It’s Not Your Grandfather’s Salami Anymore
For most diners, there’s nothing new about charcuterie, but for kosher eaters in the United States, there is suddenly a whole new world. A revolution in artisanal meats was a logical extension of the explosion of interest in expanded kosher possibilities that brought us Camembert,
Gruyere, and sushi.
What is charcuterie?
It is a French word for preserved meats and meat products, or a butcher shop that makes it. Pronounce it shar-koo-tur-ee. Think of salami, hot dogs, beef jerky, and chopped liver, but super delicious. Kosher butchers in France, Germany, and South Africa have been making kosher charcuterie, sausages, and dried meats, well, forever. In fact, the practice of drying, curing, and smoking meats was a necessity in times before refrigeration. It could be argued that the Israelites were among the first to document the pairing of meat, smoke, and salt.
Exodus: Chapter 29 describes the feast and burnt offerings following Moses’ descent from Har Sinai, and Leviticus 2:13 details the commandments of offering salt with the sacrifices. In fact, salt was so important that there was a Chamber of Salt in the courtyard of the Temple (Ezra 7:20).
Unlike the more familiar deli options of salami, pastrami, and corned beef which are cooked, charcuterie is air-dried and cured in a cool, enclosed environment with circulating air which causes the meat to dry out while enzymatic magic occurs, concentrating the flavors.
The Prime Grill restaurant in New York features a charcuterie platter on its menu, and its recently opened gourmet market, Prime Butcher Baker on the Upper East Side features an eye-popping (and, to be fair, wallet-busting) assortment of kosher delicacies including sauscison, beef bacon, pepperoni, lamb prosciutto, and pâtés of duck, veal, and beef. With prices up to $100 a pound, this adventurous home cook wondered if any of this could be reproduced at home.
We secured a session with the charming and young Executive Chef of The Prime Grill, David Kolotkin, a graduate of The Culinary Institute of America, for a lesson in making bresaola which is air-dried beef, the perfect first project for a home chef to attempt. Made from a single piece of beef, there is little chance that spoilage can occur, apart from the normal white coating that develops on the outside of the bresaola during the drying process. This is called “bloom” and will be cut off before eating.
Unlike in sausage making, no nitrites are required for this recipe. What you will need is a place to hang the meat for the five weeks necessary for the process. A small refrigerator, such as the kind that students use in a dorm room, is the perfect solution. Add in a small battery operated fan for air circulation, and you are all set. A thermometer will come in handy also, as the temperature needs to be around 37 degrees Fahrenheit.
Get the complete recipe to make your own Bresaola from Chef David of Prime Grill here.
A wooden board arrayed with cured sausages, meats, and pâtés is perfect for a picnic or any warm weather entertaining. A great assortment is
key, so try to procure a selection that includes a variety of different choices. Slices of a crusty French baguette, a few different mustards, the
tiny French pickles called cornichons, and olives are classic, but you can be creative and add hot pepper jelly, marinated artichoke hearts, hummus, and a small bunch of champagne grapes.
Prepare the charcuterie board in advance if you like, and keep it refrigerated until about half an hour before serving, and allow it to come
to room temperature for optimum taste and texture.
Don’t forget a great bottle of wine.
French ones like the Bordeaux from Chateau Le Petit Chaban and Chateau d’Arveyres, or the Côtes du Rhône from Domaine des 3 Cellier Chateauneuf du Pape will hit it out of the ballpark.
Not sure you want to make try making your own, but you want to give some of these delicacies ad try, here is our shopping guide for Kosher Charcuterie for local and nationwide stores.