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A ‘Window into the Charcutiers’ World of Cold Meats

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Chef Ravi works as a Chef Instructor at Culinary Academy Of India

At the Culinary Academy of India, there are plenty of opportunities to be great and do great work. Working on the world record for the largest cold meat platter was one of them. The 48 hour arduous task was quite the undertaking, but achieving the world record with my fellow chefs is a moment worth cherishing. In this article, I’d like to share my experience working on this record and what all I had to learn on the way before we set about accomplishing it.

Food hoarding and storage has been a necessity since the ancient times. Ever since as far back as the 7th century, the Greeks, Romans and Scandinavian countries have turned to preserving meat for cold winters. The first records of preserved, cured foods are from Scandinavia where people accidentally hung fish & meat near the fire to keep it protected from scavenging animals. This salty, smoky meat was rich in nutrients and doubled up as the perfect diet substitute through the harsh winter months.

a-window-into-the-charcutiers-world-of-cold-meats

As time went on, more preservation procedures and techniques were developed and today we can experience many cured products in a multitude of different flavors. The most common of these techniques are:

  1. Curing & Brining: Curing is an umbrella terms that refers to an act or method of preserving foods. Usually lean thin meats are cured with salt in a dry process. Brining on the other hand is used for heavy chunks of meats where the complete meat chunk is injected with and also soaked in brine.
  2. Preserving in fat: Cold meatsfrom game animals and poultry are generally preserved or simmered in rendered fat as it prevents the meat from being exposed to air, all while allowing the proteins in the meat to soften slightly, creating a more tender, less chewy product.
a-window-into-the-charcutiers-world-of-cold-meats

3. Smoking: The goal of smoking is to give food the familiar flavor and smell that comes from cooking on natural wood. There are two style variations in smoking: hot smoking, where the meat is partially cooked and cold smoking, where the meat remains uncooked.

4. Drying: Drying is generally done before smoking to form a pellicle (thin skin) around the meat. Air drying is normally done in temperature controlled environments to increase the shelf life of products while making them safe to store at room temperatures. Products treated this way include the bresaola, beef jerky, Smithfield ham, Prosciutto Crudo di Parma and more.

a-window-into-the-charcutiers-world-of-cold-meats

Due to the style’s European origin, several core traits of this style come from there. Pigs were the preferred animals of choice for Greeks when it came to religious sacrifices. The Romans also shared this fondness for pork cookery, developing & refining how it was cooked. The Italians continued this development and today, are world famous for their hams& sausages which can either be consumed raw or cooked in various techniques.Yet still, amongthese products the main preservation comes from curing mixtures or brine solutions used in the form of various salts.

Hams, the most distinctive of all cured products, exhibit the art and skill of the charcutier. Hams like bacon and Praga can either be cured wet or dry cure. But hams were only designed to preserve meat, not to add flavor to it. Adding flavor is different, and that’s where sausages come in.

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a-window-into-the-charcutiers-world-of-cold-meats

Famous cold meats from France include terrines, pates en croute, galantines, luncheon meats, ballotines and roulades, a majority of which have some amount of pork in it.The setup below highlights French cold cuts including rustic old-fashioned pies to modern peasant foie gras, all served cold!

The main process employed while making these products is called ‘Forcemeat’ which is a technique done by grinding and emulsifying the meat and fat alongside herbs, spices, seasonings. Forcemeat is of four types:

  1. Straight forcemeats:Equal quantities of pork & pork fat are added to dominant meat beforegrinding&processing.
  2. Country-style forcemeats: These forcemeats often have some percentage the liver added alongside the pork and pork fat before coarsely grinding and bringing it all together.
  3. Gratin forcemeats: In this, some of the dominant meat is grounded, cooked, cooled, and is then added to other meats for grounding.
  4. Mousselines: These are basically light forcemeats which are formed from leaned white meats like poultry, fish.The addition of cream and eggs givesthem a light, rich flavor alongside a silky smooth texture.

The process of making cold meats is no easy task, and giving them a touch of something your own is much harder than it may seem. Equipment plays an important role in ensuring your cold meats stay true to its flavor and texture. In fact, most of the process happens in chilled environments with chilled machines to ensure no heat enters the procedure. This is because heat can coagulate the protein, severely deteriorating the quality and usability of the final product.

Over a period, the many different steps like mixing, chopping, grinding involvedin making cold meats have come down and innovations and alterations have ensured a superior and thriving cold meat category. And to carry forward this skill and tradition is what gives charcuterie its own place in the world of cooking – and Brand CAI a proud world record to display.

a-window-into-the-charcutiers-world-of-cold-meats

Also developed to preserve meat – sausages – burst with flavor and come in different sizes and textures. In the early days, butchers and culinarians used different parts of slaughtered animals for different purposed and the intestine, stomach and caul were used to make ‘casings’. These casing were stuffed by charcutiers with seasoned, chopped or ground meat mixed with different herbs and spices. As the universal demand and appeal of sausages increased, manmade casings were introduced in to the market.

One cannot talk about European food influences in any subtopic and leave the French out. The French have had a pronounced impact on the evolution of food, and in case of cold meats, the same holds true. Back in the 15th century France, local guilds practiced the art of making cold meats and sold themin a delicatessen style shopknown as charcuteries (in French ‘chair’ means meat, ‘cuit’ means cooked/processed) run by professionals called charcutiers.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2020 BrandCai

Comments

Unnati on November 05, 2020:

Very informative article with in detail description about all topics .

Chef Shiladitya Dutta on November 02, 2020:

Writing is aresult of intensive and extensive research.

Kranthi kiran on September 26, 2020:

Very informative chef and good sharing article

Srikanth on September 25, 2020:

A great knowledge sharing article and can sense the amount of hard work went into creating the world record.

Shiladityadutta on September 24, 2020:

Praiseworthy Writing Chef.

Ankit Mathur on September 24, 2020:

Very informative chef..and also highights the opportunities and learning in cold kitchen

Fernanadez A on September 24, 2020:

I was there in the College when this world's longest cold meat platter which got World Record was made in Culinary Academy of India. It was a feast of classical cold meats of Europe and I enjoyed a lot specially the Sucking Pig , Salami Genoa, Ham Vollandam etc.......CAI always Rocks and the BEST.

Fernanadez A

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