It has been an extraordinarily busy winter (my writing season) and I haven’t finished a post since December, but I wrote this piece below as a guide to an annual dinner I offer at my restaurant. It sold out all three seatings more than a month in advance and I consider the event a huge success. I present this here because the guide brings together many of my passions, cooking, history, culture and expression and it seems an appropriate way to preserve my own identity and culture through food and writing.
Charcuterie, (French: from chair ‘flesh’ and cuit ‘cooked’) is the branch of cooking devoted to prepared meat products, such as bacon, ham, sausage, terrines, galantines, pâtés, and confit, primarily from pork. …originally intended as a way to preserve meat before the advent of refrigeration, they are prepared today for their flavors derived from the preservation processes. Wikipedia 3/10/2013
Today’s American Charcuterie celebration recognizes the spirit of our American ancestors who struggled with survival in hostile environments, often in the face of incivility and oppression, yet they preserved their humanity and culture in foods that have endured.
All items in a dish are not named; if you have severe allergies please consult your server.
Date Nips are an exotic start from the East where most of the warm spices that give our charcuterie distinctive flavors originated: Medjool date stuffed with ground pork sausage, goat cheese, warm spices, topped with Aceto Balsamico di Modena.
Charcuterie Board contains these items plus other samples from the entree and appetizer section:
Shoulder Ham: Our Acadian ancestors took the art of the charcutier with them to Louisiana and many of our historic New England, Quebec and New Brunswick, (French) recipes find relatives in Cajun cooking. This ham is made in the Cajun tasso style and we use it often as an ingredient, however the heavy marbling of the pork shoulder makes it a delicious snacking ham. It’s made with Quebec pork shoulder, curing salts, heavy seasonings, sugar, and hot smoked with cherry & maple woods.
Country Pate: Pork Liver Pate preserved with curing salts, warm spices and pistachios is a rich elevation of offal to the very top of the food hierarchy; made with Pork, pork liver, fat back, pistachios, green onions, garlic, warm spices, salts, egg, and cream.
Summer Sausage: Maple Meat Stick is our favorite house recipe of this quick fermented and smoked sausage. These kinds of sausages offered settlers throughout North America a safe easy way to preserve meat indefinitely without canning or heavy salting. In sorts, the tradition carries on in the deli section of every supermarket. Contains pork, beef, fatback, curing salts, black pepper, fresh garlic, oregano, Maine maple syrup.
Dry Cured Meat Stick: This is a thinner, fully air dried version of the same Maple Meat Stick, made in a smaller natural casing for quick drying.
Candied Pecans: Baking and salting or candied nuts preserve the nuts from rot and bring out their natural richness. Our candied pecans are made with butter, honey, sugar, salt, spice.
Hahn’s End Cheese (Phippsburg, ME): Nutty rich semi-hard cheese made from unpasteurized local cow’s milk.
Pineland Farm Cheese (New Gloucester, ME): Native Rustic Cheddar: Sharp crumbly aged cheddar made from local cow’s milk.
House Made Cold Pack Pickles: Dill pickles, sweet pickles, pickled peppers and pickled beets.
Handmade crusty bread.
A delicious treat, ask for more anytime.
Appetizers are small portions, you can order at any time during your meal.
Fresh Pork Sausage: Our freshies represent the quintessential delicious natural flavor of pork gently complimented with garlic, salt, pepper and sage. These are sausages that would be made and eaten on or near pig harvest day.
Northern European Smoke Cured Sausage: Our Neuros might remind you of kielbasa, which is the Polish word for sausage; however, ours are seasoned more like a German bratwurst, stuffed into a large natural casing and smoke-cured during slow wood cooking then sliced and served on house made sauerkraut. They contain only pork (somewhat lean) and spices.
Sausage Gravy: The ubiquitous American biscuits and sausage gravy almost never sucks, but it’s so much better when made with fresh ground breakfast sausage and a just baked biscuit; made with uncased fresh sausage, onions, thyme, milk, cream, butter, flour.
Grilled Shrimp on a Stick: This may not be charcuterie, but it is historic, without this particular menu item Beale Street Barbeque may have never survived as a road-side stand. It has also proved to be the single most popular appetizer on all previous Whole Hog events, so we include it again: Domestic gulf shrimp, peppers, onions, pineapple, spices.
Heart and Kidney Pie: Most offal is far too precious to let go to waste; carefully prepared with pork, fresh garlic, fresh tarragon, and fresh mushrooms, hearts and kidneys make a wonderful meat pie with a distinctive snap.
Head Cheese: The first head cheese I ate was in New Brunswick Canada and it looked and ate like a course ground Bologna. We make an Italian style (Coppa di Testa) terrine with the lean “well rendered” meat from the head and neck as well as a few choice pieces of ear and skin, but no offal. It is thickened with the stock from cooking the pig heads and trotters and seasoned with clove, nutmeg, black pepper and cinnamon.
Roasted Red Pepper and Black Trumpet Loaf: Our mortadella (fancy bologna) is made with roasted red peppers, local black trumpet wild mushrooms, pork, and fatback seasoned with mace and other warm spices. To be honest, in creating this recipe, I imagined the olive loaf and macaroni & cheese loaf which I grew up eating at school in my bagged lunch. Our mortadella goes perfectly with our lemon-Parmesan aioli & some fresh sliced red onion.
Pork and Potato Pie: Our Tourtiere pie recalls my French Canadian friends and how excited they were for Christmas and “Too Che” pie. Because of the expensive warm spices our version of Tourtiere would be typical of a colonial Christmas Tourtiere throughout Northern Maine and the Canadian maritime provinces, but more modest versions were and are enjoyed year round throughout the region to this day; made with pork, potato, onion, warm spices, curing salts, lard.
Pork Cretons: We call it pork butter, Creton is another gift of our French-Canadian heritage; sort of like rillettes, it is pork ground and slow cooked with clove, salt, and lots of onions, it’s then blended, chilled and commonly eaten on toast with eggs for breakfast, but we find it delicious anytime. Our cretons contain Pork, onion, salt, clove, & a smige of potato.
Salmon Rillettes: True rillettes are made with fatty pork, often the belly trim, which is poached in fat like confit. We use the belly meat of fresh antibiotic-free farm-raised Atlantic salmon, whole butter, a little spice, and some orange brandy to make this slow butter-poached and chilled salmon spread.
Rabbit Confit: A good confit, meat cured, poached in fat, then chilled while still within the cooking fat, tucked away in a chilly, safe place would preserve game for the entire winter. Our rabbit confit is made in pork fat with aromatic herbs and bay leaf, salt and pepper, minced, chilled and served on toast.
Ham-bone Rutabaga will make you feel good and prepare you for whole hog.
When you think of it, a pig is essentially the archetypal sausage. When you cook a whole pig in its own skin with minimal seasoning the true deliciousness of the pork is revealed. Our pig lived a happy organic life on Cornerstone Farm in Palmyra, Maine. Only days ago it was rooting natural food from under the snow and romping with its pals. Our farmer gave the pig respect and freedom to live a pig’s life, we echo that respect by using it thoroughly (charcuterie’s goal) and cooking and serving it in its most primal and deliciously natural form: pulled pig.
Try your pig with these delicious sides and order more at any time: collard greens, Maine mashed potato and gravy, baked macaroni and cheese, slow baked yellow eyed beans with molasses and salt pork, fresh crisp coleslaw, braised sauerkraut.
Entrées are small portions, you can order at any time during your meal.
Barbecuban: A unique adaptation of an American classic, our house country ham is thin sliced and grilled with pulled pork, Swiss cheese is melted on top and the whole package rides on fresh baked crusty white bread with bourbon mustard, and sliced dill pickles, muy bueno!
Pastrami and Swiss: We hope to honor one of the world’s finest sandwich meats with our house beef pastrami, brined for two weeks, seasoned with coriander and black pepper, smoked with cherry wood, and braised to perfect tenderness; it is served on a handmade rye roll with melted Swiss cheese and Dijon mustard, accompanied by a side of braised house sauerkraut.
Char-Grilled Country Ham: The centerpiece of American Charcuterie is the country ham, brined for weeks, gently hot smoked, and hung in a cool safe place — or left in the back of the smokehouse — a well-made ham could last from slaughter in December until Easter. Ours is made with fresh organic Quebec pork, gently seasoned with clove and other warm spices and smoked with light cherry and maple wood, then grilled to order and served with grilled fresh pineapple.
Pork Ribs: Ribs for me are a reminder of how the human spirit and ingenuity can make good things from life’s worst dregs. Slave owners cut out the bacon from the belly and gave the “worthless” bones to their captives. From those bones African Americans created an icon of American cuisine; as always we use all natural Quebec ribs, magic dust and slow wood cookery.
Hot Smoked Salmon: Long before modern Europeans visited North America our native people understood how to use salt and wood smoke to dry and preserve fish. This was especially true in the Northwest where alder smoke was the wood of choice. We have mingled our concept with a preparation that imagines a more colonial Northeastern approach (finnan haddie esque); cherry wood smoked antibiotic-free farm-raised Atlantic salmon is re-heated in a fresh dill and onion cream sauce.
Domestic Gulf Shrimp with Tasso Gravy: Another nod to our Acadian ancestors comes in the form of this classic Cajun paring. Made with our shoulder ham (see above), tasso gravy tops large sautéed gulf white shrimp on grits (our grits contain cheese).
Pennsylvania Ham Loaf: When my mother traveled to her home state of Pennsylvania she often returned to Maine with a ham and pork meatloaf which she promptly baked for dinner and then served in sandwiches. Both delicious and an efficient use of ham trimmings, the ham loaf was usually sold raw by the butcher and cooked at home. It is basted and served with its traditional accompaniment, a brown sugar & vinegar sauce.
Buttermilk Batter Fried Chicken: Our garlic and herb brine gives this chicken a snappy texture and deep flavor.
Crispy Pork Belly: Pork belly is cured with aromatic herbs, hot smoked, and poached for hours with several water changes, the belly is then chilled, sliced, lightly seasoned and crisped on the grill, the pork belly obtained from this arduous process delivers a very special crispy texture outside with a soft center and a wonderful full mouthed ‘bacon’ flavor. It is perfect for well-cooked collard greens.
Maple Cured Bacon: The grand-daddy of American charcuterie is bacon. We prepare ours with curing salts, Maine maple syrup and cracked black pepper, then give it the slowest and densest hot smoking we can. We served it on hand made country wheat bread with fresh tomato, leaf lettuce and house made garlic-mayonnaise.
Desserts:Our freshly baked pies are made with our own rendered lard and fresh ingredients: Double crust apple, crisp top pear, pear and almond tart, Maine blueberry cake, sweet potato pecan pie, pecan pie, key lime pie, Ice cream pies made with Gifford’s ice cream.
Our Grandmothers Molasses and Snickerdoodle cookies and our biscuits are made with butter; they will come to you but also feel free to order any of them at any time.
From Away (2012)