Friday, September 20, 2013

Dried and Cured Sausages: A Delicacy and a Prepper's Delight

Here are three sausages from my collection.  From left
to right:  One of my own homemade sausages.  One
from our local grocery store.  And one I bought during
my recent trip down to Fredericksburg, Texas
I am a dried/cured sausage maker, collector, and probably even a connoisseur.  My wife will be glad to tell you that If I find dried/cured sausages any time during our travels, I buy them.  These cured sausages are a regular part of our diet, since we live off-grid and do not have electric refrigerators, etc.  My breakfast this morning consisted of a bowl of scrambled eggs, fried potatoes, and chunks of dried sausage.  Delicious!  Dried sausage can be rehydrated and used to flavor soups, stews, and other meals.  We use dried sausage in our "tapas" plates.  Tapas are finger foods that often serve as a complete meal.  Several times a week I will dine on a plate of dried sausage, cheese, and crackers... sometimes with lacto-fermented (pickled) products from our root cellar.

We also make a lot of sausages ourselves and store them for very long periods of time without refrigeration.  Finding real, authentic, old world style charcuterie is hard today.  The government won't allow most manufacturers to produce dried/cured meats the way they've been produced (and safely!) for millennia.  The government requires an unnecessary and even more dangerous "kill step" for anyone producing cured meats for sale.  The "kill step" is a process that kills everything that is living in the food... good and bad.  This means that the beneficial bacteria -- those that produce lacto-bacilli that prevent dangerous bacilli from multiplying in the food -- are killed too.  Charcutiers know that when dried and cured meats are produced responsibly and according to ancient techniques, the food is actually tastier and safer than those that go through a "kill step."

Good dried and cured sausages are a luxury today.  They are not cheap meats.  Strangely enough, a tiny grocery in the town nearest to us actually carries dried and cured sausages that they get from right here in Texas.  Usually, you can plan on paying more than .50 an ounce (more than $8 a lb.!) for good dried and cured sausages if you can find them at a store.  We make our own for far, far less.

The fact that dried sausages are a luxury now is an irony, because drying and curing meats was traditionally practiced almost exclusively by the poor.  The rich ate fresh, boiled, baked, or roasted meats.  The poor often had to preserve their food for long periods of time (without modern grid-based technologies, of course,) so they practiced ancient meat preservation techniques.  Today, fine restaurants around the world often feature dishes or appetizers that utilize artisan sausages.  I often say that we live in one of the strangest times in the history of the world, because despite all of the problems and the challenges that are out there in the world, we live in a time when the poor - if they are willing to do the work - can live and eat like kings!

I feature dried/cured sausages in several of my fiction books... The Last Pilgrims, for example.  But I wanted to give you some links to some books that I own and use, just in case you are interested in making some sausages for yourself!

This book, Charcuterie, by Michael Ruhlman, is one of the best books I own for a good overview and some awesome recipes.  Definitely own it in hardback... it will be a treasure to you...

Here is another great book by Michael Ruhlman that focuses in more specifically on sausages...

This one is really good about the science.  It taught me a lot about the "baddies" - the bad bacteria and how they live and thrive...

This one is kind of the "bible" of smoking and curing meat.  It is a thick textbook, but a good book to have around...

This one is a great overall guide to fermenting foods.  Buy it even if you aren't a "complete idiot"!

That should get you started.  I hope some of you will take up the art of making dried and cooked sausages.  Then you can eat like a king... like me!

Michael Bunker


Judy said...

It is great fun to think about how well agrarians eat. David and I often look over what graces our table and talk about how much we would have to pay for meals like Eggs Benedict with homemade English muffins, farm fresh eggs, venison proscuitto and real Hollandaise sauce. Hopefully we can better master our own dried sausage techniques in the future.

ibu646 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ibu646 said...

Your article is enticing, however whatever pictures/titles/links you had up for the book recommendations are not showing up/visible. I am really interested in checking out your recommendations, but have no clue as to what they are. Not sure if it is on my end or yours. If it is at your end, please advise when the info is available...if at my end, I would greatly appreciate it if you can email me the list of books. Thanks a bunch!