In the 1990’s, chefs in Toronto and Montreal started to produce their own sausages, cured meats, and pates. Previously, practically all of these items were purchased, and most restaurants and food beverage operators continue to purchase them, some from small artisan producers others from huge nationally known manufacturers.
Pending on the skill of the sausage maker, and raw ingredients, home made sausages, taste better and look more appealing. Manufacturers use by-products that may be less flavourful, and chemicals to prolong shelf life.
The roots of the word charcuterie go back to French char cuite (cooked flesh), and includes sausages and salamis, bacon and ham, pâtés, terrines, and rillettes.
Charcuterie plates are easy to compose both at home and in restaurants. For home use, try to buy charcuterie from small butchers with in-house products, or those that offer them from artisan producers.
For each plate, two to three kinds of salami (there are literally hundreds of varieties from German, Italian, Hungarian, paprika, etc), two kinds of ham, one pate or terrine and possibly a rillette should suffice.
A plate of charcuterie requires strong and assertive wines. You can choose between a dry sherry, or an amontillado, or dry sparkling wine.
The category of sausages contains fine- or coarse-grained salamis, which may be spiced with garlic, or herbs, or exotic spices, sweet or hot, or scented with smoked paprika. Then there are German wursts and Italian salami, ranging from mortadella (occasionally containing unsalted pistachio nuts) to superrich cotecchino.
Italian who emigrated and settled in other countries always start sausage manufacturing companies, groceries, restaurants and/or import Italian food when the demand warrants it. To Italians, food represents life itself, and most, if not all, firmly believe that Italian foods taste best.
In Toronto and Ontario in general, there are many Italian sausage manufacturers. Bona foods is one of the many with a range of salami and cured meats (prosciutto).
Their sausages were awarded three prestigious awards at the Ontario Meat Processors Finest Meat Competition in 2009. They were for the Paisanella salami, sweet Italian sausage and round pancetta in the cured meat category. Bona Foods products are widely available in Ontario, British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba and Quebec.
Niagara Food Specialties was started brothers Mario and Fernando Pingue in Niagara specializing in Italian charcuterie i.e prosciutto, San Daniele ham and other sausages. All are made according to old and cherished recipes in Niagara.
Cured meats include prosciutto, Spanish Serrano ham, speck, Westphalia ham, Black Forest ham, duck prosciutto, Bundnerfleish (air dried beef), coppa, bacon, pastirma, not to be confused with pastrami.
Top quality cured meats offer delicious sweetness, underlined with salt. Cured meat flavour and quality depends much on the breed of the animal and diet it had in the last few weeks of its earthly life.
Spanish pata negra ham has a slightly funky nuttiness because these small, semi-wild, black-footed (pata negra pigs) forage on acorns and beech mast for a few months before slaughter.
Pigs for prosciutto are fed with parsnips, and Virginia’s Smithfield, they forage on peanuts.
Smithfield ham originated in Isle pf Wight County in the Hampton Roads of Virginia, and today comes mainly from Smithfield in North Carolina. It is cured, smoked, processed and shipped all over the U S A.
Speck is smoked pork fat; Westphalia ham is appropriately smoked, as is Black Forest ham.
Bundnerflesich, a specialty of Switzerland’s Graubunden is air-dried beef tenderloin.
Bacon from specially bred pigs, when it is appropriately prepared is delicious.
Pates consist of finely ground meat, or liver enhanced with herbs and/or spices and alcoholic beverages (i.e cognac, whisky etc) and baked.
Pates can be light and evanescent, but also converted to mousse by whisking in an attempt to add air into the mixture.
Pates produced by skilful artisans, taste great and may be of fattened goose liver, or duck liver, pork liver, or rabbit and are usually encased in a pastry to absorb the fat during baking. Practically all are preserved with gelatine to prolong shelf life.
Terrines are chunky and of coarse texture, nevertheless delicious if produced using only appropriate parts of the carcass.
Headcheese, and pork pie are terrines that enjoy popularity in England and Germany. They happen to be inexpensive and often contain parts of tongue, cheeks, and other parts of the head of the animal.