It’s been a long time coming on this post, but better late than never (I love clichés)! So as I’d previously mentioned, I’d received this class as a birthday gift from my boyfriend, Jake. Both of us love charcuterie, and I guess most people do because with it generally comes a relaxed environment, wine, cheese, good conversation, and just general all round warm vibes. It’s also an area of cooking that I personally don’t even think about. I’m always thinking about baked treats, sauces, and meals, but I’d never thought about charcuterie as something I could make at home. The foreign nature of it was why we chose to do the class.
I’m ashamed to say that I hadn’t stepped foot in Save On Meats before this class, although I did order our 2011 Thanksgiving turducken from them – highly recommended by the way. De-boned but still in turkey pure meat form. Although they don’t advertise it, most of their meat cuts are organic, free run, grass fed, pure good healthy meat. Their butchery was praised with ‘Bronze’ for “Best Butcher in The City” in the Westender, Georgia Straight and The Vancouver Courier. Save On Meats is an institution in Vancouver, more specifically in the downtown east side. The organisation is involved in a number of groups in the neighbourhood to offer employment opportunities, meal programs, subsidized classes and other quite honourable initiatives.
The class was taken by Cork & Fin chef, Elliott Hashimoto. He talked us through the ins and outs of charcuterie at home, which were remarkably quite simple – well kinda. The actual making of salami, pepperoni, prosciutto is actually a quick easy process. The hard part is getting yourself set up. You need a meat grinder, sausage stuffer, and the exact right environment for sausage curing. Once you’ve got that you’re good to go. You only need a handful of ingredients, and if you check the ingredients on store bought salami, it’s like another never ending story. What blew my mind is that Save On Meats would make roughly $150 from one salami roll, and it would cost only $10 to make it at home!
Some things I learnt about curing meat:
- Grind the meat fresh as you’re using it & don’t man handle it too much or you’ll break down the fat
- The meat must have 30% fat
- The right environment for curing is about 10°C and 70% humidity. A basement type room. Elliot uses a mini fridge cranked on high with a big hole at the top
- You need a ‘basic cure recipe’ which is 1lb kosher salt, 8oz granulated sugar and 2oz pink salt. Pink salt contains 93.75% table salt and 6.25% sodium nitrite which helps suck out the moisture from the meat. Use 1 cup per 5 pounds of meat/ fat.
You take your meat of choice - if using a lean meat like venison, make sure to add fat to it - pork fat for example and work it into the grinder. Pick your spices (dried are better as its less likely for the meat to go rancid while curing), add your basic cure, give it a mix and stuff it in some casing. Next you hang it up and wait for it to charm your dinner guests.
It was fun playing with all the machinery, and stuffing the sausages in the casings was quite hilarious. Actually watching Jake do it was probably the highlight. Save On Meats still had their original sausage stuffer- fire engine red, aesthetically rough around the edges, but still worked like a charm. It was a fun, educational class. Other attendees were a lot older than Jake and I, so it was more on the quiet side, but still a good atmosphere. I would recommend going – and you walk away with so much meat that the class pretty much pays for itself. We decided not to cure the sausages we made, as we aren’t quite ready to invest in the equipment in our 530 sq feet apartment, so we’ve been eating them as sausages. And still eating them might I add.
Here are some pics from the night.
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