The Book Stall


The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing
by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn

W. W. Norton & Company, 2013

Due to the unexpected success of the original edition of this book in 2005 and a surprising surge of interest in cooking heavily salted animal fats coupled with with authors' own continuing education in the subject, a revised and updated version of the text has been published eight years later.

Derived from French words for flesh and cooked, charcuterie - in the sense of salting, smoking, and cooking to preserve meats - has been around since the dawn of mankind, the authors point out. "It has been carried on in many forms through virtually every culture, and it has been one of the foundations of human survival in that it allowed societies to maintain a food surplus and therefor helped turn early peoples from nomads into clusters of homebodies...

"Historians have suggested that our ancestors first discovered cooked food in the form of animals that had perished in forest fires, and then began to cook food on purpose. Regardless of how they discovered cooking, they surely realized that cooking made food not only taste good but last longer as well."

A successful collaboration of food writer Michael Ruhlman and chef Brian Polcyn, a well-regarded authority on the techniques of charcuterie, this edition does without ingredients used in commercial processing that aren't necessary for home cooking and makes its curing-salt concentrations uniform.

The authors also added advice on using starter cultures such as Bactoferm F-RM-52 in making sausage. The live bacteria control the growth of unwanted bacteria and give the meat a tanginess found in Old-World dried sausages.

The new edition retains its classic recipes and instructions for duck confit, prosciutto, sausages, pâté de campagne, knackwurst and more.

Detailed line drawings detail techniques for brining chicken, making pancetta, curing salmon, making pâté en croûte, and sausage seasoning, grinding, mixing, stuffing and linking. Sources for supplies and special ingredients are included in the back of the book.

Recipe: Pancetta

Pancetta is an Italian bacon and a delicious ingredient used in many of that country’s dishes. It’s simply pork belly cured with salt and seasonings, which is then rolled into a log and hung to dry for a couple weeks. It’s typically thinly sliced or diced and sautéed, then combined with sautéed vegetables.

One 5-pound/2.25-kilogram slab pork belly, skin removed

The dry cure:
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons/12 grams pink salt
2 ounces/50 grams kosher salt (¼ cup)
2 tablespoons/26 grams dark brown sugar
4 tablespoons/40 grams coarsely ground black pepper
2 tablespoons/10 grams juniper berries, crushed with the bottom of a small sauté pan
4 bay leaves, crumbled
1 teaspoon/4 grams freshly grated nutmeg
4 or 5 sprigs fresh thyme

1. Trim the belly so that its edges are neat and square.

2. Combine the ingredients for the cure in a bowl, reserving half of the black pepper, and mix thoroughly so that the pink salt is evenly distributed. Rub the mixture all over the belly to give it a uniform coating over the entire surface.

3. Place the belly in a 2-gallon/8-liter Ziploc bag or in a covered nonreactive container just large enough to hold it. Refrigerate for 7 days. Without removing the belly from the bag, rub the belly to redistribute the seasonings and flip it over every other day (a process called overhauling).

4. After 7 days, check the belly for firmness. If it feels firm at its thickest point, it’s cured. If it still feels squishy, refrigerate it in the cure for 1 to 2 more days.

5. Remove the belly from the bag or container, rinse it thoroughly under cold water, and pat it dry. Sprinkle the meat side with the cracked pepper. Starting from a long side, roll up the pork belly tightly, as you would a thick towel, and tie it very tightly with butcher’s string at 1- to 2-inch/2.5- to 5-centimeter intervals; it’s important that there are no air pockets inside the roll (it can’t be too tightly rolled). (Alternately, the pancetta can be left flat, wrapped in cheesecloth, and hung to dry for 5 to 7 days.)

6. Using the string to suspend it, hang the pancetta in a cool, humid place to dry for 2 weeks. The ideal conditions are 50 to 60 degrees F/8 to 15 degrees C with 60 percent humidity, but a cool, humid basement works fine, as will most any place that’s out of the sun. (I often hang mine in our kitchen next to the hanging pans on either side of the stove.) Humidity is important: If your pancetta begins to get hard, it’s drying out and should be wrapped and refrigerated. The pancetta should be firm but pliable, not hard. Because pancetta isn’t meant to be eaten raw, the drying isn’t as critical a stage as it is for items such as prosciutto or dry-cured sausages. But drying pancetta enhances its texture, intensifies its flavor, and helps it to last longer.

7. After drying, the pancetta can be wrapped in plastic and refrigerated for 3 weeks, or more, or frozen for up to 4 months. Freezing makes it easier to slice thin.

Advertise Here

Assiete De Charcuteri
Assiete De Charcuteri


Charcuterie Gift Board with Knife and Cooler
Charcuterie Gift Board with Knife and Cooler


Visit the Booths
Market Entrance
Reviews Archive
Search the Market
Lease a Booth
Book Search
Buy Direct Directory

Farmer's Market Online
Copyright © 2012 Outrider News Service. All rights reserved.