What with all this pork around and having to do something with it or lose it—eat it or preserve it (either with salt or by freezing)—I got out my buckled warped stained imperfect first edition of Charcuterie and opened to this page.
I haven’t looked at the book in a while but, and please forgive the hubris, I found this page so fresh and engaging that I asked Donna to scan it. My editor I’m sure is scratching her head at why this book continues to sell so well (for a book that encourages you to eat voluminous quantities of animal fat and salt and contains recipes that take days or even months, some of which will kill you if you don’t do them right!)—I have to think it’s because the book is, in the end, so sensible. It’s a history of eating in a way. I have quibbles, 3 years later, about the prose on this page, but the simplicity of the idea, the boldness of the title, the audacious subtitle, and the concise paragraph below it, combined with the wonderful design (by some unknown denizen of WWNorton, thanks whoever you are!) that places the recipes immediately below this brazen cry to embrace the miracle of salt, simple proofs of the claim above them—I don't know…I felt like I was reading someone else's book who felt exactly the same way I did. Pancetta. Pickles. Lemon confit. Cured salmon. This page is what I love about this book and this craft. And I had no idea at the time.
So, you, home cooks, even you home cooks with access only to a Safeway or Kroger, a 5-by-4-foot kitchen in a fifth floor walk up and an hour’s spare time between work, sleep, errands, kids, laundry and bill paying: Buy a duck breast and pack it in kosher salt and refrigerate it for a day and then rinse it off and enfold it in cheesecloth (or anything that can breath, a clean handkerchief will do in a pinch) and let it dry for a week on a rack on the counter or dangling from a string—then, slice it and taste. Suddenly you will see. Buy a side of salmon—no, buy a piece of salmon—pack it in an equal mixture of salt and sugar and some citrus zest or fennel, wrap it in foil for 24 hours, rinse it and taste a paper thin slice. A cooking miracle.
All the food on this page can be made at home with nothing more than some kosher salt and common seasonings. We make the most wonderful food preparations seem so exotic and beyond reach. Why? They’re not. They’re right before us. And they require no special ingredient and no skill beyond common sense.