It’s not often you see me write about stuff other than food I’ve been cooking or sausages I’ve been making. That should tell you something about this particular acquisition. If you are into making sausages and curing meat you need to get yourself a copy of Charcuteria: The Soul of Spain, by Jeffrey Weiss.
Look, I love what the Italians do with pork. Pretty sure you can tell this about me if you’ve been reading this blog for any amount of time. I feel that as much as Italians cherish the pig, Spain reveres it. Cheryl and I have only traveled to Barcelona, a small part of the Pyrenees, and the Costa Brava so we’ve really only scratched the porcine skin. But what I’ve eaten in that corner of Spain has always amazed me. Especially the sausages. Real surprise there, huh?
The first time I had butifarra and beans was while sitting at a La Boqueria food counter in Barcelona, which I think is a very good place to eat it for the first time. I instantly knew at some point I had to learn how to make it. Since then I’ve been searching for a good recipe for it but what I’d find always seemed like a similar version of Saucisse Toulouse. Always wanted to make lomo and fresh chorizo as well but again, recipes fell short. This vexed me no small amount, why were these techniques and recipes so elusive?
Part of it, I think is because the Spanish keep all the good stuff in Spain. According to the Charcuteria, Spain produces 40 million hams but only exports 10% of them. They keep 36 million hams all to themselves! The population of Spain is around 46 million so that’s like ¾ of a ham per person. See what I mean when I say revere the pig? So when this popped up in my Amazon ‘you might like’ feed it was a no-brainer. Click and ship please.
Charcuteria is better than I could have hoped for. It starts out very similar to Ruhlman’s Charcuterie, explaining the cuts of the pig and basic charcuterie techniques. You then get a very descriptive narrative of the matanza, the old school-family-gathering-way of slaughtering and butchering the pig. Reading about it, I’m like, yes I need to attend one of these.
From there Mr. Weiss moves onto cures, brines, and marinades; the building blocks. Again, structured very similar to Ruhlman’s Charcuterie. Once the foundation is laid you’re looking at how to cure hams, make dried sausages, fresh sausages, smoked sausages, and here’s where I get extremely excited…blood sausages. I’ve found these are very difficult to come by, mostly because pork blood, fresh pork blood is extremely difficult to source so no one is writing about it much here. I think I just need my own pig.
What I really love about this book, other than the charcuterie techniques and recipes, are the many recipes he gives which incorporate all these things into the awesomeness of Spanish comfort foods. Like butifarra and white beans, jamon croquetas, and something which really caught my eye – carcamusa; what he describes as the best chili you will ever have consisting of ground pork and cured meats. Not only that, but you get good background/stories about the recipes and the various regions they come from. As you can imagine recipes differ from place to place, just like everywhere else in the world.
The book came out in 2014 and I don’t know how I missed it then. Luckily I found it and I highly recommend it for anyone who’s into sausage making or meat curing. It’s a must-have for your library. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to get moving on some charcuteria.