Class #8 of the Can It Academy Food Preservation and Cottage Arts Certification Program: Charcuterie
Charcuterie: [shahr-koo-tuh–ree] noun, French, literally pork-butcher’s shop, a delicatessen specializing in dressed meats and meat dishes. First known use: circa 1858.
Class 8 of the super awesome Can It Academy classes I’ve been taking was on charcuterie, a preserving technique used on meat before refridgeration. It’s a technique still used today to prepare various meats (not just pork), and showcase their flavors in ways you can’t derive otherwise. And we had another amazing guest speaker: Chef Paul Buchanan from Primal Alchemy. He brought some cured meat samples to share with us along with tons of information and a little lesson in butchery.
Chef Buchanan started out giving us a cliffs notes version of some basic butchery techniques. This is really a bit involved to try to tackle here. Let’s see… umm.. ah.. yikes! Sorry, I think I would do his craft a huge disservice trying to explain it to you! He did a demo for us on a pork shoulder though, and I can show you photos of that!
Once he boned out the shoulder and smoothed out the exposed meat, he added a ton of Kosher salt for the salt cure and was going to add a lard mixture later to protect the exposed meat during curing. Curing can last as little as a few months to two years, based on the size of the leg and the desired result. This will become Prosciutto!
We got to taste some Pancetta and Prosciutto that Chef Buchanan brought for us to sample. Pancetta is cured pork belly, and is only cured and not smoked like bacon is.
Speaking of bacon, Chef Miller cured a bacon for us, using honey, a few other ingrediants and Cure #1, a salt used specifically for preserving food. He’ll be bringing this back to class soon for us to taste.
Gravlax (cured Salmon) was next on our charcuterie itinerary. I’m really excited by this one because as a novice home cook, this feels like something I could master right away and as a Lox lover, a dish I could see having in my fridge often. With just a few ingredients, in a matter of minutes Chef Miller had this piece of salmon seasoned and ready to be cured. I waited to do this post so I could show you the Gravlax he brought back to our class the following week. (We devoured it on crackers with Chef Miller’s homemade cream cheese! Yum!)
Did I mention there was a little booze involved?
And last but not least, we made Italian sausage. The meat was seasoned and ground and we all got the chance to put it in a casing. Even though I’m not a big meat eater, it was fantastic doing this first hand, learning what to do with air bubbles, twisting them into individual links, etc. This seems to be best as a two person job… at least at our level. We all took a sausage home and I can’t wait to share mine with my carnivore son, who happens to be a butcher. (I hope he is impressed with what I learned this week!)
This class was so educational (well, they all are, really) and I’m looking forward to figuring out how to incorporate what we learned into every day practice. And again, even though I’m not a big meat eater and my husband is a vegetarian, it’s exciting to know how to do this stuff. Besides, my kids are meat eaters so I’ll practice on them. The Gravlax is going to be first up!
Here are some of Chef Buchanan’s favorite books on the subject of charcuterie:
- Curing salt is used to stop botulism. It differs from regular salt, as it contains sodium nitrites. You don’t want to digest this on it’s own so it is usually colored a bright pink so there is no confusion.
- When making sausage, keep everything you use as cold as possible, including freezing your attachment!
- Only grind five pounds of sausage at a time, then freeze everything again.
- Chef Buchanan recommends videos by Chris Cosentino for more on butchery.
Want to see what you’ve missed in the series?