02 May Charcuterie’s Ancient History, Humble Process and Exotic Recipes Fuel Its Surge in Demand – An interview with Fabrique Délices.
We’ve talked about fermentation and salt in our last two blog posts… are you catching on to the theme? With customer demand and sustainability at the forefront, we’re not only talking about ways to add complex flavors to your meat and produce, but how to preserve them as well. In this article we are leaving the garden behind for the most part and shifting our focus to the livestock.
Charcuterie – it’s the word and the menu-item on the tip of all your customers’ tongues. Fermentation and salt are both a part of the meat-curing process, along with drying, aging, cooking, smoking, molding, brining and adding aspic. And you wonder why charcuterie dishes are going for $30+ a plate these days.
Since we’re not charcuterie professionals (even though I did lead the curing department in a past restaurant) we sat down with some experts from Fabrique Delices to walk us through the rich history, sentiments and flavors that are embedded in every sausage, salami and sopressata they produce.
Before we get into the interview we had with a couple fabulous, French Fabrique Delices employees, let’s talk charcuterie. This section goes into the history of charcuterie and curing salts (nitrite and nitrate) so skip ahead to the next section if that doesn’t interest you.
The term “charcuterie” comes from two French words: “chair” meaning “flesh” and “cuit,” which means cooked. At the bottom of it, charcuterie is a fancy word for cured meat. When we talk about charcuterie these days the “charcuterie board” is usually implied. The board itself will have plenty of other preserved foods, like pickles, mustards, olives and jams – the accouterments to cheese and meat.
The first recorded cured meat products were made 5000 years ago in Mesopotamia, where meat and fish were preserved in sesame oil and then dried and salted to save for when food became scarce. Almost 2000 years later, in 850 BC during the time of Homer, the Greeks established their renown “salt gardens” which harvested salt on an industrial scale. This increase in supply of salt in turn increased the prevalence of cured meat.
It was also around this time that the first nitrates were used in the curing process. These nitrates were found in saltpeter (potassium nitrate) and their use became common practice in Medieval times. Nitrates are chemicals that help preserve flavor and color, while debilitating the growth of certain harmful toxins like Botulism. Today, they can be found in curing salts, also known as “pink salt” and most commonly as “Prague powder.”
Prague Powder #2, the curing salt used for meats that take weeks, months, or years to cure, contains minuscule amounts of potassium nitrate (known simply as nitrate) and larger amounts of sodium nitrite (known as nitrite) and regular salt. Nitrite is the “safer” alternative but isn’t as long lasting as nitrate. Prague Powder #1, used for quick cures, only contains nitrite and salt.
It wasn’t until the 15th century, in France, that our modern notion of charcuterie really came into existence. During this time, local “guilds” or artisan associations and unions began to regulate food production. The merchants who sold charcuterie, known as the charcutiers, sold and traded a vast array of cooked or cured meats. The curing and salting processes ensured that the products remained edible for a long time. This was essential due to the fact that refrigeration would not be invented until hundreds of years later.
How is Charcuterie Made?
We could literally talk all day about charcuterie, so let’s narrow it down to a Fabrique Delices specialty – dried cured sausage. Examples of dried cured sausage are salami (known in France as saucisson sec), chorizo, pepperoni, sopressata and finocchiona.
*Side note* You may have heard the term “salumi” as well and are wondering “what’s the difference between salami and salumi”. Easy answer: salami is a specific type of cured sausage, while salumi is an Italian term for any cured meat products made mostly from pork.
The curing process for sausages is similar to dried whole cuts, like prosciutto or guanciale, but not the same. To better understand these curing methods, let’s compare the processes of making prosciutto and saucisson sec (salami).
Prosciutto is made more or less the following way:
- Pat dry and flavor (usually with garlic and peppercorn paste) a whole leg of pork
- Encase with salt for ~4-5 weeks to draw out all the moisture
- Discard the salt and let rest for 5 days
- Rinse with water and vinegar until all salt is removed
- Wrap in cheesecloth and hang for 6 months-2 years in the proper environment (about 55F, 70% humidity, dark) – curing salt can be added to help retain color, flavor, and prevent Botulism
Now let’s look at the process for making salami:
- Grind meat (usually pork butt, beef chuck, and back fat)
- Add sugar, pepper, garlic powder and any other flavoring (for example, finocchio, meaning fennel in Italian, is added to make Finocchiona)
- Add curing salt (a.k.a. “Prague powder #2”)
- Add dextrose (this gives bacteria something to eat, fermenting the meat and lowering the PH enough to prevent harmful bacteria from growing)
- Stuff the mixture into casing
- Weigh so you can record how much moisture is drawn out (reflected in weight loss)
- Hang in a warm place to incubate the sausage and promote bacterial growth
- Hang and dry the sausages in the proper environment (same as prosciutto)
- The salami is done when the weight has decreased 30-35%
I’ve offered you the simple, easily digestible recipes here. As always, when dealing with fermented and cured meats, deadly toxins can be produced, along with countless other harmful bacteria. Before you try making your own, let’s check back in with the crew from Fabrique Delices to explore what cured meats are readily available to be purchased.
Fabrique Delices - Humble Beginnings, Traditional Recipes
Fabrique Delices sits on a nondescript industrial street. As I get closer to the factory, it note that it is surrounded by similarly sized food brands with refrigerated trucks slinking their way into and out of the various back entrances. I enter the office and feel as if I am transported to a fast-paced French business environment.
Sebastien Espinasse sits in his office to the left taking conference calls in French. His front desk is manned by an equally international team. I am introduced to the head of marketing, Celine Moret. “Bonjours” are exchanged and I’m then turned to Jerome Rivoire, head of West Coast Sales, who will be showing me around for my visit.
Before we enter into the factory hair nets go on, as do shoe covers, masks, gloves, and much needed jackets for the refrigerated environment. We walk through what can only be described as a deliciously well-oiled machine. Products move from different levels of production to packaging, with a full team rushing to and fro to maintain the level of French precision.
Fabrique Delices, meaning “factory of delights,” is a French Charcuterie manufacturer in the Bay Area established in 1985. Since that time they have stayed incredibly close to French charcuterie and cooking traditions, while adding west coast favorites to their product list like Halal charcuterie and Chorizo sausage.
Jerome Rivoire says, “Fabrique is still a small local company. 10 people working the office, half of whom are french… I’m from Burgundy. I used all the Fabrique Delices products in my own restaurants and enjoyed them.”
He continues, “You have to remember, certain charcuterie products are banned in the US and you can’t make them here or bring them straight from France. Fabrique is the closest you can get to the traditional French recipes that I used as a child or when my mom was cooking”.
Sebastien takes over and explains Fabrique Delices’ humble beginnings as a manufacturer of French products for the French community: “When Fabrique Delices started, we were filling the gap, starting with the french community and then expanding. We’re seeing a lot of demand for charcuterie boards building big momentum!” He further explains the anticipated continued momentum for small, shared plates, “a while ago, Spanish tapas were popular, and now charcuterie and cheese is the next wave”.
Jerome goes on to talk more specifically about the product: “Our sausage is all natural. We use lamb and pork casings as opposed to collagen casings. Our focus was originally towards the food service clientele (restaurants and hotels) and then we went into retail because there was a demand for exotic and delicious French sausages.” Then, as we all know, the pandemic swept in and changed things.
Interestingly, Fabrique Delices found that, “during the pandemic people were looking for more gourmet items. We’ve seen an increased demand for duck prosciutto and lamb merguez. – products you could only find in parts of France or other European and Middle Eastern countries – exotic dishes”
The trends experienced by the Fabrique team closely mirror anticipated behavioral shifts in 2022 and beyond. National Supermarket chain Kroger recently stated that they expect an increased focus on “health and beauty, sharing and collaboration, and a greater role for charcuterie in meal occasions. Demand for products that contribute to health and beauty will continue in the coming year as consumers seek collagen-rich bone broths, antioxidants, probiotics and omega-3 fatty acids.”
Sharing at meals has been a trend for some time, but Kroger sees family-packs focused on specific dietary needs like low carbohydrate, plant-based or vegan gaining ground in 2022 (yes, plant based charcuterie is a thing). Along the same lines, Kroger’s trend researchers predict: “Charcuterie will move from a shareable appetizer to playing a more prominent role at breakfast and dessert” Just think of the possibilities! You could be one of the first restaurants to implement a tasty, sweet and savory dessert featuring charcuterie.
Staying True to Their Roots - Sustainability as a Necessity
Owner Sebastien explains that, “during my childhood, one side of the family had a farm, and the other side had a chef. So I never ate canned food. Basically, everything was made from scratch. Even today, when making a product, we are always trying to bring back the flavors from childhood.”
Sebastien explains the sustainability of the practice was born out of both a respect for the ingredients and the necessity to make the most of what you have: “We always had pig, chicken, and ducks. We slaughter the pig once a year, and make pork rillette, blood sausage, pate, you know – everything we could use! We preserve it, put it in a cellar next to the wine – and when we have a friend over we pop open a bottle of wine, grab a sausage and some bread, and enjoy!”
Sebastien explains the sustainability of the practice was born out of both a respect for the ingredients and the necessity to make the most of what you have:
“We always had pig, chicken, and ducks. We slaughter the pig once a year, and make pork rillette, blood sausage, pate, you know – everything we could use! We preserve it, put it in a cellar next to the wine – and when we have a friend over we pop open a bottle of wine, grab a sausage and some bread, and enjoy!”
Indeed, Sebastien and Jerome seem like just the kind of people I’d want to converse with over wine and sausage. Check out our recent Instagram Reel with them to see their products, operations, and awesome attitudes with your own eyes!
Charcuterie is a great way to use all the parts of an animal, and preserve the finished product so nothing goes to waste. Sebastien explains, “basically, charcuterie will use every part of the animal. For example the rillette – you peel all the meat from the carcass of the animals, and you cook in duck or pork fat for hours. Even with the bones, you get your stocks. We use all parts of the animals – nothing goes to waste”.
In conclusion, Charcuterie should make an appearance on most every restaurant’s menu. Customers, especially in the Bay Area, are demanding exotic culinary experiences that immerse them in a foreign culture. The long process and sustainable anti-waste sentiments that go into the production of cured meats will be appreciated by your clientele. Plus, the taste for funky fermented foods is cementing itself in the palates of all generations.
Explore all of our Fabrique Delices offerings in the Marketplace section of the app. If you’re not a Cheetah customer already, give us a call and try us out! You won’t be disappointed – just take it from Jerome: “Prior to working for Fabrique Delices, I was in the restaurant business. Cheetah was a great way to bring products in when I couldn’t leave. I love the flexibility and prices, and the addition of Fabrique Delices to the Marketplace is a great thing”.
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