- Charcuterie relies on getting the proper fat to meat ratio, generally 30% fat.
- That clear jelly like substance on many charcuterie preparation is aspic (basically gelatin and flavouring). It keeps out air and bacteria, keeping the cooked meat fresh.
- Charcuterie came about from a need to preserve meat through the winter, and from trying to use the entire pig, “snout to tail”. In fact, the only piece of the pig not used is the teeth. Everything else can be used.
It was the first full day of charcuterie for our half of the class today, and while there isn’t the frantic deadlines there are during family meal, we were struggling to keep on pace, in fact at times it looked like we were being more frantic than the family meal gang.
First on the agenda was Paté En Croute, basically paté wrapped in a dough. Patés were originally forcemeats that have been formed and cooked in a mold, pastry crust or terrine. Nowadays they usually aren’t done in a crust, but we stuck to the technical definition. If you’ve ever wondered what’s in a pate, check this out: sweated shallots, pork shoulder, fatback, four-spice, s&p, garlic, madeira, brandy, thyme, green peppercorns, and pink salt. This ‘pink’ salt is curing salt, which has nitrites added. They then color it pink so you don’t mix it up with normal salt. The meats are all put through a grinder, and then you mix by hand until the meats start to bind on their own (kinda like hamburger meat: when you mix hamburger meat up for a while and then form it into patties, it actually seems to cling to itself – this is a natural binding that is occurring). We then put this mixture into a rectangle container which we had lined with dough. Once sealed (except for two little chimneys), this was put in the oven to cook. The chimneys are to let out steam, or else the steam might blow the whole structure apart. Tomorrow we are going to pump aspic inside to remove any air under the crust and seal it.
When you slice through a pate, you generally see a multi-textural pattern. The white bits are usually fat. In this case, fatback. What’s fatback? Exactly as it sounds, the fat from the back of a pig. We chopped this into cubes, and this is what gives that textural appearance. In charcuterie, getting the ratio of fat to meat is one of the key measures, with a typical percentage of fat being 30%.
We also did a duck-foie gras terrine. I find the nomenclature a bit confusing. A terrine is technically the physical dish you are cooking things in, but the duck-foie gras ‘terrine’ is a paté done in a terrine. Here again we ground up duck meat, duck fat, pork butt, and duck liver. Then added foie gras (after removing the inner veins), black truffles, shallots, garlic, pistachios, s&p, pink salt, 4-spice, and brandy. This was all put in a ‘terrine’, and to be rested overnight in the fridge.
This is all raw meat we’re dealing with, so how do you taste your seasoning? You have to grab a little chunk, run over to the burner and sauté some, and then taste it. I have to admit that when it’s sautéed, it tasted pretty good, but we’re dealing mostly with raw meat at the moment so there aren’t a lot of nice aromas ‘wafting’ from the charcuterie area.
We also learnt how to make bacon. You take pork bellies, cure it with a dry rub (see title picture), and then smoke it. I had a rude awakening last year when our grocery store was out of bacon, so thinking I knew something about meat, I said “hey, isn’t bacon made from pork bellies, let’s just buy pork bellies and fry that up!”. DISGUSTING!!!! Now I know why you have to cure it and smoke it. In charcuterie, you don’t get to taste your end product for some time, so it’s a little less satisfying from that perspective. Over in family meal they made hanger steak with chimichurri sauce (Dalal), a really tasty pasta (Luis), green beans (Rachel), and various other things. There was a lot of noisy pounding over there on a cool looking butcher block. Can’t wait for tomorrow’s lunch.
Off to do some Christmas shopping, and write out tomorrow’s recipes.