Sunday, February 17, 2013

Making Soupy: a RI (and PA!) Tradition

Lurch, XXX, and Lurch's Father-in-Law

Rick "Lurch" Pryor, Andy "XXX" Nasef, Rick's father-in-law, Richard, (pictured above, left to right) and I ("The Professor"), undertook the Southwestern RI tradition of making "soupy," the local variation of Soppressata.

It was brought by Calabrian stone cutters drawn to the quarries around Westerly, RI, and, I discovered, to the anthracite coal mines of Central Pennsylvania about 100 miles east of where I grew up. Appropriately, even in the internet age, the two soupy (or soupie) communities are barely aware of the other's existence. Based on the evidence on the internet, it seems to be a bit bigger in Pennsylvania. I told some full-blooded Italian friends from Cranston and Warwick that I was making soupy, and they had no idea what I was talking about.

Stuffing Soupy

Andy learned about making soupy not from his family (being Lebanese-Irish), but friends from Westerly, and has made it for years. This year Andy was the only experienced soupy-maker in our group. I brought my own book-larning and highfalutin' ideas. Richard, it turned out, had a long, distinguished, and colorful history in food service spanning from Woodstock, New York in the 70's to submarine bases. Rick provided muscle and his garage, which made an excellent production line.

We ordered the ground pork and stendines, as Andy called them in the original Calabrese for “intestines," from Westerly Packing. We are a getting a bit of a late start in the soupy season due to busy schedules and weather; it is traditionally a mid-winter operation.

Tray of soupy.

Andy made his traditional recipe with only pork, salt, black and red pepper, and paprika. Paprika seems to be "traditional" to US soupy but not Italian soppressata. Mine were based on Polcyn and Ruhlman's soppressata recipe, minus the garlic and plus a large dose of smoked Spanish paprika, and including such heresies as sodium nitrate, dried milk powder and a bacteria starter culture. Rick and Richard's batches had a little of both.

Andy hanging Soupy.

The day-long process went smoothly on the whole. Rick's unheated garage was a perfect meat locker. The thing I'm worried about now is that it is much colder in there now than it ought to be for curing and drying. An unheated basement or attic gives you a more moderate environment, but Andy has used garages before successfully. His recipe is heavily salted and should be pretty fault-tolerant. I'm not sure if any of my little bacteria will survive, or if they'll successfully go dormant again and wake back up when it is a little warmer, or for that matter whether mine will freeze solid an burst their casings due to having a higher water content. We're pretty much at the mercy of the weather and local micro (and macro) flora and fauna.

I'll let you know how it turns out.

Hanging soupy

No comments: