Sunday, April 29, 2012

Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing - Ruhlman

Charcuterie is the old art of curing pork, and making preserves. It has recently gone back into vogue, and not only are restaurants serving charcuterie platter -they are making it themselves. There are now entire restaurants devoted to this type of food, my favourite being The Black Hoof in Toronto.

This is not a new book by any means, but I have used it over and over again, and spurred me on in what can only be described as obsession. Needless to say with Ruhlman and Polcyn's upcoming release of Salumi this review is long over due.

The downfall of many charcuterie, and meat curing related books is that often it falls into the realm of food science. Our society as a whole is almost deemed unworthy to understand the principals behind processed food. There are many decent books done by the Marianskis, which will give you better comprehension of the science behind these things; however, it will scare off most first time dabblers. Realising this gap Ruhlman and Polcyn teamed together to create the first modern day, everyday man's book on everything porky, cured, smoked, salted, and stuffed.

One might ask themselves why we need the knowledge of food preservation? We have freezers, and refrigerators -it is no longer needed. Perhaps not, but its delicious. I for one am not willing to go my life without bacon.

The book is smartly divided into seven sections (not including the introduction): salt-cured, smoked, sausages, dry-cured, pates and terrines, confits, and accompaniments. Each section contains very informative instruction on techniques that are relevant, followed by some killer recipes, and usually additional related information. The salt-cured section begins with the history behind salted food, followed by the science behind it. Ruhlman follows this up with not only the economy and weight of buying whole hogs, but how these cuts differ in uses. Next up to bat is the dry cure recipe, and within a few seconds you know how to make your own bacon. After a veritable laundry list of culinary delights such as pancetta, guanciale, duck proscuitto, etc. We are inaugurated into the art of brining and everything from the perfectly brined chicken, to fermented sauerkraut, to lemon confit. At the end of the chapter you may not be getting a PhD in food chemistry, but you will have a great deal of understanding over the "what, where, why, how, and when," of everything salt cured.

The rest of the book follows suit.Whether you are an aspiring French chef trying to master duck confit, and pork rilletes, or an inspired barbeque pit master attempting to perfect a barbeque sauce you will get something out of this book. Cant find grandma's dill pickle recipe? This one is likely better. Definately a must have!


Natalie MacLean said...

Hi Andrew,
Great post on Charcuterie! Please e-mail me at It’s about wine of course :)