Charcuterie

By Roseanne McKee

Reprinted with permission of the Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise

Part of history from the beginning of mankind is using cooking techniques enabling food to be kept so that none of it will be wasted and food reserves can be established. Ways of preserving meat — confit, pate, sausage, bacon, ham, smoked salmon, smoked trout, lox and salmon cured with salt and seasoning are all part of the specialty called charcuterie — salting, smoking and cooking meat.

The word charcuterie combines two French words — chair (flesh) and cuit (cooked). The term was originally limited to pork but over time these techniques have been used on other meats and foods.

In the cookbook “Charcuterie: the craft of salting, smoking and curing” by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn, Ruhlman writes, “[y]ou can confit many cuts of meat. Goose, in addition to duck, of course, chicken or turkey — or a pork loin. It’s a remarkable thing: you can buy a supermarket pork loin, unnaturally lean now and flavorful as cardboard, and, with the basic confit method, turn it into something so tasty you’d swear voodoo were involved.”

The word confit literally means preserved. This was a French technique in which duck, for example, was salted for a period of time and then poached in its own fat, then immersed in that fat and kept until needed, Ruhlman said.

Charcutiers were esteemed French tradesmen, who belonged to guilds, and who played an essential role in maintaining the food supply in their communities, said Ruhlman.

Co-author Brian Polcyn, an accomplished chef who teaches charcuterie, refers to charcuterie as a practice because it is a technique “you’re always learning, always practicing, never perfecting, because the conditions are always changing. …”

While charcuterie is an ever-present part of the European culinary scene, it is less prevalent in Oklahoma.

Nonetheless, there are places that offer it — Ludivine in Oklahoma City being one of them. Ludivine, located at 805 N. Hudson in OKC, has a charcuterie platter on the menu offering country pate, rabbit liver mousse, rabbit rillettes, house cured salmon, Berkshire Lardo, foie gras mousse and a daily cheese selection.

Another establishment gaining a reputation for curing meat on site is Fassler Hall, which makes all of its sausage in house with Oklahoma-sourced pork. A few of the sausages offered at the two locations (Tulsa and OKC) are — bratwurst, lamb sausage, hot Italian sausage and the hunter, a sausage made from venison, buffalo and pork. Duck fat fries come free with each order.

In Oklahoma salting and smoking may have been the preferred method to preserve meats.

Salt not only flavors meat, it preserves it by disabling the microbes that feed on food. Salt pulls water out of the meat and thereby dehydrates it.

Sauerkraut, a tasty addition to a sausage meal, is basically salted cabbage. Olives, a staple of charcuterie platters, when soaked in saltwater are transformed from a bitter fruit into a delicious one.

The Egyptians were possibly the first to brine olives. According to the authors of “Charcuterie,” the Egyptians “were possibly the first people to preserve food with salt on a large scale,” which they used for their own food supply and for trade.

The authors said, because the Egyptians did not consume swine, the Celts were said to have invented ham during the Iron Age, around 1,000 B.C. The Celts shared ham with the Romans. A favorite ham of the Romans was Westphalia, which endures as one of the world’s finest hams. Westpahalia is a region in today’s northwestern Germany.

Viking, who preserved cod, were sustained by this cured fish as they traveled to distant shores.

Ruhlman wrote, “The Vikings also secretly fished for cod in the New World, (keeping the discovery of Nova Scotia to themselves, centuries before Columbus crossed the Atlantic), then salting it to sell throughout Catholic Europe, no doubt a thriving trade on meatless Fridays and during Lent, when pork was off limits.”

Long journeys became possible only when cultures learned to preserve large amounts of food, Ruhlman said.

“Curing with salt and smoking go hand in hand,” Ruhlman stated. Smoking inhibits microbes that would spoil meat and impart flavor. That flavor changes depending on the wood used.

“It’s critical to use only hardwoods in smoking foods,” Ruhlman said. He recommends, hickory, maple and fruitwoods while soft woods should be avoided because they contain unpalatable sap, or resin.

Ruhlman recommends using fruitwoods for a mild sweet smoked flavor and pear for smoking fish. Cherry is popular in Michigan to create smoked duck, he said.

“The pairing of applewood smoke and bacon is so felicitous it’s become almost commonplace,” Ruhlman wrote.

Home cooks can easily hot smoke, or cook meats at a temperature at or above 150 degrees, in a smoker. Ruhlman recommends 180 degrees as optimal for hot smoking sausages and 200 degrees for smoking whole cuts of meat.

Home cooks should take note that most recipes involving smoking require pink salt, or sodium nitrite, as a preservative against botulism poisoning, Ruhlman said. However, food that goes from the refrigerator to the hot smoker doesn’t require pink salt, he added.

Whether you smoke some meat yourself this summer, or go to one of the restaurants in Oklahoma that serve charcuterie, here’s wishing you some delicious charcuterie experiences!

What are Super Foods and do they Taste Good?

By: Roseanne McKee

Recently, two specialists at Navitas Naturals held a webinar to provide information about what super foods are with suggestions about how to add them to our diets.

According to the Navitas Naturals website, a super food is “a nutrient-dense fruit or vegetable that contains a high content of anti-oxidents, protein, omega-3, minerals, fiber or other essential nutrients.”

Mullin emphasized that super foods are those which are not genetically modified (non-GMO), native sourced and minimally processed.

Describing the super foods they sell, Navitas product specialist Arthur Mullin said, “these foods have been honored in cultures around the world for centuries.”

The first super food that Julie Morris, who creates recipes for Navitas Naturals, introduced was cacao nibs, which she said were similar in flavor to a chocolate-covered espresso bean. Although not sweet themselves, Morris said cacao nibs can easily be incorporated into sweet baked goods.
cacaonibs
“They have a crunch which adds a textural element,” she said. “They also add a spark or zest as a topping to cakes or ice cream.”

Cacao in powder form is also a great substitute for cocoa, said Mullin. Cacao powder is made by cold-pressing cacao nibs and then processing them at a low temperature. This low temperature processing, preserves the nutrients, Mullin said.

“You can switch out cacao powder on a one-to-one ratio replacement for cocoa in recipes,” Morris said. “Anywhere you use cocoa powder, you can use cacao powder.”

Morris also recommends cacao in savory recipes such as chili or molé sauce.

Her favorite super food is chia, which is sold in seed form and as a powder. High in fiber, chia is rich in omega 3 and 6 fatty acids. Chia’s ratio of these fatty acids is a three to one ratio, which promotes certain kinds of health, she explained.
chiaseeds
Mullin said: “Chia attracts and absorbs moisture, ten times its weight in water, so it’s a good source of gentle fiber.”

Chia in water produces a gel that has culinary applications.
chiasoaked
“Because of the jelling properties, the chia seeds, by adding water for 15 minutes, become a textural treat,” Morris said. They act as a flavor carrier, adding texture to guacamole, pudding, sauces, jelly and classic chia fresca – a Mexican drink.

Among chia’s benefits are that chia seed are low in calories, have virtually no flavor, and just a handful give you the nutritional benefits, Morris explained.

“They’re also good in cereal, soups and yogurt,” Mullin said.

Another super food is goji berries, sundried and ready to eat or available as a freeze-dried powder. Rich in iron and calcium, these mildly sweet berries from China are the subject of folklore and mythology, Mullin said.
gojiberries
“They look like little red raisins with a tart, sweet taste,” Morris said. They are good in muffins, oatmeal, smoothies and as a hot tea. “Goji berries are a natural companion to cacao,” Mullin said.

Morris: “In savory recipes, after hydrated in water, they are somewhat like tomatoes, so they are good in salsa and add color to recipes.”

At his company, the goji berries sold have no additives, pollutants, are non-GMO and are third party tested to ensure they are organic,” Morris added.

Another super food, Maca, is Mullin’s favorite super food. “It was our first product and is still a cornerstone product, offered in a gelatinous form and dry.”
maca
At Navita Naturals, maca is processed using low temperatures to preserve its nutrients, Mullins said.

Mullin: “It is native to Peru and Bolivia and grows there exclusively in conditions of high temperatures to 135 degrees and below zero in nutrient scarce soil. It contains amino acids that support our endocrine system and balance or hormone system – stress and sex hormones.”

Morris: “Raw maca powder has a stronger flavor. As a chef, I absolutely adore it … it has a flavor you can’t hide, so you have to either celebrate it or not use it.”

Describing maca’s flavor Morris said, “imagine something earthy with notes of carrot, radish and butterscotch.”

As such maca has flavor friends and flavor enemies. According to Morris, maca’s flavor enemies are: fresh fruit, peaches, apples and leafy greens.

Morris: “Maca’s flavor friends are other types of roots: carrots, tubers, yams and sweet potatoes, which bring out the butterscotch flavor we love. I love using maca in baked recipes. It goes well with grains, carmel flavors and chocolate. One fruit maca goes with is banana, so it’s good in smoothies with banana and cacao. It’s really a phenomenal flavor!”

Mullin said, “super food snacks (seeds and nuts) paired with the super foods are a great way to be introduced to these super foods.”

Mullin concluded by suggesting: “try to know the story of your food, its source its history; try being mindful of just how special these foods are!”

Visit their website to learn more at http://www.navitasnaturals.com.

Recipe for Chocolate Cheese Cupcakes served by Janice Cranor, Osage County OSU Extension Educator Family & Consumer Sciences at the April seminar


Chocolate Cheese Cupcakes

This tasty recipe was provided to Janice Cranor over 30 years ago by Betty Kloeckler of Checotah, Okla.

Makes 18 cupcakes

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Ingredients:

1 & ½ C. flour

1 C. sugar

¼ C. cocoa

1 tsp. soda

¼ tsp. salt

Mix all dry ingredients above & add wet ingredients below and beat until smooth.

1 C. water

4 T. vegetable oil

1 T. vinegar

1 tsp. vanilla

Fill muffin tins ½ full. Set aside and mix cream cheese mixture.

1-8 oz. package cream cheese (softened)

1/3 C. sugar

1 egg

6 oz. package chocolate chips

Cream together and place 1 T. on top of chocolate batter in muffin tins. Optional-sprinkle finely chopped nuts on top.

Bake for 25 minutes in 350 degree oven or until the top springs back when touched.

Served at Extension Café-Salsa Savvy-April 2011

Janice M. Cranor, OSU Extension Educator
Family & Consumer Sciences, Osage County

Enjoy!