Does the term “prepared meat” bring back memories of school time bologna sandwiches? If so, you might be surprised that prepared meat is the newest big trend. Charcuterie, the French term for prepared meat, calls on methods of preserving meats that were used before refrigeration. The charcutier, or butcher, prepares these cured meats using centuries-old techniques like rubbing meats with spices and flavors and allowing them to dry in pure mountain air for months. The result is a salty, chewy, tangy and delicious meat product.
This old-fashioned technique is making a splash on the American food scene. The San Francisco Gate reports that in-house charcuterie is on the rise in many restaurants. The modern day charcutier may display his high-quality selections draped over a wooden cutting board, or perhaps he may artfully arrange a charcuterie plate on a ceramic serving platter. But no matter how it is presented, these cured meats are here to stay.
A Charcutier Approved Spread of Delicious Prepared Meat
- Prosciutto – Prosciutto is a subtly sweet and tangy cured meat that is made by salting the hind legs of pigs and aging them for a year in high-quality air. The flavor is influenced by the air as well as the diet of the pig, and different regions in Italy are known for different flavors of prosciutto. Prosciutto is often draped around balls or slices of honeydew melon, served with balls of mozzarella or a hunk of Parmesan and drizzled with olive oil, or wrapped around slim Italian bread sticks.
- Salami – Though it may not be the most pleasant thing to think about while you’re biting into a hunk of it, salami owes its distinctive tanginess and chewiness to helpful bacteria. These bacteria eat the sugar in this seasoned pork sausage and leave lactic acid behind, creating the distinctive salami flavor. The firmness of a salami dictates how you should slice it: softer salami calls for thicker slices, and harder salami should be cut into very thin slices. Serve with nuts, olives, cheese, crackers, or bread.
- Bresaola – Unlike most Italian cured-meats, which are made from pork, bresaola is made from the salted, seasoned, and aged hind legs of cows. The meat hangs for about four months and slowly becomes purple, velvety in texture, and develops a gamey flavor. This charcuterie meat is sliced paper thin and can be served as an antipasto with arugula and Parmesan or eaten plain.
You don’t need to be a charcutier to appreciate the tradition and distinctive taste of cured meat. Once you have experienced classic charcuterie meats, you will understand why so many restaurants want to build their own curing rooms and start serving house-cured prosciutto, salami, and bresaola.
- “The charcuterie craze sweeps the nation”, San Francisco Gate
- “Meat Market”, Details Magazine
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