One of my favorite perks of being a blogger is receiving new cookbooks to review. I always learn something from them, while adding new and wonderful recipes to my repertoire. Jeffrey Weiss has not only written a cookbook filled with tempting Spanish recipes; he has written a text book on the art of curing meat and fish. It is a food history of Spain. Between the beautifully photographed front and back covers are pages of wonderful stories about the age old traditions that live on in modern Spanish practices. Rituals are followed like a religion. From the way the pigs are slaughtered to butchering to sausage making everything is explained in great detail. Nothing is left out, including the banter between the newbie and the age worn artisans. Charts, percentages, proportions, diagrams and cartoons all make this tome delightful and insightful reading.
Charcuterie is the centuries-old culinary art of butchery and preservation. While most of the world’s focus has been on France and Italy, Spain has long-held traditions that not many know about. Charcutería: The Soul of Spain (Agate Publishing; March 2014; $39.95) by Jeffrey Weiss, is a detailed exploration of the traditional preservation and butchery techniques from a region of the world steeped in rich culinary traditions, complete with over 100 mouth-watering recipes. This book has reaffirmed my thoughts on making things by hand. Somewhere along the way in our industrialized civilization we have lost sight of the thrill of producing small batches of fresh food by hand. Far too many home cooks reach for canned or prepared frozen foods that have little flavor and even less nutritional value. That is not to say that I have no canned goods in my pantry. But I keep them to a minimum, purchasing only canned San Marzano tomatoes, coconut milk, hoisin sauce, Asian fish sauce and beans. Items that would take far too long to produce by hand on a daily basis. And only those items whose quality is not compromised.
For quite a while I have been contemplating sausage making. So this wonderful volume has given me the knowledge, technique and background to be able to make my own charcuterie. Jeffrey has even given instructions on building curing and drying cabinets that are simple and inexpensive. But even if you didn’t want to make your own sausages or cure your own meat or fish there are recipes galore where you could substitute great quality purchased items. This would certainly make the time span much shorter from start to finish. If you are looking for an in depth book on the art of charcuterie I most highly recommend Jeffrey Weiss’ new cookbook Charcuteria The Soul of Spain!
Disclosure: This book was sent to me free of charge to read and review. All of the opinions are 100% my own.