And so it goes. Our year of meat has come to a close. For the final Charcutepalooza challenge we were told to show what we learned all year. In Cathy’s own words, do some “showing off” with a celebration. Personally, I think a lot of the Charcutepalooza participants have been showing off all year long—and I mean that in a very positive way. I’ve had an immense amount of fun, a little frustration and a minor failure, but mostly huge fun.
The final challenge for me involved my family and the weekend after Thanksgiving, a leisurely weekend of chopping down a Christmas tree and putting up lights and decorations, all while enjoying the meats and cheeses you see on the big board above. The bresaola I had made for the previous challenge, all the rest of the charcuterie I slowly assembled over the month of November in preparation for the bittersweet end.
As I said, it was the weekend after Thanksgiving. My parents were visiting us from their home in Florida. My wife had four days off from work. My daughters were constantly excited from all the grandparent attention and all these Christmas decorations coming out—there’s a tree in the house! I knew I wasn’t going to want to cook too much after the multi-day extravaganza that is Thanksgiving, but I knew we’d want to eat something else besides leftovers so thought, what’s better than a spread of charcuterie that we can pick at as we work and play?
I made all these photographs and then we proceeded to clear the board over the weekend, cooking up the sausage and some of the lamb bacon, steaming the pastrami until it was moist and tender. My mother loved the pâté, something she doesn’t get that often, and I avoided mentioning to her that using Jacques Pépin’s very classical recipe calls for half a pound of livers with 3/8 of a pound of butter as the base. As much as I would love to see my girls eat everything on the board, they’re not there yet, though Brigid did sample all the Farmstead cheeses at the Wintertime Farmers’ Market and helped pick out two of them.
When I was making the pâté the day before I had taken out a bottle of Armenian “cognac.” I use quotes because it’s obviously not made in the French region of Cognac, but that’s what Armenian brandies have been called for many years. Supposedly Armenian cognac was Winston Churchill’s drink of choice. My dad hadn’t seen a bottle in years and wanted to try it so my wife, in perhaps a bit of whimsy, took out a couple of shot glasses with shamrocks on them for us to have a drink. The bottle from Armenia alongside the Irish shot glass kind of summed up our whole family so I made a photo, but this being a Charcutepalooza feast I had to stick the pâté in the photo too.
So with that memory and image of all my now eaten charcuterie (there’s a little lamb bacon left, but won’t be for long) I close my year of meat. But I certainly can’t end without a huge thank you to Cathy Barrow and Kim Foster for coming up with all this fun. I’ve been making charcuterie for years, but never as regularly or as focused as I did for the last year. Also, for me, the best part was expanding how I would photograph these things. I started with some different ways with the duck prosciutto, became really happy with my style as I got to the pancetta and the last three months of meat pie, galantine and bresaola have been very satisfying for me. I appreciate all the kind comments and Kim’s choosing a few of my photos for her monthly wrap-ups. I can’t thank her and especially Cathy’s inspiring challenges and tweets enough.
Special thanks also to Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn, authors of our manual for the year Charcuterie. I eagerly await their salumi book. Finally, I can’t possibly think of a way to say thank you enough to all the wonderful Charcutepalooza participants. I can’t say enough about the joy of “conversing” with all of you on Twitter. If I begin to try and list everyone’s Twitter name I know I’ll miss someone, so check out this great archive of every tweet with the #charcutepalooza tag and follow them all.