Just like every particular field of interest, food and food preparation has a vocabulary all of its own. While doing research in preparing the recipe for and writing an article about Homemade Pork and Beans in Lukewarm Legumes, I learned a new food term. That food term is Charcuterie.
The word Charcuterie is derived from the French term cuiseur de chair, which means literally “cooker of meat.” Since the 15th century, Charcuterie has been considered part of French Culinary Art. It is also used to describe a shop selling cooked cold meats.
The book Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking and Curing by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn is about using the process of Charcuterie to cure various meats including bacon, pastrami, and sausage. It is a great resource on this subject and is highly recommended.
Charcuterie is part of the garde manger’s repertoire of skills which was originally intended as a way to preserve meats before the availability of refrigeration. Today these techniques are used for the flavors produced through the processes.
Fatback, which I used in the recipe for Homemade Pork and Beans, is an important element of traditional Charcuterie. It is a particular cut of meat taken from under the skin of the pig’s back, with or without the skin. In some European cultures it is used to make specialty bacon and is considered a delicacy. At one time in areas where olive trees were difficult to find, fatback was Italy’s basic cooking fat. It provides a rich, authentic flavor for the classic battuto (sautéed vegetables, herbs and flavorings) that forms the basis of many traditional Italian dishes.