I have this wonderful memory of my uncle Milenko sitting in the garage with his old paring knife, carefully carving off a piece of his house-smoked prosciutto for me to try. I was only about seven years of age at the time, and little did I know how much I would grow to appreciate the art of what he was doing.
London - Nov. 29, 2011 - I have this wonderful memory of my uncle Milenko sitting in the garage with his old paring knife, carefully carving off a piece of his house-smoked prosciutto for me to try. I was only about seven years of age at the time, and little did I know how much I would grow to appreciate the art of what he was doing. The salty ribbons of prosciutto would always be accompanied by plates of rustic rye bread, little piles of salt, and long green scallions for dipping. Chilled beer wasn't too far behind, with the odd sip being offered to us little ones.
It is interesting how evocative food can be. It's not as though our childhood memories play like a reel whenever we feel like visiting a moment from the past. Current events are the catalysts that inspire us to remember experiences from our childhood.
Take for example, I was walking through the Public Market on Granville Island in Vancouver the other evening. A favourite stop of mine is the famed Oyama Sausage Co., a market stall that can best be described as charcuterie heaven.
How could I not think of my uncle when I saw all the cured pork and other meat displayed in a multitude of configurations? Suddenly the scene from the garage came flooding back to me.
Charcuterie is the art of curing meat with the use of salt, smoke, brine, etc. While history necessitated it due to the lack of refrigeration, I think we can all understand why the practice continues today. The resulting products are absolutely delicious.
Christopher Soloman of The New York Times wrote that Oyama’s owner, Jan van der Lieck, ”may be the most gifted, and certainly the most diversely talented, meat man in North America.” This is high praise for van der Lieck, a fifth-generation charcutier who sharpened his artisanal skills with an uncle in BC after a decade of apprenticeship in Europe.
PHOTO CREDIT - Natalie Knezic
I have never tried to make charcuterie, but I love to put a board together for company. The saltiness of the meat and the varying textures such as chewy salchichon alongside flaked rillette are a great combination. Pair those with crisp, toasted bread, the tang of mustard and the crunch of pickles - all of it culminates in the allure of the board.
Before you set out a classic cheese plate for your guests, why not try an array of meats and pickled accompaniments instead? Go to your local deli or gourmet food shop to collect an assortment of offerings that will form a crowd-pleasing presentation. Your imagination is king - just make sure to incorporate different textures and a good variety of flavours. Possibilities include pâté, rillette, salami, prosciutto, terrine - the list is endless.
Accompaniments can include pickles, pickled green tomatoes, pickled beets, olives, walnuts, etc. The best vehicle for all of these wonderful flavours is rustic, toasted bread.
Charcuterie presents beautifully on a hardwood board, and it serves as a nice alternative or complement to cheese platters and vegetable trays for your upcoming holiday gatherings.
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