• March 3, 2017

New England Charcuterie

By Rebecca Strong

While chefs may have named charcuterie one of the top five food trends for the coming year in a 2016 American Culinary Federation survey, the truth is, it’s no new fad—it’s an ancient method of meat preservation dating back 6,000 years. Fast forward a few millennia from cured meat’s inception, and Massachusetts has finally gotten its own facility licensed to produce, cure, and sell it, thanks to chef Joshua Smith.

Smith isn’t trying to reinvent the wheel, though. New England Charcuterie was created with a very specific vision: to revive the historic art using modern technology while remaining true to tradition. To achieve this balance, Smith conducted immense research on time-honored techniques while traveling throughout Europe, partnered with the highest-quality farms he could find, and even had custom machinery made—including a massive Mauting smoking chamber. The operation was originally housed at Moody’s Delicatessen & Provisions in Waltham, also owned by Smith. When it began to outgrow the busy gourmet shop, he opened a separate facility a few miles away and ramped up production.

It’s a damn good thing he did. Nowadays, New England Charcuterie offers 180 different products with ultra-traceable, local ingredients. Main genres include salami, whole muscle, fresh sausage, cooked sausage, pâté, and deli meats. And within each category you’ll find an array of inventive options.

Salami varieties run a deliciously wide gamut: We enjoy the Southern-esque Bourbon & Bacon with lightweight, fruit-forward Beaujolais, and liqueur- and orange-zest-infused Loukaniko makes for a perfect pairing with Riesling. Of course, we’d happily scarf down solo the Hot Soppressata (a mole-style with cocoa and ghost chili), the Wild Game (an earthy Tartufo with truffle salt), or the Classic Wagyu Dry Beef Salame. Fresh sausage selections cover German classics from Bratwurst to Weisswurst, with more worldly selections—like Cajun-Style Andouille and British Banger—thrown into the mix. Pâté is produced in more conventional forms; think tried-and-true duck, pork, and chicken liver pâté (smashing with a glass of Sauternes) plus a silky-smooth Liver Mousse. But the occasional innovative combo surfaces, too, like the Pork & Pistachio with brandy, butter, and dry cranberries: a no-brainer alongside rosé.

So how exactly did Smith’s insatiable charcuterie interest ignite? It all goes back to a stint at Dean and Deluca’s flagship store in Charlotte that gave the 19-year-old chef the opportunity to make terrines, pâtés, and sausages. After serving as sous chef at the Four Seasons in Boston—where his charcuterie became a constant fixture on the menu at both Aujourd’hui and the Bristol Lounge—he helped Michael Schlow launch Tico, taking on the mantle of Executive Chef before deciding to focus on cured meat full-time. He opened Moody’s Deli in 2013 and added a restaurant, The Backroom at Moody’s, less than two years later.

Since Smith opted to follow his dry-cured dreams, New England Charcuterie has built up a solid reputation. The company now partners with Eataly (both in Boston and New York) and collaborates with businesses on creating custom products, like charcuterie that local farmers can sell using their farms’ own animals and special sausages for individual restaurants (a fennel sausage for Cambridge’s Area Four, a maple togarashi salami for Townsman).

As far as charcuterie’s popularity goes, Smith has a theory regarding its resurgence in restaurants. “It brings the dining experience to a sharing communal level more than any other food,” he told us. “Pizza, pasta, and the like get cold and don’t taste as good—charcuterie can sit there for hours while you talk and only get better.”

In addition to Moody’s Delicatessen & Provisions, Eataly New York, and Eataly Boston, New England Charcuterie can be found here. The company’s products appear on menus around the Boston area, including The Maiden, Brewer’s Fork, and Barcelona.