What the heck is “Charcuterie”?

And why should I care?

Charcuterie, a term that evokes images of rustic feasts and artisanal craftsmanship, is the age-old culinary art of preserving and preparing meat products. Derived from the French words “chair” (flesh) and “cuit” (cooked), charcuterie encompasses a diverse array of techniques for curing, smoking, and transforming meats into a symphony of flavors and textures. It’s a culinary tradition that has stood the test of time, evolving from practical preservation methods to a celebrated gastronomic pursuit.

charcuterie, cured meat, mangalitsa, pigs, proscuitto

Historically, charcuterie emerged as a necessity long before refrigeration became commonplace. In an era where food preservation was paramount, communities developed ingenious methods to extend the shelf life of their meats. Salt curing, smoking, and fermentation became essential techniques, not only ensuring food safety but also infusing meats with unique and savory characteristics. Over time, what began as a utilitarian practice transformed into a culinary art form, with regional specialties and family recipes contributing to the rich tapestry of charcuterie. Here in America, we’re familiar with the old smokehouse on every farm. In Italy, France, and Romania, Russia, and Germany, each culture has it’s tradition around preserving meat. 

For the modern homesteader, learning the art of charcuterie holds a myriad of benefits. At its core, charcuterie aligns seamlessly with the principles of self-sufficiency and sustainability. By mastering the techniques of curing and preserving meats, homesteaders can reduce waste, make the most of their livestock harvests, and create a diverse and flavorful pantry that extends beyond the typical freezer storage.

Moreover, charcuterie is a testament to the value of craftsmanship and tradition. Homesteaders who delve into the world of charcuterie discover a connection to the past, where resourcefulness and skill were essential for survival. Beyond its practical applications, charcuterie embodies an appreciation for the artistry of food preparation, allowing homesteaders to elevate their culinary pursuits while fostering a deep sense of pride in their self-sustaining lifestyle.

Why are pigs the primary animals chosen for this time-honored culinary tradition?

forage farming pigs, mangalitsa pigs, hogs, pastured, charcuterie

 As new folks embark on this flavorful adventure called “charcuterie,” people often ask: can other meats can be used? Why are pigs the primary choice?

Pigs have earned their place at the center stage of charcuterie for a combination of practical and gastronomic reasons. Their unique qualities make them an ideal candidate for various curing and preservation methods.

1. Fatty Goodness:

Pigs are naturally fattier animals, and in the world of charcuterie, fat equals flavor. The intricate marbling found in pork contributes to the succulence and richness of cured meats, creating a mouthwatering symphony of taste and texture.

2. Versatility in Cuts:

From the prized belly used for bacon to the versatile shoulder and hams, pigs offer a wide array of cuts suitable for different charcuterie techniques. This versatility allows one to explore various flavors and textures, from the delicate nuances of prosciutto to the robustness of sausages.

3. Affordability and Efficiency:

Pigs are known for their rapid growth and high feed conversion rates, making them a practical choice for small-scale farming and homesteading. Their efficiency in converting feed into meat makes raising pigs a cost-effective option, aligning with the sustainability goals of many homesteaders.

4. Traditional Significance:

Throughout history, pigs have held cultural and symbolic significance in many societies. Their association with feasting and celebration makes them a natural choice for a culinary tradition deeply rooted in communal gatherings and festive occasions.

Charcuterie is not just a culinary technique; it’s a journey into the heart of culinary tradition and craftsmanship. For the homesteader and home cook, it represents a fusion of history, practicality, and the joy of creating something extraordinary from the simplest of ingredients. As the aroma of cured meats wafts through the homestead kitchen, it carries with it the essence of a timeless tradition—a tradition that continues to thrive in the hands of those who embrace the art and craft of charcuterie.


Check out our video playlist about Mangalitsa pigs and our charcuterie journey: Homestead Butchering

Come and learn hands on! You’ll leave ready to convert your own (or someone else’s) pork into fabulous and tasty traditional cured meats when you come to the two day Charcuterie and Pork Preservation class in December!

hog harvest, mangalitsa pigs, homesteading, charcuterie

Read more about it:

McNamee, Gregory Lewis. “charcuterie”. Encyclopedia Britannica, 13 Dec. 2022, https://www.britannica.com/topic/charcuterie. Accessed 27 November 2023.

The History of the Charcuterie Board: State & Allen

What is a fun fact about charcuterie?

Charcuterie is derived from the French words for flesh (chair) and cooked (cuit). The practice of salting and smoking meats to preserve them dates back about 6,000 years to ancient Rome. Charcuterie is rooted in the belief that nothing from the animal should be wasted; not even the heart, lungs, kidneys, fat, or brain.Jul 26, 2019

History of Charcuterie Boards & Why You Should Pair w/ Wine

Liver the superfood!

liver, grass fed, beef, pork

Liver! Bleeech!!!

Is that how you feel about eating LIVER? You aren’t alone, but we’ve talked to an increasing number of folks who are rediscovering the hidden secrets of health in organ meats.  Especially for those of us in northern, cold weather climates.  Jill tells the kids sometimes that something is a “liver and lumpy oatmeal thing. Very, very good for you but not particularly enjoyable.”

So, why is liver so good for your health??

These nutrient-rich organ meats offer a plethora of vitamins and minerals, providing a range of health benefits.

The Nutritional Benefits:

Beef and chicken liver are true nutrient powerhouses, loaded with essential elements crucial for various bodily functions. Some key nutrients found in these organ meats include:

Vitamin A: As one of the richest sources of vitamin A, liver supports vision, skin health, and the immune system. Vitamin A also aids cell growth and differentiation.
B Vitamins: Exceptional sources of B vitamins like B12, B2 (riboflavin), and folate, beef, and chicken liver are essential for energy metabolism, red blood cell formation, and a healthy nervous system.
Iron: Liver’s heme iron type is highly absorbable, vital for oxygen transport, energy production, and anemia prevention.
Zinc and Copper: Essential for immune function, wound healing, and maintaining skin and hair health, these minerals are abundant in liver.
Protein: Liver offers high-quality protein with all essential amino acids for tissue repair and growth.
Vitamin D: In northern climates we struggle to get enough vitamin D, especially in the winter. Nature’s solution: Liver from grazing animals!

In fact, liver is one of the most nutritionally dense foods on the planet, with significant amounts of iron, riboflavin, vitamin B12, vitamin A, and copper. Eating a single serving of liver can help you meet your daily recommended amount of most of these vitamins and minerals, reducing your risk of nutrient deficiency.

Elevating Wellness with Liver:

  1. Nutrient Abundance: Incorporating beef or chicken liver ensures an efficient supply of critical nutrients even in modest portions.
  2. Anemia Combatant: The iron content makes liver an indispensable ally in preventing and addressing iron-deficiency anemia.
  3. Immune System Booster: The synergistic blend of vitamins A and D, B vitamins, zinc, and copper found in liver strengthens the immune system, enhancing your body’s defense mechanism.
  4. Energy Amplification: B vitamins and iron bolster energy metabolism, fostering sustained vitality and mental alertness. It’s the perfect solution to winter’s moodiness and 
  5. brain fog!
  6. Appreciation for your animals’ gift of life: There’s much talk about the power of gratitude.  Using an animal’s whole gift is a way of appreciating that they gave their life for your benefit.

But… YUCK!

Well, you can continue to pay money for expensive supplements, or suffer from nutritional deficiencies, or suck it up and start experimenting and using the free food from your homestead animals.

Here are a few tips when you’re starting

  • Start with small amounts
  • Soak the liver like you would fish in milk, lemon juice, or salt water to decrease the iron taste
  • Mix small amounts with other meats in a pie, meatloaf, ground meat, or stew/stirfry.
  • Cook it gently.  Rare to medium cooked liver will be much more palatable than cooked-to-chalk liver.

Three Easy and Delectable Liver Recipes:

Beef Liver Stir-Fry:

  • Slice beef liver thinly.
  • Marinate liver with soy sauce, garlic, ginger, and a touch of honey for 15-30 minutes.
  • Heat a pan over medium-high heat and add oil.
  • Stir-fry liver for 3-4 minutes until slightly pink inside.
  • Serve over steamed veggies and brown rice.

Chicken Liver Pâté:

  • Sauté finely chopped shallots and chicken livers in butter until golden outside and slightly pink inside.
  • Blend in a food processor with heavy cream, brandy, salt, pepper, and a pinch of nutmeg.
  • Chill and serve with crackers or toasted baguette slices.

Liver and Onions:

  • Sauté onions until caramelized.
  • Coat chicken liver with seasoned flour (salt, pepper).
  • Sear liver with caramelized onions until fully cooked.
  • Serve with mashed potatoes or steamed vegetables.

Bonus! Here are two more easy and tasty options:

Chicken Liver Pâté:

  • Sauté finely chopped shallots and chicken livers in butter until browned on the outside but slightly pink inside.
  • Transfer to a food processor and add heavy cream, brandy, salt, pepper, and a pinch of nutmeg.
  • Blend until smooth and creamy.
  • Chill in the fridge and serve with crackers or toasted baguette slices.

Liver and Onions:

  • Slice onions and sauté in a pan until caramelized.
  • Dredge chicken liver in flour seasoned with salt and pepper.
  • Sear the liver in the same pan with the caramelized onions until cooked through.
  • Serve with a side of mashed potatoes or steamed vegetables.

In the realm of nutrient-dense foods, beef and chicken liver stand as unsung heroes. Laden with a treasure trove of essential vitamins and minerals, these often overlooked organ meats offer a range of health benefits that can revolutionize your overall vitality. I hope you see some of the compelling reasons behind the inclusion of beef and chicken liver in your diet. While beef and chicken liver might not claim the spotlight often, their extraordinary nutritional content and potential health advantages make them an invaluable addition to your dietary repertoire. By embracing these organ meats in your meals and savoring the straightforward recipes mentioned above, you can harness their nutritional prowess and embark on a journey towards elevated health and holistic well-being.  Let us know which of these recipes you try and like!

Want more recipes like these?

We have a whole recipes section in the Tribe+ membership for you to explore, try out, and improve your health with.  We also include an organ recipes section in the Hog Harvest Handbook when you purchase that video course.  Check them out and get started!

From Rooster to Riches: A Homesteader’s Guide to Extra Roosters

pasture raised chicken, rooster, hen, freedom ranger Raise your hand if you’ve ever wondered, “What on earth am I going to do with all these roosters?” If you’ve hatched out chicks, you know that alongside those adorable hens, you often find yourself with an unexpected surplus of roosters. It’s a legit concern! Let’s talk about the world of roosters and the surprising benefits they can bring to your homestead and table.

Unraveling the Mystique of Roosters

Roosters are more than just that crowing alarm clock; they play a crucial role in your flock. Sure, they fertilize eggs like champions, but there’s more to it than that. These fine feathered protectors are your free ranging hens’ first line of defense against predators and their trusty guides to locating the best grub. With that in mind, you can see that roosters are not just a byproduct but an essential asset to your flock’s welfare.

However, too many roosters can lead to some rather chaotic amorous behavior., and let’s be honest, that’s not a pleasant sight. A healthy balance of roosters to hens is about 1 to 10 (or less). So, the burning question is, what can you do when roosters start outnumbering your hens? Buckle up because we’ve got some tasty solutions.

Savoring the Flavor of Roosters

chicken, rooster, pastured poultryYou bet you can eat roosters! Although young roosters may be a tad tougher than a Cornish cross chicken, you can work culinary wonders to make them a delicious and satisfying meal.

Pressure Cooking Perfection: Get ready to experience tender rooster meat by pressure cooking or boiling them. While the grill might lend that smoky flavor, the dry heat can make your bird tougher.  The magic happens with “low and slow” cooking, turning your rooster into a flavorful masterpiece.

The Nutrient Goldmine: What makes young roosters extraordinary? It’s the richness in minerals and fat that delivers that unique flavor. Darker meat is a testament to this nutrient abundance, influenced by breed and age. By the time you’re ready to cull them, these young roosters are primed to give you a remarkably rich and flavorsome chicken dinner.

Now that you’re itching to explore the culinary side of your roosters, let’s dive into some lip-smacking recipes:
  • Rooster Soup Sensation: I generally include the feet when I package a rooster, so the whole thing can go in the stockpot or instapot to make super rich broth. The feet add collagen (think healthy bones, hair, and skin) and flavor in spades to your broth. Remove the bones and meat at the end of the cook time. Take the meat off the bones, dice, and return to the pot. Add any veggies and herbs you like. A rooster can make a rich broth without overwhelming the soup with meat. It’s a nice balance.
  • Pressure-Cooked Chicken Delight: Pressure cooking is a great way to enjoy a full flavor chicken that is also tender to eat. Know that it will be chewier than a store chicken, or even a cornish cross farm chicken. However, that chewiness helps develop your jaw muscles and bone, facial bones and structures, and teeth. All that mastication also ensures that you’ll get all the minerals and vitamins that rooster stored up for you. It’s a pleasurable, gentle workout that tastes good!
  • Chicken and dumplings: Follow the directions for soup, but thicken the broth. Dumplings are basically biscuits steam cooked in the stew. This is a historically fantastic way to enjoy the heritage animal that a rooster is.

chicken, rooster, pastured poultry

Roosters are far from being a homestead liability. They’re a treasured asset that adds flavor, excitement, and protection to your flock. So, embrace your roosters, and savor the delightful meals they can provide. They’re not just a gift; they’re a culinary adventure waiting to happen on your homestead.

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Learn how to process your own roosters! Join us in the spring Pastured Poultry and Chicken Processing class or join the Tribe+ website membership and get the full and complete video course for free.

Homestead failures and wins: the thrill of victory and pain of defeat

Homestead failures. They aren’t the end of the world.

The thrill of victory can come from the pain of defeat.

Success and failure are both part of the game. Failure can be discouraging. Let me tell ya.

  • When half your chickens die.
  • Potato bugs and squash bugs decimate your plants
  • Hail happens
  • Frost happens
  • And so many other things. that cause things to not go right.

It’s not the end of the world. Honest. In face, homestead failures can be what makes you stronger because they can be opportunities to learn and get stronger.

More on that as Mark talks about homestead failures and the thrill of victory and the pain of defeat.

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