Charucterie making is a hobby best undertaken by ravenous eaters or restaurants. Making small quantities of these things is often not worth the time or money. Despite fat and salt being easily frozen and preservation not being a major issue since, well, most of charcuterie was started as means to preserve meat for times far from slaughter, there are not many ways to incorporate the amount of charcuterie required for making it to be both time and cost effective that would not lead you to an early grave. However, a guy likes what a guy likes – and I like curing meat.
With that, I am often left contemplating whether to keep or toss something and, further, how to use something once it reaches a certain point of maturity (I hope when I reach that point people are as thoughtful as how to use me). Here, we look at three methods utilized to extend the life of three different cured meats.
The first is likely the most straight forward and one that makes good use of sausage where there isn’t quite enough to put out as a snack, but is too good to toss or simply “one-bite” at the fridge. We’ll call it meat butter and, more specifically, nduja butter. Nduja is already spreadable and I have found it goes exceedingly well as an accompaniment or counterpoint to sweet vegetables like peas, or in this case, carrots.
To assemble, I simply mixed 1 part nduja to 2 parts soft room temp butter (by weight) into a compound butter, chilled and used to glaze the carrots.
The heat from the nduja is a nice balance to the sweet carrots. Additionally, the high fat content makes the mixing process far easier than other sausages, but this would work well with rillettes, liver mousses, and even longer cured sausage applications combined with method two, as described below.
The second method works best for long cured dry meats. I started doing this months ago with some ends of country ham that had dried out too much and have since moved on to some less texturally appealing chorizo. I grate them – like Parmesan or, even more apt, bottarga. You get the same flavor, and actually much more, likely due to increasing surface area, by using only a fraction of amount. Also like grated cheese or bottarga, the grated chorizo adds an element of color and saltiness to dishes that need it.
Here, we super-cede any textural issues caused by faulty drying or over-aging and simply impart the desired flavors. I have grated chorizo over marcona almonds with rosemary and, most recently, over grilled eggplant with yogurt, lemon zest, mint, and flowers. The almond dish is a very cool dish to have out for guests since you can taste the chorizo, but can not see it, but the eggplant dish is something that is about as well rounded as anything that we have made recently. The lemon combines with the yogurt to make a sweet/tart combination that the mint cuts and the earthiness of the charred eggplant is enhanced by the salty meatiness of the grated chorizo. It was a great vegetable-heavy center-of-plate dish that satisfied without needing a fist-sized portion of meat.
Finally, there is a method that I have been eying up in “Pork and Sons”. Each time I opened the door to my curing chamber, I’d see this saucisson sec that finished hanging in April 2011. I have been monitoring it for signs of decay and finally grabbed it along with an overdried chorizo and sliced them into planks. Scarily enough the saucisson sec appeared to be perfectly fine after drying for nearly 18 months.
Adding them to Weck jars with garlic, herbs, pepper, juniper, and olive oil, I let them sit in the fridge for a few weeks to see how that would impact.
The results were an slight improvement for the saucisson sec and a vast improvement to the chorizo, which I consider saved after writing the sausages off completely. The 18 month sausages were nearly perfect going into the jar, which made me nervous, but came out delicious, but with only subtle herb notes, there was not much difference. However, the chorizo had taken in the oil in a way that took a previously overdried sausages and rehydrated them with the flavorful oil. Instead of serving them with a pickle or other acid, I added a few flowers – namely a marigold, nasturtium, viola, dianthus, and borage flower – from my herb boxes. The different flowers brought peppery, floral, clove, and cucumber flavors to the cured and soaked sausages.
The downsides of being an hobby charcuterist are that you are starting at a disadvantage by not using odds and ends that are sitting around to craft into the next stage and that making small batch charcuterie is inefficient. Using the last of the bits is often difficult, but being creative can go a long way to take something either too small to leverage on its own or a little past its peak and turn into something delicious and exciting.