Howlin’ at the Moon

Well, we were at the Mother Church of Country Music (for the uninformed, that’s the Ryman Auditorium) last week being fabulously entertained by The Sam Bush Band so I thought I’d share one of the highlights of the evening:

Howlin’ at the Moon, written by James Ratts and John McEuen.

Take time for sunshine; take a whole lotta time for love

Take time for praisin’ things, heaven up above

Take your life as it may come cuz , boy it’ll be gone soon

Take a little time for howlin’ at the moon.

Somebody said,

Keep your eyes open, gotta keep your feet on solid ground

You gotta take time to take a real good look at everything you’ve found.

Take your life as it may come cuz, boy it’ll be gone soon

Take a little time for howlin’ at the moon.

Take a little time for sunshine; take a whole lotta time for love

Take time for praisin’ things, heaven up above

Gotta make music, gotta make music

Raise your voice in joy every day

You’ve got a lot to live for, you’ve got a lifetime to stay.

That pretty much sums up the last few weeks for us; we’ve been taking time for all of those things and more which has made me so busy I haven’t been able to catch my breath. We’ve probably done a bit more howlin’ at the moon than good sense dictates but that’s just the way it goes sometimes! Besides, it’s my birthmonth. We don’t mess around with birthdays around here; they are totally inadequate!

Now that we are between birthday parties (not mine), music festivals and lots of great family visits, it’s time to face a different kind of music. The Charcutepalooza July challenge is emulsified sausage and, I don’t know why but I chose mortadella instead of hot dogs, the other choice that was put out there for us. Never mind that I was totally intimidated by all of the things that can go wrong. I’ve never even seen mortadella that wasn’t some kind of icky luncheon meat thing. I knew there had to be more to it than that so my present to myself is…one beef bung! Whooohooo! How many people can say that??!!

Unfortunately, the intimidation thing raised its ugly head and I met it head-on by doing the only sensible thing; I ignored the whole project. That worked pretty well for me until I pulled my head out of  my…uh…out of the sand and realized the deadline was fast approaching and I was bung-less. Uh-oh. Then my food processor decided its time on Earth was done AND I totally incinerated both leads on my thermometer as well as the two chickens they were plugged into – think Viking funeral pyre here. So there I was, a week away from making mortadella and I seemed to be lacking a several key items.

When all else fails, read the instructions…carefully. Lucky me! A stand mixer is actually the preferred way of beating the sausage into submission and there is a bung-free method using lots of plastic wrap and a vacuum sealer. Two problems solved, one to go! I need to monitor the temperature of the water bath AND the meat VERY carefully or I will be feeding the neighbor’s dog some beautiful pork butt and kicking my own for squandering the pig’s contribution to my Charcuterie education. Time to channel my inner McGyver. My oven has a temperature probe so that’s a start. I can use it to monitor the water temp. Now for the meat temp…hmmm… an instant-read thermometer?


After about an hour and a half of anxiously watching over my creation, it was finally done and chillin’ out in an ice bath. Now for the hard part – I have to wait two whole days before checking it out. Did it work? Did I make dog food? Will the nasty taste of the powdered milk be gone? Oh yeah – forgot to mention that part. I followed the recipe in Charcuterie (almost) to the letter. I’m not a fan of white pepper so I added a pinch of cayenne, two teaspoons of cracked black pepper and decreased the salt slightly because I know from past experience that I like my sausage a little less salty than our esteemed authors. As much as I love pistachios, I wasn’t sure how I’d like the texture in my sausage so I decided to pass on those, too. I also don’t care for powdered milk but I chickened out when it came to omitting it. What if my emulsion broke? How would I know if it was because of the missing dry milk or some other egregious error. Then after all of that chilling and grinding and chilling and beating and chilling and shaping, it tasted like that awful powdered milk. How disappointing was that??!!

OK, time for the unveiling:

Ta-da! again!

Instant gratification!

Delayed gratification: mortadella ripieni!

Thanks to Mario Batali for this lovely idea. Just slice the mortadella on the thin side, put a little goat cheese in the middle and roll it up like a little flat burrito. Brown it in a hot skillet and eat up. You definitely want some friends to help eat this but the beauty of it is that you can just make one or you can make a dozen. I know this may come as a shocker but fried pork-wrapped cheese is a little on the rich side but oh, so yummy. The good news is that it’s not hard to find friends willing to help you solve this problem.

After all of my worries about temperatures, powdered milk and cow bungs, my husband was a tad reluctant to try his first mortadella but, being the brave (and kind) soul that he is, he didn’t tell me that until after the fact.


The last of the local lettuce with some dried cranberries, pepper jelly vinaigrette and warm cubes of browned mortadella. Now I want those pistachios; they would have been great in the salad.

Final thoughts:

  • That’s a lot of mortadella for two people. (Can you freeze it?)
  • Still not sure about the whole powdered milk thing. It still had a funny flavor but I was the only one that thought so.
  • I can’t wait to try hot dogs!
  • What a great experience!