Friday, April 29, 2011

Danish Rullepølse

When I came across a post about rullepølse at The Butcher's Apprentice, I knew I had to make it.

What the heck is rullepølse? you're wondering. Why, it's a Danish specialty and probably the best deli meat ever. You think I'm exaggerating— I'm not. To say it's just cured pork belly is an understatement. It's pork belly seasoned and cured with aromatic herbs and spices like thyme, allspice and cloves. The salt and seasonings make it savory while the fat in the belly adds porky decadence. I'm amazed rullepølse has largely remained confined to Northern Europe...until now.  Mark my words, it will take America by storm. Think I'm exaggerating?

I'm not exaggerating when I say there's nothing hard about making rullepølse (except saying it; the Danish R is a killer to pronounce!). It just sits in a brine for a 2 to 3 days,  boiled until tender, then pressed into a rectangular shape.  The pressing bit can probably be skipped if you don't have a way to do it.  It's amazing that something so easy to do can produce such fantastic results.

If there's more than one way to skin a cat, there's also more than one way to make rullepølse. Over at The Butcher's Apprentice, Mosaica used only kosher salt in the brine.*  I decided to go the pink salt and sugar route. I wanted to give the finished product the characteristic light pink color and flavor that pink salt imparts. If you do the math, you'll see the concentration is only 0.55% weight by volume. This is much less than is typically used to make Canadian bacon or pastrami, but if you don't have or don't want to use it,  simply leave it out. I routinely use sugar in my brines as I find it cuts some of the saltiness and gives a more well-rounded flavor.  It does not make the product sweet.  I let the rolled belly brine for 2 days, but I think next time (there will definitely be a next time!) I will do 3 days to let the brine penetrate evenly into the meat.

Danish rullepølse
To prepare the pork belly:
2 to 3 pound slab skinless pork belly
1 shallot, grated or finely minced
3 or 4 springs thyme, leaves only, finely minced
freshly ground allspice, white pepper and clove (about 1 tsp each, more to taste)

For the brine:
190 g kosher salt
100 g sugar
11 g pink salt
1 tbs black peppercorns
5 garlic cloves, crushed
1/2 tbs whole allspice
1/2 tbs whole cloves
2 liters (about 8.5 cups) water

For the cooking liquid:
3 bay leaves
1 tbs black peppercorns
1/2 tbs whole allspice
2 tbs kosher salt (optional)
3 liters (about 12.5 cups) water

Prepare the brine by dissolving the salts and sugar in the water. Add the other ingredients and allow to cool completely.

In the meantime, prepare the pork belly by distributing the minced shallot and thyme leaves on the fleshy side of the pork. Sprinkle / press the ground spices on top. Roll and tie the slab into a a tight cylinder. Don't be shy— you want it as tight as possible.  When you add the meat to the brine, be sure it's completely submerged. Brine the meat for a minimum of 48 but up to 72 hours under refrigeration.

When the brining time is up, put the rullepølse into a large pot and cover with the cold water.  (Don't remove the kitchen twine.) Add the other ingredients and bring to a boil. Once it reaches a boil, turn down the heat and let is simmer for about an hour or so, until the meat is tender. (I did this in my pressure cooker and it only took 30 minutes under pressure. I let the pressure release naturally, which took about another 10 minutes.) Once it's tender, I recommend letting the meat rest in the cooking liquid until it has cooled a bit, say for about a half  hour to an hour.  It's always good practice to let meat rest, whether you're frying, grilling, braising or boiling it. This allows the juices and flavors to settle and redistribute.

If you are going to press the roll, put the meat in the fridge to cool before pressing. According to the original recipe, the meat is to be pressed for 24 hours. I only did it for 2 hours and that was sufficient to create a compact roll.  If you're not going to press the roll, remove it from the cooking liquid once it's cool enough to handle. Wrap it in plastic wrap. It helps if you have a sushi rolling mat or flexible cutting board to secure tightly around rullepølse with rubberbands or kitchen twine. I think this will help the roll form a compact cylinder as it cools. Here's the important bit: the rullepølse needs to be completely cold before cutting into it. There's a fat layer on top and if that's not set, you won't get clean, even cutting.

Serve in sandwiches or on top of Danish-style rye bread with a side of pickled beets or cucumbers. I like mine with a little remoulade on top. Tonight I'm planning on making banh mi.  Doesn't that sound delicious?

*(The recipe came from a Danish language blog called Beretninger from et autentisk landbrug. It's written by a female farmer about life on a Danish farm.)


Kitchen Riffs said...

Wow. Awesome post. I've never heard of rullepølse, but I'm going to have to try this (probably in the fall). I'll definitely be pressing it - I can't remember ever be able to use clamps in the kitchen! Really like your blog, btw. Thanks for the recipe.

dp said...

Kitchen Riffs, thanks for stopping by and the kind words. I highly recommend this one. It's relatively easy and very delicious. And yes, using the clamps really makes one feel like a badass in the kitchen. :-)

Anonymous said...

My grandmother made this all the time .... without question the greatest meat ever .. but you do need to press it .. pressing is key

Anonymous said...

Yes, my grandma made it too, and I'm sure she'd be horrified at the thought of rullpolse that was not properly pressed. It was a special Christmas treat (Danes are fanatical about their Christmas foods) and it was something that must be done right, or not at all. My Danish relatives tell me that, technically, it is also supposed to be made in a special handmade wooden press designed especially for that purpose (Danes are even more fanatical about kitchen utensil design), and I have just received one that used to belong to a relative, so now I can learn how to make it. I'm sure you could get away with the vicegrips and plastic wrap if you have to, but don't even think about skipping the pressing stage!

Anonymous said...

Yeah, the press used is woodden in a U shape and the pressing is done with a plank screwed down into the U by two wingnuts to get the excess moisture out.

Lois said...

I wonder if I could get that fixture in the kitchen at Daniel's home furniture back home. It would make things easier around the kitchen.

Robert Thorne said...

Are the vice grips really necessary? You're making it look like cooking that is as much of an adventure as introducing solids to babies.

Grace Johnson said...

There are cheap furniture los angeles that could help you preserve and store the pounded meat you got. This will help you out in preserving the freshness and leanness of it you could try it out.

Amber Williams said...

Hope this Danish Rullepølse can be purchased readily from a home shop or kitchen furniture shop. It would be easier than setting it up.

Jack D. Ortiz said...

What a cool technique! This is the first time that I've heard of this. I'll definitely try it.

Gert Skøtt Andersen said...

Hallo from Denmark.
We press it in the hot liquid until cold. And in the old days they use A LOT of long pepper in the braine. Serve it with raw onion rings and a jelly made of bouillon.
The old chef.

javapuntnl said...

Just rolled my belly and as the brine is cooling but i was just wondering how long you recon it will keep?
I'm using the curing salt in the brine, what do you think/know, a few days, weeks, longer than that?
Thanks, can't wait to taste it.

Carl Sorensen said...

I'm of Danish background - parents came from Denmark to Canada, and I've been to Denmark many times. Rullepølse - and just Danish smørrebrød (open-faced sandwiches) generally - is one of the better things about Denmark, among many! Rullepølse is the all-time, ultimate sandwich meat for Danish smørrebrød. I have it whenever offered - that and leverpåstej (liver paté,
made with pork liver). I have made both myself, but there's a German deli here in Edmonton which carries them. Enjoy!

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KAK DECO said...

Wow. Awesome post. I've never heard of rullepølse, but I'm going to have to try this (probably in the fall). I'll definitely be pressing it -Jam Tangan Online Murah
I can't remember ever be able to use clamps in the kitchen! Really like your blog, btw. Thanks for the recipe.

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