Sa­vor­ing the Cul­ture, Her­itage, and Fla­vor of Amer­ica’s Pre­served Meats

Foreword Reviews - - Foresight Cooking -

Jef­frey P. Roberts, Chelsea Green Pub­lish­ing Hard­cover $27 (288pp), 978-1-60358-660-3

The wave of in­ter­est in ar­ti­sanal and fer­mented foods has made lo­cally crafted cheeses, beers, and pick­les a hot com­mod­ity at restau­rants and farm­ers mar­kets. Now pre­served meats are bleep­ing bright on food lovers’ radar—those salted, cured, and smoked meats tra­di­tional in most cul­tures, but which had fallen out of fa­vor with health-con­scious Amer­i­cans in re­cent decades. Jef­frey P. Roberts, a Slow Food ac­tivist and food his­to­rian, de­bunks these fears about choles­terol and ni­trates, and sur­veys the re­nais­sance in lo­cally pro­duced sa­lumi and char­cu­terie through­out the United States.

Part his­tory, part trav­el­ogue, Salted and Cured doc­u­ments how farm­ers, butch­ers, and chefs nur­ture each other in the pro­duc­tion of high-qual­ity, sus­tain­ably sourced pre­served meats in a va­ri­ety of cul­tural and re­gional tra­di­tions. The au­thor used his myr­iad con­nec­tions to re­search a porkophile’s dream jour­ney, in­ves­ti­gat­ing the mak­ing of coun­try hams in Vir­ginia, the boudin and an­douille sausage of New Or­leans, the wurst of Ger­man and Slavic butcher shops of New York City, and the glo­ries of the Mid­west­ern meat-pack­ing cap­i­tals.

As more restau­rant pa­trons and home cooks turn up their noses at the food­stuffs of in­dus­tri­al­ized agri­cul­ture, de­mand for meat that has been lo­cally and hu­manely raised has in­creased. These prod­ucts take time to age and cure prop­erly and are most of­ten sourced from small farms with slower-grow­ing her­itage breeds: a recipe for how pro­duc­tion is cur­rently far out­stripped by pub­lic de­mand. Add in the re­dis­cov­ery of what food writer An­thony Bour­dain dubs “the nasty bits” (of­fal and other snout-to-tail parts of the piggy car­cass), uti­lized lov­ingly and most fully in sausages and salamis, and you can see why these pre­served meats are so pop­u­lar to­day.

An ex­ten­sive bib­li­og­ra­phy, end­notes, pho­tographs, and a list of pro­duc­ers of­fer op­por­tu­ni­ties to fur­ther ex­plore un­fa­mil­iar types of meat prod­ucts. The glos­sary at the back also helps re­in­force the dif­fer­ences be­tween salami and sa­lumi, lardo and lomo, and all the spec­tac­u­lar meat treats in be­tween.

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