Charcuterie catching on

Feb. 13, 2013 @ 10:46 PM

Sixty-two-year-old Michael Collins has changed gears, switching from working in advertising to launching his own business. He wanted to work with his hands, and had always loved charcuterie. So he launched This Little Piggie (, preparing and selling charcuterie, or prepared meats, and other products.
From the Durham-based commercial kitchen of The Cookery, he now makes different types of pâté, which is a meat that’s ground and cooked in a spreadable or paste form, as well as sausage, pickles and condiments.
According to the National Restaurant Association’s “What’s Hot 2013 Chef Survey” that polled chefs and American Culinary Federation members about their opinions on food trends this year, house-cured meats/charcuterie ranked No. 1 in the appetizer trends category.
However, in the overall ranking, house-cured meats/charcuterie is No. 29. Locally sourced meats and seafood was the No. 1 trend.
“If you were to ask me why charcuterie, I don’t have any answer other than I’ve always loved it,” Collins said.
On Monday, Collins was at The Cookery making a pork pâté called pâté de campagne, and chicken pâté with bourbon. He said he only works at the commercial kitchen when he has orders. So far, he said he’s had about 35 orders since Thanksgiving. That doesn’t include sales at fairs and at his Durham launch event.
He chopped up onions and parsley, mashed garlic, put the meat through a grinder, and after adding an egg and flour mixture and apple brandy, he put it all into a lined pan. The pan went into the oven to cook for several hours inside another pan, which was filled with water.
Collins said he learned how to butcher during a trip last year to a butcher shop in New York, and during a short internship at Cliff’s Meat Market in Carrboro, where he said he buys most of his meat. He said he researched recipes, and tried trial-and-error.
“There’s a huge demand for it,” he said of charcuterie.
Aside from This Little Piggie, there are also two proposed Durham businesses – still in the planning stages – that would involve butchery and prepared meats. Here are the concepts for them:

Rose’s Meat Market and Sweet Shop
Rose’s Meat Market in Durham is planned to be a butcher shop and sweets vendor that also sells sandwiches and prepared dinners. Justin Meddis, who has been working on the concept with his wife, Katie Meddis, said they plan to buy whole animals, offer fresh cuts, and to use meat scraps in sausages and other items.
To get consumers to understand their concept, they have done farmers’ market demonstrations and four whole-animal dinners last year. Two were whole pork dinners and two were whole chicken dinners.
Meddis said they have not signed a lease yet, but are in negotiations for a space in Brightleaf Square. He said their construction documents are also in process. He said they are targeting a May opening.
“It’s not just a business, it’s also important to us, as much as we’ve researched this and looked into … the way commodity meat is raised, is not sustainable,” he said. “It’s not something we stand behind,” he added. “We want people to become aware of that, and move away from it; we feel it’s important for the future.”

Salted Pig
There are plans in the early stages for a “pork-centric modern eatery” called Salted Pig. It’s envisioned by Justin Rakes, a former executive chef at Four Square Restaurant in Durham. He said he’s working on the idea with Scott Martin, who took over as executive chef at Four Square when Rakes left, he said.
Rakes said the concept for Salted Pig is an eatery that would feature dishes made from pigs raised at local farms. They envision serving items such as country ham flights – a sequence of different kinds of country hams, each cured for a different amount of time – or pork meatballs, or a selection of house-made or artisanal charcuteries, and pickles, mustards, preserves and breads, among other selections.
“What we would do is bring in whole animals, and utilize the whole animal for … cuts,” Rakes said, adding that the proposed eatery would also emphasize communal dining, bringing people together around four or five small plates called “snacks,” as well as offering larger plates.
Rakes said he’s working on the business plan, is scouting locations, and was planning to present the idea to potential investors.