Curing and smoking bacon at home was one of the first truly transforming food experiences I ever had. Bacon was something that I only knew in its anemic, commercial form; the homemade is robust and flavourful, and it really shocked me. And the smell of smoke stuck in my clothes for the next day or so. Making bacon really affected me. From there I went on to cure hams, make sausages, and explore many of the mildly grotesque aspects of charcuterie, like working with blood and skin. I think this is by far the most thorough section of Button Soup.
I would recommend whole muscle, cooked charcuterie items like bacon and ham as a first step into charcuterie. All you have to track down is curing salt, meat, and possibly wood chips for smoking. Otherwise, everything you need to make these items can be purchased at the grocery store.
Ham and Other Brined Cuts of Meat
- On Brining Meat
- Brine Injection
- Ham Hocks
- Fir-Smoked Ham
- Smoked Pork Loin – Kassler Rippchen
- Bath Chaps, Traditional
- Bath Chaps, Button Soup-style
- Cured Pork Tongue
- Corned Beef
With a few whole-muscle, cooked preparations under your belt it’s on to sausage-making. This is also quite simple, once you understand the basic principles described in the Beginner’s Sausage-Making post. It does require some special equipment: a grinder, stuffer, mixer, and casings, which represent a small investment of roughly $250-$350.
- Beginner’s Sausage-Making
- Intermediate Sausage-Making
- Air-Dried Sausages
- Blood Sausage
- Skin Sausage
- Commercial Sausage Additives
If you can make good sausage, pâtés and terrines are actually quite simple. The fundamentals are the same, and you don’t have to mess around with getting the meat into casings.
To me air-dried charcuterie, and especially air-dried sausage, is where everything comes together. You pull all of your various charcuterie skills together into one preparation: grinding and mixing a good sausage blend, incubating bacterial cultures, curing, and air-drying. The stakes are a bit higher, as you are investing more time (a few weeks even for slender air-dried sausages like saucisson sec) and really starting to push into true preservation, keeping meat out of the fridge for weeks or months at a time.