Monday, January 27, 2014

Nice Sliced Lunchmeat!

Almost a year ago, we noted that one thing we wanted to learn how to make was additive-free lunch meat.  A bit of bumming around YouTube turned up several examples, but most featured involved processes that looked like they produced delicious results while entailing enough labor to lose our interest.  However, two videos were particularly useful for us.

The first showed us how lunch meat is made industrially, which we may try to approximate on a home scale some day.  It's not as involved as we expected, basically comprising three steps: beating the heck out of some raw meat, sticking the beaten pieces together to form a nice round shape and holding them in place with some type of casing, then cooking them in a well-controlled oven.

The second showed us how to make a passable--yet still slice-able--substitute from leftover roast chicken, which involves blending up leftover roast chicken, mixing in extra seasonings and gelatin, forming into a loaf, and chilling in the fridge.  Mrs. Volfie noted that the gelatin wasn't necessary if the roasting liquid was retained--during roasting the collagen in the chicken's connective tissues breaks down into gelatin, which ends up in the roasting liquid at the bottom of the pan.  In fact, it'll cause the liquid to gel up if it goes in the fridge, provided the chicken was roasted long enough to break down the collagen (and the chicken had enough collagen to begin with).

So, we wanted to try it without adding gelatin to see if we could get a nice firm set and something to slice for our sandwiches.

We started with some leftover chicken chunks and their cooking liquid.  The liquid is currently gelled, which is a good sign.

Then we put everything in the food processor...

...and blended it up almost to the consistency of a chicken salad spread.  We added a few pinches of salt, pepper, and garlic powder.

Then we carefully sculpted it into a loaf.  In retrospect, we should have made the loaf shorter and taller.  Now it looks kind of like a nugget.  The nugget/loaf went in the fridge overnight.

The next morning, we tried slicing it...and it worked!  It's definitely more fragile than the pieces Mrs. Volfie was able to shake like a Polaroid picture, but it holds together good enough for the sandwiches we eat!

Look at that nice row of cold cuts!

It doesn't cut as well with a regular knife as it does with the slicer, and neither the knife nor the slicer do a good job when the loaf warms up.  So heads up, if you try to cut it at room temp, you might end up eating a chicken salad sandwich anyway.  It might hold together better if we cooked the chicken longer or boiled the liquid down with the bones, etc. still in it.  But we were in the process of making biochar, so our starting material didn't get as much attention as it maybe should have.
The sliced meat is now an integral part of our soon-to-be-famous alliteration sandwich (chicken, chard, and cheddar).  Jake might just have to consider expanding his lunch repertoire beyond PB&J!

Have you made slice-able lunch meat before?  What's your favorite method?  Let us know in the comments section below!


  1. I think I know what I'm having for lunch today! :)

  2. how's the texture? i imagine the taste is pretty darn good... but you know me and my texture issues!

    1. Eating the slices straight, it's not quite as homogeneous as a commercial slice of cold cut. It's definitely smoother than (but kind of crumbly like) a slice of meat loaf.

      Inside a sandwich, it's nigh on indistinguishable from the commercial stuff texture-wise, at least according to 100% of correspondents polled in our household. :-)

    2. good to know- but did you ask Katie? or are you the 100%?

    3. Of course Katie was polled! If it was just me, I wouldn't even need a clipboard. That makes it 2-fer-2, which I think is the universal standard for using statistical treatments of the data. :-P

      Also, if you try it as a slice and don't like it, it's not hard to convert it back to chicken salad and make a sandwich from that. (We're definitely more into experiment than theory!)