It's been a while since I last wrote a Books for Cooks article, which is odd considering I own and read so many damn books. Like previously, I am going to focus on one niche of cookbook - and an invaluable one at that - Charcuterie! And if you are like me and just got up out of your seat and did a little dance for joy, this article is for you.
To view my two previous 'Books for Cooks' articles head here for Fine-dining, and here for Healthy Eating. I may have to update the healthy eating one soon - the likes of Jamie Oliver and Gizzi Ersine having put their considerably weighted 2 cents in on that topic and although I haven't the pleasure to flick through either of their books , I'm sure they're both winners.
Okay, back on topic. I, personally, consider Charcuterie to be in the Healthy Eating category - it is totally healthy for the soul, the taste buds and a person's general well-being. It is my 'chocolate', I turn to it when I need a little joy in my day, 'a salty shaving of joy'. Okay I digress slightly, but I have found two types of people in life - most are with me, in my love for Charcuterie and only few are against me (which is tolerable). One of my most vivid memories is having a simple salami and cheese sandwich at my Auntie's house as a kid - all store-bought ingredients, no fancy sourdough bread, no artisan, rare-breed pork and definitely a slice or two of factory-aged 'cheddar'. I can still taste that sandwich when I pull up that memory, so deliciously salty and now what I know to be Umami-packed, a sandwich honestly could not compete with salami and cheese in my childhood (especially not my usual lunchbox, room-temperature, Egg Mayo sandwiches, sorry Ma!).
So I have prattled on, waxed lyrical even, about my deeply rooted connection with charcuterie but it is with great regret that I am no expert in the making thereof of said pork (and sometimes other things are allowed) products. There are those that dedicate life, career and earnings on Charcuterie and those are the people me, and if you're like me, you, should look toward if you think you have the patience of mind and wish to turn a fair hand to this rewarding craft.
1. Charcuterie by Michael Ruhlman & Brian Polcyn - This book is definitely a tome of accumulated knowledge and experience in both the fields of writing and cooking. Ruhlman is a prolific food writer and always manages to cram in technique, jargon and information on cooking but his delivery always manages to dance on the edge of romantic. Brian Polcyn is a legendary chef and has collected many and vast accolades during his decorated career as a chef. Rumour has it he has left the stoves for teaching and to run his own commercial Charcuterie enterprise. The most important thing about this book for me is that recipes are both in US cups, tsp etc. and (thank god) normal chef persons grams.
2. Charcuterie and French Pork Cookery by Jane Grigson - I cannot let the US have all the credit for creating bibles to the pig and so I have to include, possibly my favourite Charcuterie book to flick through when I'm sat on my bed lacking my daily salt intake. Jane Grigson was an eloquent, no-nonsense food writer and this book was her first in a long list of publications (added points as it was also, albeit unusually, also published in French). Although the recipes within the book use the old imperial measurement system, I love the titbits and scraps of description and history that are studded throughout much like the prized green pistachios that I love to pick out of a slice of Mortadella.
3. The New Charcuterie Cookbook by Jamie Bissonnette - As the name might suggest, this fairly new book by the Boston-based meat maverick boasts a plethora of interesting takes on traditional charcuterie. Highlights of the book for me include: Goat Merguez, Saucisson Sec with Indian Flavour and Rabbit and Beer Pâté. This book is a captivating read with good photography (if you are a fan of meat), it is easy to pick up with a great range of recipes that would appeal to first time charcutiers and seasoned (wahey!) pros alike.