Cured meats have never been cooler
Photographed by Adam Detour | Styled by Kendra Smith
Mankind has been preserving meat via salt, air, and time for centuries, but cured meats have probably never looked cooler than they do in 2022. On-the-go meat sticks are no longer the sole purview of Slim Jim—TikTok and Instagram are awash in “sharcootie” boards and store shelves are full of salumi with branding hipper than a tall boy of double IPA. While shelf-stable sausage is nothing new, an efflorescent cohort of American newcomers has been steadily transforming the ready-to-eat salami-sphere.
“Charcuterie is a 3,000-year-old art form and we are a 246-year-old country,” says Kevin Ouzts, owner of boutique charcuterie shop The Spotted Trotter in Atlanta. “We must start celebrating the amazing bounty of spices, salts, fruits, vegetables, and processes in this country.” Ouzts has been in business over a decade, as have most of the makers on this list, but a growing consumer appetite is giving them the freedom to take exciting risks. (Think: Wagyu bresaola, saucisson aux noisette crafted with Georgia peanuts, and salami modeled after a Midwestern Brandy Old Fashioned).
Perhaps the greatest economic risk undertaken by just about every maker on this list, though, is their decision to source more costly, humanely raised, antibiotic-free meat from nearby family farms. The commitment is so taken for granted in this group that I’m able to mention it in a blanket statement here, instead of in each relevant description that follows. “It’s possible to take the skills, techniques, and patience from the past but practice them with a modern palate,” says Corrie Cook, of Smoking Goose Meatery in Indianapolis. “[This] can mean knowing more about where [food] comes from and how it was raised…that kind of priority has grown in general, and domestic charcuterie along with it.” Coupling this thoughtful approach with a classically American mash-up of customs and flavors, these pioneers are fostering a meat culture that could only be born here. Read on for some of the most exciting products of this new age.
A deeply cheese-friendly riff on saucisson aux noisette made with Georgia peanuts, cayenne, and smoked pimentón, this stuff downright begs for beer. Round out your bar-snacks board with Chandoka, a sharp and fruity New Zealand–style cheddar made in Malone, Wisconsin, with an unexpected blend of goat’s and cow’s milk.
Lay back with this dry martini mix of lamb, pork, juniper berry, and orange peel. Its juice-bomb profile is grounded by lamb’s earthy mystery, primed to play well with flavors of the Mediterranean—like those present in the marinated cheeses of Australia’s Meredith Dairy. Their feta-adjacent cubes are flavored with peppercorns and fresh herbs and welcome charcuterie with open arms.
In an homage to Wisconsin’s beloved Brandy Old Fashioned, brandied cherries and orange peel flavor this salami, which tastes like the booze-soaked garnishes at the bottom of a cocktail glass. All that punchy juice finds a friend in Betty and Martin Koster’s L’Amuse Gouda, which is aged at a higher temperature to round out this Dutch cheese’s standard crunch with an exceptionally creamy paste.
Chef-owner Erika Lynch makes all her charcuterie by hand with methods learned under master nose-to-tail butchers in Gascony, France. Her work has garnered many accolades, including a 2021 Good Food Award for this fennel-infused varietal with roots in Tuscany. Pair it with its Tuscan cousin, the salty and lactic sheep’s milk table cheese Pecorino Toscano Stagionato PDO, a copy of Under the Tuscan Sun, and an al fresco sunset.
Owners Martinique Grigg and Clara Veniard use a double-grind technique and celery salt culture to perfect their salami, available in this chipotle and cinnamon variety (as well as lemongrass and cardamom-citrus agrumi.) Mellow its sweet heat with the mild, dessert friendly tang of Rogue’s Caveman Blue, a fudgy natural-rind wheel with notes of brown butter and petrichor.
Beaver-state hazelnuts, house-cured bacon, and Cognac flavor this rustic country pâté, best enjoyed with a baguette, stone-ground mustard, and an old-world classic like the extra-aged Jura staple Marcel Petite 24-month Comté. Affineurs closely monitor these wheels in a converted French military fort for two years to achieve a nutty complexity and silky paste that’s virtually unparalleled in the Alpine cheese landscape.
Tempesta Artisan Salumi Wagyu Bresaola + Vermont Shepherd Verano
The intricate lacey marbling of Wagyu beef makes for a stunningly delicate bresaola, here rubbed with juniper and fennel pollen and aged 120 days. Choose a delicate cheese that won’t overpower it, such as subtle and earthy Vermont Shepherd Verano made with the raw milk of sheep grazing summer pastures of wild herbs and grasses.