Curing, preserving & smoking meats goes back to along time ago!
The history of charcuterie, in the sense of salting, smoking, and cooking to preserve, may date almost to the origins of Homo sapiens. It has been carried on in many forms through virtually every culture, and it has been one of the foundations of human survival in that it allowed societies to maintain a food surplus and therefore helped turn early peoples from nomads into clusters of homebodies. Sausage recipes date to before the golden age of ancient Greece. Even before that, the Egyptians were fattening geese for their livers-and possibly making the first pate de foie gras.
The historical roots of charcuterie reaches back hundreds of years and that the fundamental methods of charcuterie, naming, curing and preserving, reach all the way back to earliest civilization, makes us realize that this specialty is one of the most important kinds of cooking there is.
Originally derived from the French words for “flesh” (chair) and “cooked” (cuit), the term charcuterie (pronounced shär-kü-tə-rē in France) was used to designate shops in fifteenth-century France that sold products made from pork, as well as from offal (internal organs excluding muscle and bone).
The Romans who made standards of raising, killing, and cooking of pork points of law, regulating its production, were likely the first to turn pork butchery into a trade, yet it was the French charcutier, who brought the greatest ingenuity to pig preparations.
In the fifteenth century, charcutiers were not allowed to sell uncooked pork (though they could sell uncooked fat, which would be rendered into lard at home and used for cooking there), and so they created all manner of cooked (or salted and dried) dishes to be sold later-pâté, rillettes, (preparation of meat similar to pâté. Commonly made from pork, the meat is cubed or chopped, salted heavily and cooked slowly in fat until it is tender enough to be easily shredded, and then cooled with enough of the fat to form a paste), sausage, bacon, trotters (hams), and head cheese.
Head cheese or brawn is a cold cut that originated in Europe. A version pickled with vinegar is known as souse. Head cheese isn’t scary and it isn’t cheese. It’s tender, slow cooked pork that is packed into a terrine or mold, and set with a delicious broth which firms up into a savory jelly. Don't get this confused with canned spam.
The charcutiers of the late fifteenth century, the time when first guilds were formed, were highly esteemed. These tradesmen in charge of pork butchering played a critical role in maintaining the food supply in their town; charcuterie then meant cooking and preserving the meat for a community. Long before the Renaissance, and through the Industrial Age, societies, civilization depended on such preservative techniques. By the time of the French Revolution, nearly one hundred master charcutiers were plying their trade in the country’s capital.
Content Source: Charcuterie by Michael Ruhlman & Brian Polcyn
Charcuterie exploded onto the scene in 2005 and encouraged an army of home cooks and professional chefs to start curing their own foods. This love song to animal fat and salt has blossomed into a bona fide culinary movement, throughout America and beyond, of curing meats and making sausage, pâtés, and confits. Charcuterie: Revised and Updated will remain the ultimate and authoritative guide to that movement, spreading the revival of this ancient culinary craft.
Early in his career, food writer Michael Ruhlman had his first taste of duck confit. The experience “became a fascination that transformed into a quest” to understand the larger world of food preservation, called charcuterie, once a critical factor in human survival. He wondered why its methods and preparations, which used to keep communities alive and allowed for long-distance exploration, had been almost forgotten. Along the way he met Brian Polcyn, who had been surrounded with traditional and modern charcuterie since childhood. “My Polish grandma made kielbasa every Christmas and Easter,” he told Ruhlman. At the time, Polcyn was teaching butchery at Schoolcraft College outside Detroit.