As I was about to leave for Southwest France, Michael was just coming back from the region, Agen to be precise.
Q: Michael, let's start with an obvious question, why Salumi?
After success of Charcuterie which I also co-authored with Brian and especially the chapter on dry cured meats, our publisher asked us for follow up that would focus exclusively on that hence 'Salumi'.
Q: What is difference between Charcuterie and Salumi?
Charcuterie covers a larger field. It includes pates to terrines and confits. In Italy, Salumi is pretty much exclusively defined as dry cured meats (muscles, sausages) except for mortadella.
Q: How large is contingent of food lovers who want to know that jowl of pig is source for Guanciale and that Coppa is made with neck muscle?
Interest is actually larger than you would think. It is not unusual to find food fans who want to delve deep into nose to tail cooking and explore its techniques.
I go for plain salami, salt, pepper, fat, simple flavors.
Q: What was division of labor between you and Brian while writing Salumi?
Just like with Charcuterie, Brian handled the recipes while I wrote all the texts. To understand the process, I did learn to break the hog. Brian has a great source for pigs in Ohio. Brian of course has more hands-on experience as he preps and cures meats for his 2 restaurants and also teaches charcuterie class.
Q: Why are peaches and plums good accompaniments for coppa and large calabrese salami?
These fruits pair well with saltiness of coppa and salumi. Their presence in book's photos was influenced by fact that they were in season when photo shoot took place in New York. Brian was there. I was not.
Q: How many readers of 'Salumi' do you hope will try their hand at making their own salumi? Any recommendations on where should they start?
I hope many will give dry curing a try. Coppa is a good place to start. Ask your butcher or meat purveyor for muscle cut out of shoulder. All muscles are an easier step to dry curing.
I don't know about physical aspect of the work. In big cities like New York, the main challenge readers who want to venture making their own salumi will encounter is space (small kitchens). They should settle for small batches that can be stored in mini fridge dedicated to that purpose.
Q: Among the recipes you share at the end of the book, would some be OK without meat?
A pasta carbonara is of course out of the question but why not with others. Recipes were included for those who will not take the step of dry curing themselves yet like to buy beautiful salami and can put these tasty cuts to use with these recipes.
Q: What would you drink with the Coppa, Orange and Onion Salad recipe?
It calls for a rustic, simple, Sicilian red. Touring salumi makers, we tasted their cuts with bread and red wine.
Q: While doing research for the book in Italy, what was your favorite moment, best encounter?
It was at Spannochia, a farm/culinary school in Tuscany specializing in Cinta Senese pigs. They teach their students to be proud of their work and care about the quality of the ingredients they use. A young American, Elisa from New Jersey, was one of the students when we visited.
I hope this interview aged gracefully in the 4 weeks it took me to publish it. Thanks Michael.
Bian Polcyn is the chef-owner of Forest Grill and Cinco Lagos in suburban Detroit. He also teaches charcuterie at Schoolcraft College in Livonia, Michigan.
(* Illustrations reproduced with permission from W.W Norton from Salumi 'The Craft of Italian Curing' by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn, illustrations © 2012 by Alan Witschonke Illustration)