I'm coming to you today, guzzling water to cure a corned beef "hangover". Our friends' annual corned beef and cabbage feast last night was amazing, as always, but for the sake of our salt intake I know why we only do it on St. Pat's Day.
With that delicious cured meat still in mind, however, I want to tell you about a book called Olympia Provisions.
Authored by Elias Cairo with help from writer Meredith Erickson--and based on Cairo's Portland charcuterie and restaurants of the same name--Olympia Provisions is a cured meat lovers instruction manual/adventure log.
About a third of the book is personal memoir--Cairo's Greek family history and time in Switzerland learning the craft. If you love stories of foodways being passed down over family dinners and discovered in tiny villages high in the Alps, you'll enjoy this part. The pictures are gorgeous, too, which never hurts my feelings.
And then there are the projects--I always think of charcuterie as a "project" more than a "recipe"--which are pretty comprehensive, ranging from simple pork rillettes to much more advanced fermented, dry-cured salami.
Lastly, for the final third of the book, Cairo gives the reader recipes to accompany and use up all those beautiful cured meats. Think, fluffy sweet cream biscuits and bratwurst gravy.
We didn't have any problem with that last "using the cured meat up" part, though.
I started with a simple capicola, as Cairo recommends, and--with a bite here and a slice there--it has mostly just magically found its way into our bellies. Presto ham-o!
Not only was Cairo's capicola good, as far a charcuterie projects go, it was so easy to make.
I was able to find a coppa--the piece of meat I needed to start with--at the grocery store. (It's part of a Boston Butt.) And while I did have a little trouble separating the coppa from the rest of the roast, I attribute that mostly to the "help" I was getting from our resident small folk. It wasn't really that hard once I got the geography worked out.
Likewise, the ingredients and tools needed are probably stuff you have on hand. I had to dig in my basement to find our curing salt and order a ham bag from Amazon, but otherwise it's basic salt, sugar, pepper, plastic bags, etc.
While Michael Ruhlman's book will probably always be the bible of charcuterie, Olympia Provisions is a nice supplement. It's hefty enough to tell you what you need to know to be successful, but with enough story to keep it from becoming a dry, scientific treatise. I'm excited to continue working my way through it.
But slowly. Because there is so much salt in my body right now. While I go get another twenty glasses of water, here's a version of that capicola recipe for you to try.
[I received a copy of this book from Blogging for Books.]