I am not a chef, either by training or inclination. This humble book, therefore, may suffer from a lack of professional training and expertise.
Several years ago, I became interested in charcuterie. The first products were, frankly, inedible. After reading as widely as I could, I spent several years experimenting with recipes and techniques which were suited to my circumstances.
This book is a record of my experience and drawn from a diary in which I kept recipes, observations and results over the past four years. Hence, the title to this book. It is not intended to be a scholarly work nor a literary one. Neither is it intended for commercial use in which I understand premixes of spices and cures are common place. It may, however, provide some assistance to those who are interested in some homemade charcuterie. It was written primarily because the books that were available to me I did not find helpful. They were either based on imperial measurements (not metric) or just really old. Some of the books used products which I could not source reliably or at all (“saltpetre” for example) or which I did not understand (“Boston butt” comes from the front end of the pig not the rear end, for God’s sake!). Some of them were predicated on equipment or conditions which I could not possibly replicate at home (“…incubate at 27°C and 85 RH for 12 hours then increase humidity to 95°C and reduce temperature to 14°C for the next 12 hours…” ); or suppliers who would not supply to me, on the other side of the world. Most of all they usually did not explain exactly what was going on in the process of charcuterie, a matter as to which I became intrigued just because they did not explain it or explain it to my satisfaction. All these things made me write this book. It is written by reference to my conditions and access to supplies and suppliers in Australia in 2017. Hopefully it is relevant to you.
I cannot commence without reference to the simple eloquence of Elizabeth David, writing in 1960 of a stall at a French market, “…big bowls of pale amber-green and gold choucroute, and stalls bulging with sausages, the special smoked ones to go with the choucroute, … terrines and pâtés of pork, duck, tongue; and deep dishes in which pieces of pork lie embedded in crystal clear jelly; this turns out to be the famous porcelet en gelée, an elegant brawn of suckling pig which makes a fine hors d’oeuvre; then there are trays of highly flavoured salad made from pig’s head…”. She is the standard to which any writer, even of cookbooks, should aspire.
As an aside David received an OBE in 1976, a CBE in 1986 and in 1977 was appointed as a Chevalier du Merite Agricole. The latter is the Order of Agricultural Merit of France and is bestowed on those who have made an outstanding contribution to agriculture. A Knight (Chevalier) of the Order is one who has provided at least 15 years of such service and is the most senior award. It is second in precedence in the French honours system to the Legion of Honour. However, perhaps most surprisingly (or not as the case may be), David was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 1982.
As for vegetarians (so called) and vegans, to both of whom I have a special antipathy, I say pigs, cattle, fish and goats are mainly vegetarians. Bourdain had something to say about vegetarians which should not go unnoticed:
“To me, life without veal stock, pork fat, sausage, organ meat, demi-glace, or even stinky cheese is a life not worth living. Vegetarians are the enemy of everything good and decent in the human spirit, an affront to all I stand for, the pure enjoyment of food.”
As Rayner put it ‘I like vegans but I couldn’t eat a whole one’.
In my view, vegetarians, vegans and the like are largely consumed and motivated by, fear and loathing.
I acknowledge that this book may be somewhat idiosyncratic but I figured that it was undesirable to write an anonymous cookbook. No doubt others will judge whether I was correct. This has been much more work than I expected it to be, but satisfying nonetheless.
I note at the earliest moment, charcuterie is serious stuff and best done in some place where the negative vibrations and comments emanating from family are left behind. Charcuterie is thousands of years old. It is important that you, a torch bearer of the traditions, have a place where you can practice your traditional beliefs and culture. If you have the opportunity to practice the arts in a place like a shed then you will feel much better and the process will be all the more purer for it. “The shed is the man’s natural hiding place. It is just like the pub, except nearer to home”, The Shed, Hazeley and Morris.
Next, I must thank a number of people. First, thank you to my family for their good humour in relation to various charcuterie experiments and eccentricities. Especially to my wife Helen for her editorial expertise and encouragement. I appreciate the diligent typing of this manuscript by Nikki and subsequently, by Karen and Mary. Sebastian, gastronome and man about town, a thank you for agisting a prosciutto called “Kevin” under his house during some unseasonably warm weather. No. 1 Daughter spent quality time in a final, often quite hurtful, editorial proof read, thank you. To Dr Flower and The Hairy Nephews for being crash test dummies with a variety of charcuterie I am appreciative. Glen, who rode shotgun on matters legal, also deserves mention. Lucy, the black dog, benefited from some failures, although that is a secret. To The Rat, an evil Jack Russell Terrier for whom I have no regard, I say nothing. No. 1 Son assisted in his own special way.
I add a disclaimer, first because His Glen-ness told me that I must, but secondly due to the nature of the things and processes described in this book.
Read this stuff carefully. Be careful. Be hygienic.
Following these recipes and directions is no guarantee against mistakes or serious, lethal risks to your health. This is serious stuff. Be scrupulously vigilant concerning mould (especially nasty coloured mould), temperature and ingredients. Those following these recipes, directions and techniques do so at their own risk.
Do all these things and you should not get sick and die. That is what I did. I am still here. Why should you be any different? I have learned by trial and error. If this book is about anything, it is that self-teaching in cooking is OK. Time will tell. Not that it matters, but all that follows is true. It is a record of four years of trial and error, fear and loathing.
Thank you to Krystyne for outstanding proofreading. To Gina, whose tireless typesetting made it all possible, thank you.
Finally, a word from Fergus Henderson, “Do not be afraid of cooking, as your ingredients will know, and misbehave.”
Meat the family.
- Her real name, see also The One True Dog, (The Black Labrador).
- Its real name