By Patricia Fontanals

After reading Charcutería, the Soul of Spain, I was curious to meet chef Jeffrey Weiss and find out why he had decided to write such an elaborate cookbook about Spanish-style butchering and meat-curing techniques. His book is an amazing exploration of how meat-curing traditions are intertwined with the Spanish culture and its culinary history. It presents a whole vision of the people, the country and its charcutería.

After being awarded with the ICEX culinary scholarship that allowed him to live in Spain for a year and learn its varied culinary traditions, Jeffrey went back to the US to work as a chef. It was then, when he realized that many of his colleagues didn’t know about morcillas, chorizos de cantimpalo, or butifarras, and that there were no serious publications about Spanish charcuterie. But Jeffrey didn’t want to just present a list of recipes, he wanted to publish a book that would help integrate Spanish charcutería into the gastronomy of America “for me is more important to tell the story, where this comes from, what are the processes…. to tell the whole story.”

From how to make salazones (salt cures) and conservas (techniques used for canning), to how to produce embutidos (sausages) and patés, Weiss covers an amazing variety of Spanish charcutería basics and techniques. When asked about which recipe is most accessible to make at home for our readers here in Texas, Jeffrey responded without a doubt: Costillas de la matanza, pork ribs grilled to perfection, and cured in sugar, cinnamon, lemon, bay leaves, and sherry.

Although most of the cured meats that Weiss mentions in his book are not accessible in the US supermarkets, Jeffrey said that the USDA has been reducing the restrictions on some Italian meat imports. Therefore, there is still hope for those of us who have experienced the wonderful Spanish charcutería and are waiting with excitement our next encounter.

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