starter and you can be sure everyone who tries it will be very impressed. Happy Smokkking!