CharcuterieCharcuterie is a word that is thrown around a lot but do you really know what it is?
Most people assume that charcuterie refers to salami and other similar foods. This is basically correct but actual charcuterie refers to so much more.

Charcuterie is a French term for the art of cooking devoted to prepared meats—though the practice is not limited to just the French. Every culture on the planet has their own version. This includes bacon, ham, sausages, pâtés, and confits. These preparations are primarily made with pork but include a whole range of other domestic and game meats. Salami, salumi, smoked meats, brined meats, rillets, jerky and even olives are considered charcuterie.

The practice of charcuterie was born out of necessity to preserve meats to keep them edible. In the case of sausage, it was also a way to use parts of the animal that would otherwise be wasted. Over the centuries, what was once a necessary chore evolved into an art form that produced a product with a wide variety of amazing flavors.

There are a number of categories that make up the foods of a traditional charcuterie. The following are just a few:

Probably the most recognizable and popular charcuterie but confusing since most people don’t understand the difference.

Salumi is the process of preserving and salting cured meat which traditionally means pork. The major muscles of the pig are cured to create meats such as pancetta, prosciutto, and coppa.

Salami is a fermented salt-cured or cooked sausage and is a subset of traditional salumi. Salami is made from a combination of meat, salt, and spices. And, it generally always has 20-30% good pork fat. It is then fermented and dried with a combination of either pure pork, beef, or other meats. After a few days, the fermented meat is dry cured and sometimes lightly smoked.

Forced Meats
Forced meat is any raw meat that has been finely ground and emulsified with fat. The term comes from the French word farcer which means to stuff. Forcemeat is often combined with spices herbs or other ingredients to make sausages, pates, or terrines. There are four kinds of forced meats:

Straight is produced by grinding equal parts pork and pork fat with a third meat—it can be also be pork or another meat. (This is confusing until you actually try it yourself. Then it all makes sense.)

Country-style is known by its more coarse texture, country style forced meat is a combination of pork and pork fat, often with the addition of pork or chicken liver and garnish ingredients. Country Style pate is a great example.

Gratin has some browned meat mixed in with the raw.

Mousseline has a lighter texture and is made from lean cuts of veal, poultry, fish, or shellfish which is then pureed with eggs and cream.

Confit is the process of salting, slow cooking, and sealing meats under a blanket of fat. It comes from the French word confire which means to preserve. In addition to being delicious, confits have benefit of being long keeping and can prevent meat from spoiling. Examples include duck confit or tuna confit which uses olive oil.

Rillettes, a charcuterie staple, are potted meats that can easily be made from shredded confit meats. We have a recipe for Pork Rillettes in our archive which is a fun cooking project. We also carry Groix & Nature Salmon Rillettes at the store.

If you are interested in trying your hand at making your own Charcuterie, we recommend starting with a pâté. This recipe for Country Pâté makes enough to freeze some for later. It will last up to 7 days in the fridge.

Country Pâté
Adapted from Epicurious
Yields 20 servings

3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup minced onion
2 1/2 pounds ground pork
20 to 24 bacon slices
3 garlic cloves
2 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 1/2 teaspoons allspice
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/3 cup whipping cream
1 6-ounce piece ham steak
Coarse sea salt

For serving
Dijon mustard

Prep the meat
Cut the ham steak crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick strips. Finely chop 8 to 10 slices of the bacon. Set aside.

Prep the onions and garlic
Press the garlic and mince the onion. Set aside.

Preheat your oven to 350º F and set a rack at the lowest position.

Reduce the cognac
Boil the cognac until it reduces to 1/2 cup (about 1-1/2 minutes). Allow the cognac to cool.

Sauté the onions
Melt the butter in a heavy, medium -sized skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté it until it is soft and translucent—but not brown. (about 8 minutes).

Make the pâté
Combine the ground pork and chopped bacon in large bowl. Using a fork or your fingertips, mix them together until they are well blended.

Add the sautéed onion, garlic, 2 1/2 teaspoons salt, thyme, allspice, and pepper to the bowl with the pork mixture and stir until everything is incorporated. Add the eggs, cream, and reduced Cognac. Stir until well blended.

Form the loaf
Line a 9x5x3-inch metal loaf pan with bacon slices by arranging 8 slices across the width of pan and 3 slices on each short side of the pan. Make certain you are overlapping the pan on all sides.

Using your hands, lightly and evenly press half of the meat mixture (about 3 1/4 cups) onto the bottom of the pan on top of the bacon slices. Arrange the ham strips over the meat mixture in a single layer. Top it with the remaining meat mixture.

Fold the bacon slices over to cover the pâté. Then cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil. Place the pan in a 13x9x2-inch metal baking pan and transfer it to the preheated oven. Pour boiling water into the larger baking pan to come halfway up the sides of the loaf pan.

Bake the pâté
Bake the pâté until a thermometer inserted through the foil into the center registers 155° F (about 2 hours and 15 minutes).

Remove the loaf pan from the baking pan and transfer it to a rimmed baking sheet. Place a heavy skillet or 2 to 3 heavy cans on top of the pâté to weigh it down. Chill overnight.

Note: You can make the recipe to this point up to 4 days in advance.

Refrigerate the pâté
Place the loaf pan containing the pâté in a larger pan of hot water for about 3 minutes. Invert the pâté onto a serving platter. Discard the fat from the platter and wipe it clean.

Cut the pâté crosswise into 1/2-inch slices for serving with Dijon mustard and cornichons.


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