Time waits for no one. While we’ve been hunkering down, the spores and magical funk of the charcuterie world and its aging rooms are still doing their thing.
Our city’s chief charcuterie wizards—chefs David Uygur and Misti Norris—work their magic to make wonders from heritage breed pigs. One brings an Old World approach and the other avant-garde innovation, but each add their signature touches.
Out of his cabinet-of-wonders meat locker at Macellaio, Uygur recently pulled the last prosciutto he made using Legend Meats red wattle pork two years ago, before the tiny boutique ranching operation folded. It’s moving and “interesting for me, historically,” he says, as a record of time. At the beginning of March, he received a 500-pound delivery of pork and he experimented with curiosity projects, like fuet, a short, fuzzy rope of Catalan-style dry-cured sausage. That, too, is a record of time—of the meat dreamed of before the pandemic’s shutdown.
Here is a reminder that we have great charcuterie makers who are still plying their skills—managing fat, humidity, intensity of spices, salt, and time—and pulling things that have been in the works for months and even years for us to savor.
Treat yourself. Lean into the craftsmanship. Especially now, when a well arranged board can make a very good impression at a socially distant, completely of-the-moment picnic. I’ve been leaning in, admiring. (Note: Both Macellaio and Petra and the Beast are doing curbside pickup.)
The Macellaio Way
Uygur brings his stamp in gorgeous salumi stained with pimentón or chiles; he excels at the stunning stained-glass window effects made from carefully cut-in fat; and his smoky, spicy ‘nduja and other whipped, spreadable salume like sobresada, all dusky with paprika, join basturma as some of his specialties (the latter reflects his part-Turkish background). But he also excels at whole-muscle cuts, like a supple, classic, Old World prosciutto, speck, lonza, or coppa. And salume like those fuet reveal pure reverence for classicism: short, fuzzy ropes of the rustic dry-cured Catalan sausage are flavored simply with white wine and garlic. (All you need is a pocket knife.)
The meaty details: A chef’s choice salumi selection will get you five items. Uygur has also been hand-crafting custom salumi boards out of cherry, walnut, and oak. Preorder on the Lucia or Macellaio websites two weeks in advance (to allow time for the making). Oak or walnut boards $55 (approximately 5-by-20 inches) and cherrywood boards $75 (approximately 9-by-18 inches).
Petra and the Beast Style
Norris distinguishes herself through her koji curing (chasing elusive umami flavors) and goes for unusual and funky flavors like makrut lime or smoked onion. She fashions terrines whose horizontally-striated layers might involve pig’s ear for texture. And lately there have been wheels of mosaic terrines, herb-flecked or inlaid intriguingly with the slightly funky, wonderful notes of soured local sweet potato. The chicken-liver mousse has always been an umami standout. But she’ll also make pale, pink cottage hams, wispy slices of cured lardo, and dill and burnt pecan rillettes with their cap of fat dusted prettily with herb powder. It’s a whimsical play of new artisanry.
The meaty details: A Meatums boards will get you six items with house-made celery-seed crackers, mustard, and jam. Individual add-ons come by the eighth or quarter pound; and do throw in a few blueberry boudin links from the Market goods.
10 Tips for a Better Charcuterie Board
Round out your board with these essential building blocks.
1. Dry-cured sausages (showcase a hard sausage, like finocchiona, fuet, or Spanish chorizo)
2. Whole-muscle cuts (thinly slice prosciutto, lonza, guanciale, coppa, or lardo)
3. A pâté or terrine (mix textures with soft, spreadable sausage or country pâté)
4. Pickled vegetables (add tang and color)
5. Jam, chutney, or honey
6. Mustard (spoon on a dollop of whole grain or fanciful mustards)
7. Nuts and dried fruit (think outside the box with papaya, apricot, or flavored pistachios)
8. Fresh fruit (use what’s in season, from blackberries to figs)
9. Bread or crackers (or make your own pita chips)
10. Cured olives (use interesting varieties, like Castelvetrano, Cerignola, or Arbequina)