French words chair, meaning “flesh,” and cuit, meaning “cooked.”
The preservation technique may date back to Roman
times but it really flourished in 15th-century France. The
French government prohibited the sale of uncooked pork,
so charcutiers (pork butchers) came up with ingenious ways
to cook (salted and dried) meat that could then be sold. The
charcutiers would hang the meats in their shop windows to
draw customers in.
Charcuterie is rooted in the belief that nothing from the
animal should ever be wasted. Heart, lungs, kidneys, fat, and
brains were all used to create something delicious. It wasn’t
until the 19th century that a few influential chefs heightened
charcuterie’s reputation to a grander stage — French high
society. And, for a few centuries, that’s where it remained.
Charcuterie is one of the principal categories of garde
manger — French for “keeper of the food” — that involve
preservation techniques dating from an era before refrigera-tion
by using one of the world’s oldest preservatives, salt. The
salt draws moisture out of the meat, thereby killing harmful
The flavor in cured meat comes from the preparation
methods. There are basically two categories: whole muscle
meats and encased meats. Whole muscle meats can be
sliced, like prosciutto and coppa. Encased meats can be
hard sausages like salami and pepperoni, or softer ones like
Today, classic charcuterie items include sausages, pâtés,
terrines, and confit, but even familiar smoked or cured meats
such as ham and bacon are technically within the realm of
The art of charcuterie has witnessed a revived passion,
particularly in the South, on the part of both chefs and
sausage makers (sometimes referred to as “salumists”). With
the emergence of craft and artisan producers and a locavore
mindset, people are interested in where their food comes
from, and “artisan” has become a cue for quality.
It’s also been a way to bring the process into the product.
People want to know how it’s made, and charcuterie taps
into that culture. In North Carolina in particular, we are
starting to see a surge of interest. Pork has been embraced for
generations, and chefs are able to get their hands on whole
hogs from farmers who are raising specific heritage breeds
that are better for curing.
Everything on a charcuterie board takes time and atten-tion.
Happiness, after all, is almost always derived from time.
In an era where we have sushi on revolving conveyor belts,
pizza on speed dial, and little connection to where our food
comes from, the art of cured meats, handmade sausage, and
slow cooked pâté allows us to gather friends and family and
take it slow.
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Breaking the bondages of homelessness and poverty by
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