Cold cuts for a Xmas meal with a difference
Christmas is upon us and many will have started giving festive menus serious thought. Whether your family favours hot meals or less traditional fare, the meal should be devoid of complications or strenuous effort. Cold meats could provide an alternative t
RECENTLY I visited a great butcher in Nelspruit called Meat Delights and left with a bag full of delicious goodies. My haul included lesser known cold cuts such as jagdwurst, pepper loaf, fleischwurst, bierwurst, schinkenwurst, presskopf, curry brawn, press sack, blutwurst, landjäger — the list goes on and on.
Anni Schwirzer owns the business together with her brother. Here one is greeted like a long-lost friend and quickly offered a tasting sample.
It is also the kind of place where you can rest assured that the talk of 100% meat from grassfed animals is not just talk.
Anni, who will have completed a three-year German master butcher’s course at the end of next year, talks of cold meats and processing with such passion and enthusiasm that a quick pop-in to buy some cuts may turn into an hour long discussion on the origins of German processed meats. The squeamish could also rest assured that very few cold cuts actually contain any offal.
Cold cuts — also known as cold meats, sliced meats, lunch or luncheon meats, sandwich meats or deli meats — include cured or preserved meats and encompass products that are classified as emulsified sausages.
Cold meats can either be bought presliced and vacuum packed — as in most grocery stores — or sliced from whole portions as in delicatessens or speciality butchers. These meats often suffer a serious reputational risk when producers don’t take their man- ufacturing seriously, to the extent that the American Centre for Disease Control offers the advice that people over 50 should “steam” cold meats before eating them.
The web dictionary Wikipedia claims that presliced cold meats require much higher levels of fat and sodium as preservatives because of the larger exposed surface area.
However, it is the well prepared cured and processed meats that one should seek out actively. There is nothing as delicious as a thoughtfully curated cold meat platter enhanced by pickled vegetables and fresh bread or a number of cool, elegant salads — worlds apart from many oddly hued polonies of questionable provenance.
Preserving takes on many forms: salting, sugaring, brining and smoking to name but a few, and often these may be done in combination with each other. The process of brining could also be used to turn your hot Christmas dinner into a spectacular success should you decide to retain some semblance of tradition, since turkeys are also sold brined and marinated these days.
Brining relies on the principles of diffusion and osmosis, when the salt/sugar content of the surrounding liquid (the brine) is considerably higher than the salt content of the turkey. Diffusion is the natural flow of salts and sugars from the area of greater concentration to the cells of the turkey.
Julia Collin explains that once inside the cells the salts (and to a lesser extent the sugars) cause cell proteins to unravel or denature. As the individual proteins unravel they are more likely to interact with one another and this interaction results in the formation of a sticky matrix that captures and holds moisture. Once exposed to heat the matrix gels and forms a barrier to keep moisture from leaching out as the meat cooks, and voila, a better seasoned, moister Christmas turkey.
Bon appetit and a merry festive season to you all.