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Food Trend Alert: Charcuterie

By Cathy Strange, July 11, 2013  |  Meet the Blogger  |  More Posts by Cathy Strange

Cathy Strange’s role as global cheese and specialty foods buyer for Whole Foods Market® puts her in the unique position of travelling the world to not only discover and encourage the world’s great cheesemakers, but also to help advance the artisanal food movement and investigate the world’s emergent food trends. If a new preparation technique is causing ripples in Berlin, or a centuries-old curing tradition is gaining a foothold in Seattle, Cathy knows about it.

Specialty Meats, Especially Delicious

Charcuterie, the art of preserving meats (whether through salting, curing or cooking), is showing a strong resurgence lately. It’s an ancient food preparation technique that is more prevalent than you might think. That bologna or salami or pack of hot dogs in your refrigerator? Yep, charcuterie. From ancient times up to the early 1900s, due to lack of dependable refrigeration, charcuterie was an act of necessity.

Over the last couple of years, I’ve noticed a distinct renaissance in the world of charcuterie in the US – thanks to old world traditions crossing the seas, we’re seeing a surge of US artisan cured meats inspired by these old traditions. From piquant, tangy salamis to rich, nutty patés, from peppery, olive-flecked mortadella to tender, paper-thin bresaola – the incredible flavors and textures of charcuterie reveal a lot about where the meats were cured. Wonderful specialty meats, carefully crafted using time-honored, sometimes ancient recipes, are appearing with increasing regularity at butcher shops from coast to coast.

A Tasty Sense of Place

Terroir, that wonderful “taste of place” imparted to wines and aged cheeses through the unique characteristics of the land and environment in which they grow, shows up magnificently in specialty meats. Unique grasses and vegetation eaten by the animals, certain minerals found in local water, and most importantly, distinct yeasts and molds floating through the air, all play a part in creating particularly delicious and complex flavors in aged meats. That dusty white coat on your fermented salami contains millions of mold and yeast cells accumulated as the meat has aged, creating a dramatic effect on flavor.  Local yeasts found on salami aged in Berkeley, California, for example, impart rustic, “barnyard” flavors, while regional yeasts found in Italy’s Piedmont region yield sweeter, mushroomy notes.

Spotlight on Salami

I first met Cristiano in San Diego at the International Fancy Food Show – although the reputation of his products preceded him. His passion for food and particularly meat was immediately evident. The art of making dry-aged salami has been in salumiere Cristiano Creminelli’s family for generations. Learning about the Criminelli family history was incredible and I am glad that he is still following traditional methods and creating new ones for all of us to enjoy. His handcrafted uncured salamis burst with bold flavors and satisfyingly firm textures crafted with old world tradition. Creminelli’s Americano salami, inspired by flavors of pork chops and applesauce Cristiano discovered while travelling the southern US, surprises with a spark of cinnamon in the finish. Creminelli Cacciatore salami richly serves up slightly sweet notes of juniper berry and clove. Creminelli Whiskey salami includes whiskey as an ingredient, mingling notes of caramel and honey with the salty tang of pork.

While the common cheese pairing for these salamis would be a shaved or chunked Parmigiano Reggiano, I think they’re wonderful on a charcuterie plate with a softer cheese. A triple-créme brie, like Cowgirl Creamery’s Organic Mt. Tam would be perfect here. Adding olives, almonds for their sweet counterpoint, and a spicy fruit spread like a mustarda will transport you to charcuterie heaven.

Stop by your local Whole Foods Market for a taste of the varied textures and flavors of charcuterie. And tell me, what’s your favorite charcuterie meat?

 

 

Category: food trends

 

9 Comments

Comments

Danielle Duval says ...
I miss le pate de foie, le pate de campagne from France avec cornichons et le saucisson. Since "Marcel & Henri" shut down, I have been looking and looking.....
07/17/2013 6:04:17 PM CDT
Beth More says ...
Trouble is most manufacturors use sodium nitrate and there's enough in regular lunchmeats to make a lot of sick. I'm so allergic to this I have to carry an epi-pen. If Oscar Meyer can do it why can't others. I can't touch Foster Farms for that reason.
07/17/2013 6:29:58 PM CDT
Ty Webb says ...
Boccalone in San Fran.
07/17/2013 7:56:46 PM CDT
Ann Marie says ...
I hope your company will place an emphasis on choosing meats that are nitrate-free. It's crazy to add preservatives to food items that are made with the specific intent of having a longer shelf life, such as salami, salt-cured meats, jam, pickles, etc.
07/17/2013 8:30:40 PM CDT
Holly says ...
My favorite is the dry Columbo salami; the terroir brings me back to my childhood dining table near San Francisco.
07/17/2013 10:40:40 PM CDT
Nina Romo Hellmuth says ...
Thank You for recognizing a food and a way to keep an old tradition. Being from Spain and living here for nearly 50 yrs., I have grown up with Charcuterie as a wonderful and fast food item. Came from school or wanted a snack - that was what we were given!!! I have seen a huge change in the way folks eat here in the states and I recognize your efforts for the teaching and the growing - yes a growing of a nation in learning and being taight that it's OK! Applause to you all!! I grew up in Tx and now live in So Florida
07/18/2013 5:36:26 AM CDT
Kitty says ...
Love the resurgence of old skills! From pickles to jams and jellies to charcuterie and everything in between, I love all the new products. Thanks for highlighting the meats and this producer. My favorite has to be Prosciutto de Parma! That salty, earthy flavor sends my taste buds to Italy every time. And it must be the true thing, not a coounterfeit! Since you only need a small amount, it isn't too terribly expensive. Keep writing about these unique producers so I can continue to try them.
07/18/2013 6:40:12 AM CDT
Jill says ...
SausageCraft in Richmond, VA is doing some amazing things with charcuterie right now, as is Three Little Pigs in DC! Bring on the cured meats!
07/18/2013 8:26:41 AM CDT
Nikki - Community Moderator says ...
@ANN MARIE - We have strict Quality Standards that includes a list of unacceptable ingredients for food. We do not allow nitrates/nitrites in any of the products we sell. You can read more at http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/about-our-products/quality-standards/unacceptable-ingredients-food.
07/18/2013 11:07:32 AM CDT