It’s the elephant -or pig- in the room. Actually it’s the room itself. When walking through the main entrance of our space at 745 North Broadway, just past the host stand, there it is. A room full of hanging meat on display. It has been the talking point for many since our opening a few weeks ago. What is it? Why is it there? How is it done? Well, we are here to answer these questions. This blog post is about the Elkmont Exchange Charcuterie (shar-koo-tuh-ree) program.
Just like pickles, fermented vegetables, home-brewed beer, and kombucha; charcuterie is a historic cooking method that has been modernized through a spiked interest in techniques that date back as long as the pharaohs. This movement for traditional ways of cooking inspires to make better connections between where food comes from and how it ends up on your table. Originally intended as a way to preserve meats or fish for months on end; charcuterie is the process of preparing sausages and other cured, smoked, and preserved meat by aging. The preservation process basically eliminates the growth of food spoiling bacteria by depriving it of moisture. Salt is one of the main tools for charcuterie because it drives moisture out of food, making bacteria growth difficult. Today, charcuterie is desired for the complex flavors derived from preservation. At Elkmont Exchange, our Executive Chef, Ryan Davenport, and Sous Chef, Jon Newman, are highly experienced with butchery and charcuterie making; and they have big plans for that strange display room of hanging meats.
Good charcuterie needs to start with a quality product in order to end with one. The preservation process uses the whole muscle and brings out colors and textures that were not previously apparent while defining the meat’s flavor. This leaves zero room for error on the process side and allows any imperfections in the meat to be showcased. Ryan and Jon have chosen Bear Creek Farm for their pork and beef products because they feel that Leeann Cherry and her family raise the happiest and healthiest animals in Tennessee. The Cherry family has worked on their farm for over 30 years and provide high quality meats to many fine restaurants in the south such as McCrady’s, Husk, and The Southern; which is how Ryan and Jon were introduced to their products. Their animals are fed a healthy diet and treated like a part of the family throughout their entire lives. Even in butchery, their animals are treated humanely. Ryan and Jon believe that the extra care put into each pig delivered to them drives their passion to make the best product possible.
Charcuterie is an art that requires attention to detail, scientific knowledge, and extensive chef skills; making it very similar to brewing beer. Pairing the two together bring out complex flavors in either – or both – while complementing and balancing each other. While most Elkmont Exchange Charcuterie are made from traditional recipes, Ryan and Jon plan to work with our brewers to add a special Elkmont Exchange touch. This can include using different brewing ingredients or altering a recipe slightly to pair with a specific beer. There are also plans to host special tastings to educate on charcuterie making, beer brewing, and pairing the two.
When asked what meats they are most exciting to be aging, Ryan and Jon unanimously answered “the ones that take the longest.” This includes our prosciutto, culatello, and king ham; which can take up to a year to completely age properly. Here’s to all of the great meats on the horizon!
All photos were taken from Jon Newman’s personal Instagram account http://bit.ly/2jvFIOC