June 12, 2019

The Delicate Art of Charcuterie


Katie Reynolds-Da Silva explores this unique segment of the cheffing world in depth.

Charcuterie, (from chair, ‘meat’, and cuit, ‘cooked’) is the branch of cooking devoted to prepared meat products, such as bacon, ham, sausage, terrines, galantines, ballotines, pâtés, and confit – primarily from pork, although other meats can be used.

Originally intended as a way to preserve meat before refrigeration was invented, charcuterie products have exploded in popularity, courtesy of the awesome flavours that are produced during the preservation processes. South Africans have embraced charcuterie wholeheartedly, and as is our custom, we have reinvented this ancient culinary art by infusing meat with all manner of weird and wonderful things.

NEXT-LEVEL INNOVATION

Three Streams, which supplies a range of premium quality charcuterie products exclusively to Woolworths and to the food service industry in South Africa, has a beetroot- infused cured salmon product.

“It is a three-day process to create this product from start to final packing. We only use fresh, chopped up beetroot and other fresh herbs and spices. This delicate product is carefully hand sliced into D-cut slices, giving a nice red/purple pellicle fading away to the bottom of the slice where the orange-pink colour of the salmon comes through.”

says Minke Strydom, NPD Director at Three Streams.

Three Streams’ charcuterie lines include Cold Smoked Salmon and Trout Ribbons (premium and catering grade), Salmon and Trout Carpaccio, Beetroot Gravadlax, Salmon Gravadlax, Salmon and Trout Pate, Snoek Pate, Terrines and Roulades, to name a few.

A MULTITUDE OF METHODS

Charcuterie can be made in a number of different ways, each producing different results.

TheCulinaryCook.com provides a succinct explanation:

Salt: Salt is the world’s oldest preservative, and is one of the vital tools used to produce charcuterie. Salt sucks the liquid out of meat, which eventually kills off most bacteria as bacteria cannot survive without moisture.

Confit: Confit is another technique that involves preserving meats in its own fat. The layer of fat seals off the oxygen from the food, and without oxygen, bacteria can’t survive.

Brining: A brine is a salty marinade – most have about 20% salinity, which is equivalent to 450g of salt per four litres of water. As with dry- salt cures, brines can also contain sugar, nitrites, herbs, and spices. Brining is sometimes called pickling.

Today, most cured meats are prepared in large production facilities where the brine is injected into the meat for rapid and uniform distribution. Commercially brined corned beef is cured by this process, as are most common hams. After brining, hams are further processed by smoking.

Hot Smoking and Cold Smoking: The key differences between the two are that hot smoking cooks the food while cold smoking does not. Both are done in a smoker specifically designed for this purpose. Smokers can be gas or electric and they vary greatly in size and operation.

Meat, poultry, game, fish, shellfish, cheese, nuts and even vegetables can be cold-smoked successfully. Most cold-smoked meats are generally salt-cured or brined first. Salt-curing or brining adds flavour, allows the nitrites (which give ham, bacon and other smoked meats their distinctive pink colour) to penetrate the flesh and, most important, extracts moisture from the food, allowing the smoke to penetrate more easily.

Hot smoking is the process of exposing foods to smoke at temperatures of 93 degrees to
121 degrees Celsius. As with cold smoking, a great variety of foods can be prepared by hot smoking. Meats, poultry, game, fish, and shellfish that are hot-smoked also benefit from salt-curing or brining. Although most smoked foods are fully cooked when removed from the smoker, many are used in other recipes that call for further cooking.

ON TOP OF THE TRENDS

“We continuously watch trends and see what is happening in other markets, especially abroad, as seafood innovations in South Africa are very limited. We travel once a year to the European Seafood Show to visit our suppliers and visit stores. We are also guided by our customers. With Woolworths being our sole retail customer (due to our exclusive supplier agreement), they will often brief us on a type of product they are interested in. We will then play around with different species and recipes until we come up with the right one that ticks all the boxes.”

says Minke of Three Streams.

GET YOUR HANDS DIRTY

For those who are inspired to create their own charcuterie products, Wickedfood Earth Country Cooking School in Gauteng offers charcuterie workshops to the general public.

Wickedfood Earth Farm has become synonymous with free-range pork and top quality charcuterie, including its range of sausage, coppa, pancetta, bacon and ham. At the country cooking school, they offer hands-on charcuterie workshops where they share the knowledge that they have accumulated over many years of processing pork and other meats.

The introductory charcuterie workshop covers the basics of the three main arts of meat curing – whole muscle curing, how to make a classic pork sausage, and the basics of making salami.

Techniques covered include:

  • How to break down a pig for charcuterie – hands-on demonstration of how to break down a pig carcass and the different charcuterie cuts
  • Whole muscle curing – the basics of dry curing for pancetta, bacon and coppa
  • The basics of making the perfect pork sausage – grinding, spicing and stuffing for classic pork sausage;
  • Meat fermentation and how to make a basic pork salami – how spices and preservatives work, and grinding and stuffing salami.

Other Wickedfood Earth Farm Workshops include:

  • Introduction to sausage making
  • Advanced salami and dried sausage
  • Whole muscle curing
  • Introduction to salami and dried sausage
  • Advanced salami and dried sausage

WHERE TO ORDER THREE STREAMS PRODUCTS:

The Three Streams farm and processing facility are located in the foothills of the Franschhoek Mountains in the Western Cape. For Food Service, products can be ordered directly from the farm or through their subsidiary, Three Streams Import, Trading & Distribution (Pty) Ltd, and delivered nationwide.

They also have a list of valued distributors who carry a range of their products. For more information or to place an order, contact 021 876 2485 / 021 551 1448, or email info@threestreams.co.za.

Source: SAChef Issue 13


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