Most Americans have likely never tasted the sheer eye-rolling deliciousness that is charcutería, the tradition of Spanish cured meats. Preparations such as chorizo, the garlic-and-pimentón-spiked ambassador of Spanish cuisine; morcilla, the family of blood sausages flavoring regional cuisine from Barcelona to Badajoz; and jamón Ibérico, the acorn-scented, modern-day crown jewel of Spain's charcutería legacy.
Charcutería: The Soul of Spain delves into the history of Spanish charcuterie and explores the cultural heritage surrounding this culinary art through interviews with Spanish butchers whose traditions have been passed down through generations, as well as conversations with top Spanish chefs who bring their perspective to bear on their culinary heritage.
Jeffrey Weiss was a recipient of ICEX’s prestigious Spanish Gastronomy Training Scholarship, which allowed him to travel through Spain learning its regional cuisines and cooking everywhere from humble farms to famous “alta cocina” restaurants. His passion for understanding Spain’s charcuterie traditions was born when he attended a number of matanzas, the ceremonial pig slaughters of Spain, where he worked alongside various families to celebrate and make the charcutería that will sustain them for the coming year. There he also met matanceros— the head butchers for every matanza— and was impressed by the respect and cultural background he witnessed of this culinary tradition, to the extent he felt it was a story worth telling.
“Many American chefs know little about how Spanish charcuterie products are produced and prepared,” Jeffrey explains. “My goal is for readers to understand today’s Spanish gastronomy and how it continues to influence America’s gastronomy of tomorrow.” To view a behind-the-scenes look at the making of Charcutería, and visit Spain, click here.
The book covers a broad range of charcutería preparations involving brines and salt cures, the technique of escabeche (hot pickling) for proteins or vegetables, confits, and making various embutidos, the sausages and other stuffed meats found throughout Spain. Jeffrey also includes a vast array of recipes that will take home cooks on a culinary journey of the Iberian Peninsula. Some of those recipes include:
• Jamón - including the time-honored techniques for curing, aging, and slicing hams in the Spanish style
• Chorizos and morcillas - including recipes and techniques for making various fresh, semi-cured, and dry cured specialties from the different regions of Spain
• Pates and terrines - recipes and techniques for everything from foie gras to the classic terrines of the Spanish countryside
• Escabeches - the process for hot pickling and recipes from some of Spain’s most famous chefs
• Butifarra amb mongetes - The classic Catalan dish of sausage & white beans
• Garbanzos con butifarra negra - A garbanzo & blood sausage dish made famous by Barcelona’s Bar Pinotxo
• Nacho Manzano's Fabada - The famous Asturian bean stew of 2-Michelin starred chef Nacho Manzano
• Carcamusa - A delicious pork & chorizo stew from La Mancha
• Adolfo Muñoz's migas Manchegas - A humble shepherd’s dish presented by one of the greatest chefs of La Mancha
• Juan Mari Arzak's Pastel de Cabracho - One of 3-Michelin starred chef Juan Mari Arzak’s most famous creations
Lastly, Jeffrey teaches home cooks about the traditional sauces and garnishes served with Spanish charcuterie, followed by a short chapter of traditional desserts and licores. The book finishes with lists of purveyors, a kitchen glossary, and resources for further reading.
Charcutería: The Soul of Spain is the first book to bring this underappreciated tradition into the melting pot of contemporary American gastronomy.
“Charcutería brings to life—with real heart, history and technique—an astonishing look at the legacy of Spain’s flavorful meats.... It connects the past to the present. And I know it will open up the door to new possibilities for what you can create at home.”
—José Andrés, 2011 “Outstanding Chef,” James Beard Foundation
“Spanish charcutería is world class, yet no one has written a definitive cookbook to help American cooks learn how to make these fine sausages, terrines, and other cured meats. Jeffrey Weiss reveals all in Charcutería: The Soul of Spain, with authentic recipes learned at the side of Spain's finest practitioners of the charcutería art.”
—Bruce Aidells, author of The Great Meat Cookbook
Jeffrey Weiss is a professional chef with more than 15 years of experience, having cooked with James Beard Award-winning chef José Andrés and Spanish-based chefs Daní Garcia and Adolfo Muñoz. He is one of a select few Americans to earn the prestigious ICEX culinary scholarship that allowed him to live in Spain, learn its regional cuisines, and cook in the kitchens of top Spanish chefs. Jeffrey is a graduate of the Mission College of Hospitality Management and Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration, and is the chef of Jeninni Kitchen and Wine Bar in Pacific Grove, California. He lives in Monterey, California. To learn more visit his website, www.Jeninni.com.
Take a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the book –
Costillas de la Matanza
Yields 2 racks of ribs
While cooking in Spain, I noticed culinary philosophical differences between Americans and Spaniards when it comes to grilling. While Americans slather their smoked ribs in barbecue sauce, the Spanish like to let the flavor of their meat doing the talking, especially when Ibérico pigs are the meat in question. I’m guessing the difference is explained by our history of smoked barbecue meats and the world of sauces and condiments that complement them, contrasted with the Spaniard’s heritage of acorny Ibérico fat, and letting its subtle flavor come through. The Spanish accent this natural flavor only lightly, with ingredients like herbs and spices.
This recipe, from the sabias of Extremadura, demonstrates the Spanish penchant for soft flavors like lemon and cinnamon that are found in everything from flans and ice creams to meat and other savory recipes. For those who must have sauce, I’m including a killer glaze that we prepared while the ribs were cooking. The acid in the sauce helps cut the richness of the confited meat.
Per 2 racks of ribs
2 ounces (50 g) kosher salt
2 tablespoons (20 g) freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon (12 g) granulated sugar
3 dried bay leaves, crumbled
2 teaspoons (4 g) ground cinnamon
½ cup (100 ml) Oloroso sherry
Rinds of 4 lemons, each removed in 1 strip
3 sticks cinnamon
5 cloves garlic, smashed
3 whole fresh bay leaves
Rendered pork fat, to cover
½ cup (100 ml) Pedro Ximénez (PX) sherry*
1 cup (200 ml) Peddro Ximénez sherry vinegar
*this type of sherry (and vinegar) is made from Pedro Ximénez white grapes. The varietal yields an intensely sweet dessert wine.
1. In a large baking dish, combine the salt, black pepper, sugar, crumbled bay leaves, and ground cinnamon, creating a cure.
2. Place the ribs in the baking dish and toss them with the cure, coating them evenly. Sprinkle with the Oloroso sherry. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 24 to 36 hours.
3. Preheat the oven to 250°F (120°c).
4. Remove the ribs from the cure. Rinse well and pat dry with paper towels. Place the ribs in a large Dutch oven with the lemon rind, cinnamon sticks, garlic, and whole bay leaves. Cover with the rendered pork fat.
5. Place the Dutch oven over medium heat and bring the fat to a bare simmer. Remove from the heat.
6. Cover and place in the oven for 2 hours, until the ribs are fork tender and the bones pull easily away from the meat. Remove from the oven.
7. Allow the ribs to cool to room temperature in the Dutch oven, and then place in the refrigerator to chill in the confit overnight.
8. In a small saucepan over medium–high heat, combine the PX sherry and the PX sherry vinegar. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Simmer for 8 to 10 minutes, until the sauce’s volume is reduced to 1/3 cup (80 mL). Remove from the heat and set aside.
9. Light a charcoal grill or heat a broiler on high heat (fair warning: The ribs will splatter a lot in an oven, so use caution!). Remove the ribs from the fat, wiping off any excess. Place the ribs, meat-side down, and cook them for 10 minutes, until cooked through and starting to brown.
10. Glaze the ribs with the sauce on the bone side. Flip them over and glaze the other side. Continue cooking for 5 minutes, until nicely glazed and just charred a little in spots. Remove from the heat and serve.
Note: We ate these ribs right off the grill during the matanzas—finger food at its best! For more civilized affairs, these ribs would make a great main course, especially if you don’t have a smoking rig handy for doing American-style ribs.
This recipe may be reproduced with the following credit:
Recipe from Charcutería: The Soul of Spain by Jeffrey Weiss.
(Agate Publishing; March 2014; $39.95/Hardcover; ISBN-13; 978-1572841529).