Taking the Mystery Out of the Meat: Tips and Tricks from the Charcuterie Class at Formaggio Kitchen

Charcuterière Julie Biggs begins to grind meat at Formaggio Kitchen.

Julie Biggs, the charcuterière at Formaggio Kitchen in Cambridge, used to be a vegetarian. Now she handles fat back, pork shoulder, and the small intestines of pigs like they were second nature.

It’s the nature part that’s responsible for the transformation.

“I only use meats that are not mass-produced,” Biggs said to her fully subscribed charcuterie class last night. She orders her meat from Savenor’s Market which, she says, will get her anything she wants. What she wants is grass-fed, hormone-free, as-local-as-possible meats like beef, pork, and duck.

Knowing where her meat comes from, how it was raised, and how “clean” it is has shifted Biggs’ perspective on meat personally and professionally. She was a student at Boston University when she took a cheese course from Ihsan Gurdal, Formaggio’s co-owner. She had been managing a catering company and told Gurdal she wanted to get back in the kitchen and work with meat. Soon she was being trained on-the-job at Formaggio by the woman — another charcuterière — who she would succeed.

Dressed in blue jeans cuffed just above her black kitchen clogs, a dark brown three-quarter-length shirt, and white apron, Biggs moves around Formaggio’s limited kitchen workspace authoritatively. But her work is more about the finesse of the craft. “I do it because it’s artisanal and creative,” she said, taking a break from cubing fatback. “Plus it’s fun, and it’s hard to screw up when you have such great ingredients as raw material.”

Six Steps to Successful Sausage Making, courtesy of Julie Biggs, charcuterière at Formaggio:

  1. Use the best quality, freshest meat you can find. Biggs’ source is Savenor’s Market in Cambridge. Have the meat ground by the butcher, or grind it yourself.
  2. Trim off sinewy tissue, then cut into 1-inch cubes.
  3. Weigh and salt meat to the ratio of 1 pound meat : .27 ounces kosher salt.
  4. Freeze cubed, salted meat in a single layer.
  5. Grind meat that is 2/3 frozen.
  6. Mix with hands or with a mixer just until the meat comes together. Don’t overmix or allow meat to get warm. Add seasonings to taste.

One Response

  1. […] photo essay To supplement yesterday’s WGBH Foodie story on charcuterière Julie Biggs’ Charcuterie + Beer class at Formaggio Kitchen in Cambridge, today’s post features an annotated photo essay of the stages of sausage-making, […]

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