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Fundamentals of Charcuterie – Makin’ Bacon

The Professional Pastry Association, of which I am a member, recently held a Wine and Dessert Pairing class at the Saint Paul College, Saint Paul, MN. Tucked in the seminar brochure was a handout listing the summer classes being offered in the culinary school at the college.

I really enjoy making patés and terrines and I definitely enjoy sausage, so the class that caught my eye was entitled “Fundamentals of Charcuterie.” I wanted to see if I could replicate in any way the flavor of the sausages that I enjoyed when tasting those smoky links at a market in I’lsle sur la Sorgue. This town is in the south of France and one that we visited during our most recent trip across the pond.

This delightful town lies at the foot of the Vaucluse plateau in the plains of Comtat Venaissin. We were there on market day (okay we were actually there twice — once on our way to Avignon and then on our way back to Paris). Anyway, I digress.

The charcuterie class at the college started June 1. It is being taught by Chef Nathan Sartain. We meet four nights a week, three hours a night, for four weeks. Chef Sartain has been stuffing and smoking sausages for about 13 years and after having finish our first week, I know the class is in capable hands.

Our first evening was spent learning about dry cures and wet cures (brining) and believe it or not, how amino acids and peptides interact with salt and sugar. We also learned about the need to record the weight of the protein prior to dry curing and then weighing it again near the end of the estimated curing time. The finished weight determines if the product has been properly cured and ready to enjoy.

We started curing pork belly for bacon, crafting Bresaola, Finnocchiona (Tuscan-Style Salami), Gruanciale, Pancetta and Tasso. We’ll use the Tasso to make Jambalaya a little later in the series. We also started a Bologna and Capocollo Cotto.

If the next three weeks are anything like this first week has been, the class will be a great success. Oh, and I hope to blog on the Dessert and Wine Pairing class that I took recently some time in the future.?