Feasts are where it’s at. Tables lined with boisterous warriors gnawing on hindquarters of goats like they were chicken drumsticks, animals on spits, Pigs with apples in their mouths. It’s all good. OK that description may be directly from a childhood fantasy of mine but you get the drift. As soon as anyone I know mentions the word wedding I try and steer it in this direction. Women aren’t so crazy about the gnawing bones thing so you’ve got to gussy it up a little. The key elements however are abundance and meat. Wait, let’s just make that an abundance of meat. To hit that level of sophistication that gets it over the goal line with the ladies and the family who are most likely bankrolling the thing, we will provide a never ending stream of charcuterie platters filled with products crafted by our own loving hands.
This was my proposal to Alex when he said he was getting married to his lovely bride Fiona. Fiona does not eat meat which was a bit of a glitch but we somehow managed to just ignore that and forge ahead. Alex is a chef, in fact he trained me in my first ever chefs job, so this had to be fucking killer.
What we did was get a half pig. As my pork supplier said “imagine obi wan kenobi has just sliced a pig down the backbone with a light sabre”. So once we broke this beast down to its constituents we had half a head, a neck fillet, the hand (the meat around the shoulder joint) , the loin, the tenderloin, the belly, a leg and a pile of trim and fat.
We extracted the cheek out of the head for guanciale and laid that down in its cure first. Then we cured the loin for lonza and the fillet for filletto. The neck fillet (otherwise known as scotch) became coppa and the belly became nduja. The hand, trim and fat were painstakingly converted into finnochiona and all that was left was the ham. This was to be the crowning glory, a raw cured American country ham. I like to think of it as redneck pro-shoot-o.
After this initial day of butchery we split up the various bits and pieces between our two homes and got to the daily care of each product. As certain products became ready we vacuum packed them and squirrelled them away in our meat fridges (you don’t have one of these?).The guanciale was ready in about 1 month and the ham was ready to go the night before the wedding. Actually we sliced all the ham we needed for the wedding and then smeared the cut surfaces with strutto (a mixture of lard and rice flour) and hung it back up to have some more time for flavour development. I reckon we’ll crack open that sucker again in about a year.
I was damn proud when those platters came rolling out. And thank you Fiona for allowing us to flood your wedding with meat product.