My goodness, do I ever admire those pioneers. Now that I am officially a gardener and putter upper of food, not a day goes by that I don’t think about the Pioneers.
I know, it’s a little crazy, but usually it’s in a moment of manual labor induced frustration. I find myself getting whiny and then I think about a day in the life of a typical Pioneer. Now that puts my silly mishap into perspective.
Charcuterie is trendy and cool these days, but truly it’s about preserving the harvest and eating seasonally. Mostly, animals were butchered each winter when the temperature was low enough and a slew of charcuterie projects were handled immediately. Fat was rendered for lard or tallow, hides were tanned for leather goods, bacons and hams were cured and smoked, jerky and sausages made and so on.
One of my favorite books is The Taste of Country Cooking by Edna Lewis. As we’ve been working our Charcutepaloozian way through bacons and sausages, I’m reminded of Ms. Lewis’ description of hog killing in her community. It took place in December since the cold weather was essential, and the families all joined in helping each other put up their meat & fat for the year.
She remembers that in addition to the anticipation of the special meals they would enjoy after the hogs were butchered, it was the “highly festive feeling of everyone working together that made this one of our favorite times in the year.” (I do kind of have to laugh at the idea of how this little festival would be appreciated today at American community centers across the land… )
I take putting up food seriously, but thankfully, a bad harvest is no life or death crisis for us. At least today. For the Pioneers though, failure meant starvation; the for real kind.
Pioneers had to be thinking ahead for future meals ALL the time. There had to be enough wood on hand to heat the stove, ingredients had to be planned for as much as a year ahead – there was no 24 hour super store backup. And, projects had to be finished no matter how long they took or how tired or busy you were. Procrastination meant possible death – no kidding!
But, once again, I wander. Could it be because I procrastinated a wee bit myself? Thank goodness for the excess pork butt I had left over from last month’s smoking challenge because, believe it or not, my local butcher shop BURNED DOWN. To the ground. The reason? Their smoker…. be careful out there Paloozers!
I’m tempted by the highly flavored seasoned stuff; I really love it. But today I’m stubbornly sticking to the most basic of basics. My reason? I want to make pantry staples that I will use all year long. If my seasoning is too specific, I’m limited in the recipes I can use later. I want to be able to make fast food of the slow food kind later, so I need a freezer and pantry full of solid basics today.
My pork has great flavor, so all I added is kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper and some finely chopped garlic. I chopped the pork fine (hence the blisters – sharpen those knives friends), mixed in my seasonings and let the flavors marry for a few hours in the fridge.
I used my food processor to grind the sausage and found the texture to be perfect. The part I didn’t get so perfect is my seasoning mix. I think they were too salty. I wasn’t careful enough with my conversions I suppose. I’ll be more careful next time – and there will be plenty of next times.
For this meal, I went to a pantry favorite, roasted peppers preserved in oil. These are so useful not just for the peppers (a little goes a long way) but for the oil. I mix it into pasta, drizzle it onto polenta and toast. I pan fried the sausage patties and dropped one into a little puddle of this oil and served with a couple of peppers and a tart salad of mixed greens in vinaigrette.
With my sausage patties formed and frozen, all I need to do to get a quick local meal on the table is to fry the sausages and toss the salad. And to me, that’s what Charcutepalooza is all about.