September 9, 2012 10:52 AM   Subscribe

Two questions about charcuterie in NYC and on the internet.

I am very, very fond of prepared meat products. I have access and eat a variety of sausage, but the most of the shops around me are Eastern European, Italian, and, to a lesser degree, Chinese and Hispanic (although I'm not sure if that's because of the latter cuisines or my ignorance of what to look for.) So, two questions:
  1. Where in NYC and online can I find someone to sell me prepared meats? I'm more interested in variety than renown. In NYC I'd prefer Brooklyn or lower Manhattan. Online, I'm basically looking for somewhere that covers regional varieties that aren't widely distributed outside their region.
  2. Let's say I wanted to start rolling my own. Assuming the ingredients aren't an issue, what does the outlay for the equipment look like? What are some good informational resources - preferably online (read: free) but books work too. And what should I get new, and what used? We had a cast iron meat grinder when I was growing up and I imagine a well-made and maintained grinder from twenty years ago works just as well today. Am I right?
posted by griphus to Food & Drink (22 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
Regarding your second question, have you taken a look at this massive eGullet thread about cooking from Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn's book Charcuterie? More useful than the thread on its own, here is the massive index to the massive thread, carefully organized by question and recipe.
posted by peacheater at 11:00 AM on September 9, 2012 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks! I did not know about that but, I should have mentioned in the question that I do know about the book. But the book is not cheap, so y'all can consider these questions a feasibility study.
posted by griphus at 11:04 AM on September 9, 2012

Those are pretty much the prime Charcuterie regions of the world. I mean, sure, you got your French, your German/Austrian (though I think they tend to do fresh sausages rather than cured), and to an extent some minor outlying areas with strong influences from those countries (for instance prsut, the Slovenian take on prosciutto, is amazeballs).

This article has some good ideas for new stores to try.

In Brooklyn I like Brooklyn Larder, Greene Grape Provisions, and Stinky Brooklyn, though all three tend to carry the same brands, mostly artisanal makers based in the NY area riffing on the major European styles.

Schaller & Weber might be worth making a field trip.

What about Essex Market? I haven't systematically searched their vendors for interesting charcuterie, but there's always lots of interesting stuff going on in there.

Here are some key words for finding obscure kinds of cured meats:

Spegepølse - from Denmark
Prsut - Slovenia, as mentioned above
Saucisson Sec - the French take on a salami-esque hard-cured sausage
Téli Szalámi - Hungarian
Kulen - Serbo-Croat
Bindenfleisch - Swiss
Pastirma - Turkey

I'm not sure if anywhere in New York specifically sells these, but armed with google keywords it should be a little easier to figure out.
posted by Sara C. at 11:36 AM on September 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

Interestng stuff to try from Schaller & Weber, to give you some incentive to make the trek to Yorkville:

Prague-Style smoked ham
Kasseler Ripchen
Landjaeger (I've seen this at Greene Grape Provisions, so you might not need to go all the way to Schaller & Weber for it.)
Did you know Germans made pate? I didn't!

They also ship, if you're lazy.

Can I just throw out a recommendation for headcheese, if you haven't tried it before? I don't usually see it at the fancy gourmet places in Brooklyn, but the Polish joints in Greenpoint should have it. Schaller & Weber definitely do, and you could also try some butcher shops.

If you really do want to try to make your own forcemeats, you might want to start with a French country pate. My dad, who is a foodie but not a pro chef or anything, does one every year during the holidays. You can buy this in any specialty charcuterie shop, and it's often a choice on restaurant charcuterie samplers if you want to make sure you like it before you spend days crafting an entire loaf of the stuff.

Must... not... walk over to Provisions... right... now...
posted by Sara C. at 12:00 PM on September 9, 2012

Variety available online. I subscribed to this for a year; amazing and wonderful. Will probably sign up again someday.
posted by Protocols of the Elders of Sockpuppetry at 1:04 PM on September 9, 2012

I'm a fan of Spanish charcuterie. You can get online lots of very regional slicing sausages from It's not just chorizo. It's all the different subtle differences in chorizos as they vary from town to town or region to region. I'm personally in love with dry cured pork loin (lomo).
posted by Stewriffic at 1:14 PM on September 9, 2012

I have the Charcuterie book. It is worth it. I have the Kitchenaid meat grinder, which is absolutely fine for my purposes, but the sausage stuffer SUCKS. I bought a Grizzly vertical hand-crank sausage stuffer which beats the pants off of the KA one. Hand-crank ones are good too, IFF the blade is sharp. I've made some cured/fermented sausages too, let me know if you want my experiences with those.
posted by KathrynT at 1:51 PM on September 9, 2012

Stewriffic makes a good point - you mention "Hispanic" charcuterie in your question, but that's sort of an odd phrasing. I'm assuming you mean Spanish and Latin-American, so you're saying you're familiar with stuff like Jamon Iberico and the various chorizos from all over the Spanish-speaking world. If what you really meant was "sometimes I buy chorizo from the supermarket", I'd definitely advise you to get yourself some really amazing Spanish cured ham. It's unbelievably expensive, but well worth it as a treat.

You can also get mid-grade Serrano Ham pre-packaged at some of your fancier Brooklyn bodegas, which is pretty good, but not really much better than the meh-level prosciutto sold by the same companies.

There are probably as many Iberian cured meats as there are Italian, and a lot of them are widely available throughout the city.
posted by Sara C. at 2:02 PM on September 9, 2012

So lets divide this question into two different spheres - dried cured meats and Pates, Terrines, and Others.

Spanish Cured Meats - really the best. Despana in Manhattan. They just started getting 5 jotas iberica de bellota jamon. Best $250/lb you can spend (Get 100g for a really nice sized serving for two). Lomo, etc. Great stuff.
Italian Cured Meats - Easy to find lots and lots of places - no need to shout out a place here though Salumeria Biellese is probably the best in-house maker in NYC. Their fresh sausage is also great. A lot of shamancy places in Manhattan are reselling their stuff. Also Eataly - only worth going because they have Batali's Dad's Salumi - which is really superb.
US Heritage Cured Meats (Bacon and Ham really) - Heritage Meats at Essex Market has the best selection in town. (Other charcuterie there is Formaggio Essex - they have really good in house pates and terrines. Their cured meat things generally good, but not worth a journey. Most of it will be available in BK)
Polish Places - Bunch of them in GP. My in-laws will fight for hours over which is best. There is def an exhaustive chowhound post comparing Kielbasa. Also Kishkes, Kabanos, Fresh Sausage and Headcheese obs. Don't sit on their smoked uncured pork products
Balkans/Hungarian/Romanian - Muncan Foods in Astoria or Ridgewood is really your go to here. Serious Eats has an exhaustive slide show of their offerings. Every once in a while you get a dud - usually in the form of too much smoke and maybe a little bactoferm (cheating additive). Their pork rinds are embarassingly good. They have a truly absurd selection in terms of quantity.
German- I think Forest Pork Store takes S&W outback and just punishes them. Problem is while they still manufacture in Ridgewood their retail outlet is only in Huntington now. Like for German things I think you can't get much better.

Oddball stuff - Hudson Valley Duck Farm sells some duck charcuterie that is tasty - both smoked breast and duck proscuitto. Chinese Sausage I love, but I've never had much luck buying it.

General Stores with nice general selections : Murray's, Brooklyn Larder, Dean & DeLuca.

So that's the Cured stuff. Terrines and Pates are another story. Honestly - there are lots of hipsters trying to make this stuff - and they generally are pretty weak. As I said I think the Formaggio Essex guys bring stuff down from the mothership that is probably the best stuff you can get retail in town. The Fabriques Delices stuff Murrays and BK Larder carry is ok. Dickson's tries really really hard but its not there yet. I've not tried the stuff The Meat Hook guys are making, but I've heard good things. Not a big fan of Brooklyn Cured. Really in the terrine world the restaurants around town are your best option. Boulud gets a lot of hype for his stuff and its fine.

Charcuterie books - I'll give a shout out to Jane Grigson. And of course lots of great terrine recipes out there.
posted by JPD at 3:25 PM on September 9, 2012 [7 favorites]

For traditional southeastern American cured meats, Benton's Smoky Mountain Country Hams and Pine Street Market are the purveyors of choice for many of Atlanta's foodie havens (when they're not using housemade charcuterie). The folks at Southern Foodways Alliance might also be a good resource if you're looking for American foodways as well as non-US.
posted by catlet at 3:33 PM on September 9, 2012

Heritage at Essex Market carries Benton's amongst a bunch of other options.
posted by JPD at 3:39 PM on September 9, 2012

JPD's answer is great.

I love Despana. They hand carve their Jamon Iberico. Most other places machine slice, unfortunately. Also they'll give you a few tastes as they slice. They have jamon slicing classes now and again. Despana also makes several varieties of sausage, including chorizo and blood sausage. Free samples by the cash register, so good! I'm fond of them, obviously.

Salumeria Biellese is excellent, but I also like Salumeria Rosi.

If you go to Eataly, Armandino Batali's brand name is simply Salumi. What they have in stock may be written on a board near the meat/cheese counter, so not always in the most obvious place. Pricey, though.

You can buy almost everything Boulud makes at Epicurie Boulud, next door to Bar Boulud. I really like his pates.
posted by kathryn at 3:57 PM on September 9, 2012 [2 favorites]

As someone who has dabbled quite a bit in making charcuterie, let me be frank. If $20 for the Ruhlman book is a lot, you're going to be horrified at how expensive the hobby can be. Depending on what you're trying to do, you might need:
Meat grinder
Sausage stuffer
Smoker that can hot smoke
Smoker that can cold smoke
Digital thermometer and humidity gauge
Refrigerator (depends on your climate, your regular fridge is too cold and dry to age meats)

That's not including the cost of failed experiments that you don't trust enough to eat. I don't mean to dissuade you, it's a lot of fun as a hobby, but there's a reason that good charcuterie starts at something like $15/lb and goes up to practically infinity.
posted by TungstenChef at 5:28 PM on September 9, 2012 [4 favorites]

Sooo, griphus, I went over to Greene Grape Provisions in Fort Greene so that you don't have to!

It's true, you probably owe me a beer at the next meetup.

Here are my findings:

Provisions has a lot of the interesting Schaller & Weber stuff, specifically the Landjaeger (small dry sausage similar to Italian cacciatore), Cervelat, and Lachsschinken. They also carry a few items from Biellese, and a lot of La Quercia and Molinari from the Bay Area (highly recommend their finocchiona, tasty and extremely fun to say). Tons more, too, though the emphasis is definitely on Italy.

Bought an eighth of a pound of Biellese Sopressata. Great stuff.

You might like this Brokelyn article on making Chinese cured meat at home.
posted by Sara C. at 6:13 PM on September 9, 2012

This has been my hobby for the last four years or so, and Charcuterie by Ruhlman has been a good, good friend, though there are definitely some other decent books out there.

You need a good grinder. I started out with one of those cast-iron, crank on the end deals that clamp to the table. They suck. I still use it, but only for stuffing.

I managed to find a Delonghi meat grinder/pasta maker on sale, but after checking their website, I don't see it available on the American store. Ruhlman recommends the site Butcher-Packer, and I do as well. It literally has everything you need, from spices and curing salts to grinders and stuffers. Grinders (electric ones) aren't cheap, and I've heard too many negative comments to try the Kitchen Aid route (key parts are plastic, and break easily). Still, a good grinder is key.

Even more important is temperature. If you're grinding anything, you need to keep it as cold as you possibly can. Three of my first four batches of sausage ended up going to my neighbor's dogs because the temperature of the mix was just a bit too high, and the fat started to melt in the grinder. This gives your sausages the consistency of papier-mache. You don't want that. I freeze the parts of the grinder that come into contact with the meet. I grind into a metal bowl set in another bowl that's filled with ice. After grinding, everything goes into a bag, and back into the freezer. I freeze the cast-iron grinder (that I use as a stuffer) too. Keeping things cold is easily the most essential part of the process.

As for a stuffer, I have my heart set on something like this, because stuffing is a pain, and supposedly those make it easier.

Butcher Packer is also a great resource for curing salts (pink salt and the like) and fermenting bacteria (for making salume and such). You can make bacon without nitrite, but it will be brown, not pink, and it just won't be the same.

The only thing I haven't gotten to yet is making things that need to hang and dry-cure, simply because I don't have the room/money for a drying cabinet, and the weather here is just about the worst weather possible for trying to cure meat.

If you have any questions, don't hesitate to memail me, I love this stuff, and I love talking to others who are interested in it.
posted by Ghidorah at 8:35 PM on September 9, 2012

Oh, and the best, absolute best cured meat I've had is coppa, which comes from a specific muscle in the shoulder. Fantastic, do a little dance because it tastes so good, wonderful meat.

Other than that, and I haven't been able to find it in quite a while, is cured and smoked pork neck meat. It's like little mini-strips of bacon, and the fat is quite firm, almost crunchy. So, so delicious. It's called ton-toro here in Japan. The meat itself is a flat, wide sheet of meat, usually four or five inches across. It doesn't need as long of a cure as bacon (too thin to cure that long), but it's amazing when smoked and sliced into thin strips.
posted by Ghidorah at 8:39 PM on September 9, 2012

TungstenChef and JPD have covered most of the high points. Both books mentioned - Rhulman/Polcyn and Grigson are very well worth acquiring if you have a serious interest. R/P's book should be readily available through the library. I was fortunate to take a sausage making class from Polcyn and he knows his stuff!

If you just make fresh sausage your costs will be modest. You could get by with just a good grinder if you choose not to use casings. If you decide to get into cured sausage you enter a whole 'nother level of equipment needs.

This fellow has a very interesting blog with great information on low tech solutions for curing. His focus tends to be on Italian charcuterie. It has been great fun following his explorations the last few years!
posted by cat_link at 8:51 PM on September 9, 2012

Re: Homemade charcuterie...

Most of the bases have been covered here but I want to point you to the forums at It's a nice mixture of American, British and Continental charcuterie enthusiasts that will definitely address your interest in regional specialties. I've seen discussions of Thai sausage followed by multipage debates about the best Lincolnshire sausage ans how to make homemade rusk. It's linked to a commercial site in some discreet way but I've only ever explored the forums.

Also, in terms of online vendors Butcher-Packer is fine. You can also check out Allied-Kenco Sales and The Sausage Maker, Inc.

Here's a nice collection of recipes from a guy named Len Poli.
posted by werkzeuger at 7:09 AM on September 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for the tips, everyone (and Sara I will certainly buy you a beer at the next meetup.)

I can't afford an(other) expensive hobby, so looks like I'll just be hitting up the joints y'all recommended and sampling their wares.
posted by griphus at 10:47 AM on September 10, 2012

I can't afford an(other) expensive hobby...

I definitely hear you, but understand you can try stuff like homemade corned beef and actually save money over the store bought version. If you can swing a meat grinder (or even a food processor with a sharp blade), there's a whole universe of fresh sausage (like cat_link points out) that you can try for the price of the ingredients - you never need to stuff it into casings.
posted by werkzeuger at 11:13 AM on September 10, 2012 [5 favorites]

I can't afford an(other) expensive hobby, so looks like I'll just be hitting up the joints y'all recommended and sampling their wares.

Pâté, terrines, rillettes, and confit are not hard to make and require no special equipment besides, in some cases, a hand blender or mortar and pestle. They appear regularly on charcuterie plates here in the Bay Area, so even if you're not quite ready for grinding your own meat you can still make delicious meat things, usually for much cheaper than they can be bought.
posted by oneirodynia at 5:07 PM on September 10, 2012 [3 favorites]

I don't know how you feel about putting your pâté "en croûte", or "en boot" but, if you need for ideas, look only to the best food blog on the internet. Kitsch & Classics. Maybe Mortadella and Boudin Blanc are more what you're looking for, though.
posted by clockwork at 1:23 PM on September 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

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