December 15, 2011

A year ago, my little hobby, what Dennis called my “meat thing,” connected via Twitter with Kim Foster’s curiousity and a cheeky title, to become Charcutepalooza. It just happened in a crazy stroke of synchronicity. And then… along came sponsors, Food52, a huge grand prize, and, suddenly, there were all of you.

Kim and I, we’ve come to know you this year. And you’ve come to know each other. Your blog posts, photos, questions, comments, your Facebook and Twitter participation, it’s all brought you into our lives and we’re a little bereft at the thought of saying goodbye.

The last few days, reading all your posts, has been incredibly affirming. We knew you were into it, but, wow. Until a year-full of posts were digested, we didn’t know how Charcutepalooza would be changing lives, stirring up memories, creating new relationships, bringing you to career decisions, and building enduring friendships.

I’ve avoided writing this post. You should see the tasks that have been accomplished in the avoidance. My closets are so orderly. Even the pantry is tidy. The larder jars are lined up perfectly. The ironing is all done.

You see, I don’t want to say goodbye to the Year of Meat. It’s been the most remarkable experience. A year ago, if you had said 2011 would have me skinning a beef tongue, boiling trotters, handily breaking down a lamb shoulder, learning charcuterie and butchery in Gascony, and fearlessly serving cured meats to friends, family, and members of the press  … well, I would have said you were crazy.

More than anything, I never would have believed 2011 would bring me so many new friends. Cooks and chefs and meat-mavens who have my utter respect. What you all do is extraordinary. Thank you for bringing it each and every month.

There were cross-cultural bahn-mi, are-you-kidding-me pierogies with duck confit, and the most beautiful mousseline transformed to ravioli. There were the stories – couples working together friendships forged while conquering casings, a family’s final Thanksgiving, memories of a Croque-Monsieur. There were glorious condiments, stunning photography, and more.

I get it. Charcutepalooza changed my life, too. I will be conscious of the meat on my plate, and ask its history. I don’t see a reason to eat meat that has been slaughtered thoughtlessly. I have adopted and embraced the seed to sausage view I learned in Gascony. And through the year, I’ve seen you all take on the same meaty responsibility – it’s the soul of a charcutiére.

I like to think we have all grown more conscious, more compassionate. I see it in your writing – the grace and good will, your nose to tail talents in the kitchen, your ability to change the lives of people near you. Thank you all so much. It’s been such a pleasure cooking with you.

Let’s all give a big meaty thank you to our generous sponsors. D’Artagnan, offering substantial discounts every month, Barbara Kiebel, web maven, who saved my cracklin’s more times than I can count, and especially Kate Hill and Camont, Trufflepig, and Armagnac Casterede, planning the week of Charcute-folie for the lucky grand prize winner.

Forced to decide on six finalists, we couldn’t. We had to choose ten. The judges have these posts and are reviewing them now. Best of luck to the semi-finalists.

In our minds, you are all winners.

The next step.

On December 29th the two finalists will be announced on Food52. The Food52 community will be voting from 12/29-1/3, and the Grand Prize winner will be announced on January 4, 2012.

Congratulations to the ten semifinalists.

ACookBlog  I bought Charcuterie when it first came out, mostly using it for whole-muscle cuts. Now I’m comfortable and confident with pretty much any technique, and it’s a regular part of my life. Charcutepalooza gets the credit for that transformation. – Peter Barrett

BiteMeNewEngland  Charcutepalooza has  changed the way I cook.  It has given me the confidence to cook or make just about anything.  It made me into a fearless home cook. It also allowed me to meet a group of amazing people. – Janis Tester

ButchersApprentice This year of Charcutepalooza provided challenges for hands and mind, encouraged creativity and perseverance, and sustained me through tough times. Relationships with friends, farmers, and family were strengthened, and new friendships with inspiring and generous charcuterie enthusiasts were born. My bottom line: making beautiful food for the people I love. – Iliana Filby

Dabblings&Whimsey My goals for participating in Charcutepalooza were to learn something new, challenge myself, try my hand at creating recipes, and have fun. I like to think I succeeded. In addition, I gained a new appreciation and respect for the art of preserving meats, and met some amazing people. Thank you. – Amanda Benoit

HoundsintheKitchen  As a semi-experienced charcutier, I undertook Charcutepalooza to explore food writing through meat curing. I recorded each challenge in a unique format from fiction to opinion to humor to video. In stretching my skills, I experienced how difficult and rewarding it is to write about a meaty subject. – Rachel Tayse

InspiredByWolf  Two themes stand out in summing up my Charcutepalooza experience: knowledge, and community. Charcutepalooza let my knowledge develop and put a structure around my meat curing efforts. Also, I have been amazed at the power of the Charcutepalooza community. It is an informative, friendly, supportive and wonderful place to be. – Kirsten Wright

Naomaly As a newcomer to blogging and twitter, it was amazing to witness the bond formed within an online community of strangers, who entertained, assisted, and inspired me to levels of culinary achievement I never dreamed possible.  Also, I learned how to clean chunks of meat off my ceiling. Naomi Lee Baumol

NicCooks Charcutepalooza has opened my eyes to the world of homemade meat.  I have been very excited to learn how to make charcuterie from scratch. It has also introduced me to a fantastic group of people with whom I shall stay in touch with for many years post Charcutepalooza. Nic Midgley

OneVanillaBean I can’t believe I made it this far along. The year of meat that started with duck prosciutto, turned into more than I could have ever imagined. Making charcuterie from scratch has been incredibly fulfilling. I’m so very grateful for all I’ve learned and everyone I’ve met in this journey.- Cecilia Stoute

Vivek’sEpicureanAdventure Amazing. Unbelieveable. I was an amateur. I tried something new. Sometimes, I succeeded. Sometimes, I failed. But I always learned a lesson: Don’t be afraid. Get out of your comfort zone. Your community will support you always. Share what you love to do. Be respectful. Eat good and be happy. Vivek Surti

24 Responses to “charcutepalooza. the semi-finalists.”

  1. Jackie @Auburn Meadow Farm

    God Bless You – who could make such a decision?? Though through loss of kitchen I was forced to give it up, I loved every minute and am so very sad to see it end.

    Thank you for your awesome idea and hard work in making it so great!

  2. Linda Langness

    I thank all of you, from participants to sponsers, to judges, and especially to Cathy and Kim. I have to give a special shout out to Bob del Grosso, who, since the early days of A Hunger Artist, has always provided me with food guidance and education. His blog is like a free culinary education and I’m still waiting for his book…. And a shout out to Michael Ruhlman as well, whose blog and books have also given me such a culinary education. Living in a small county of about 10,000 people, all of you food bloggers make my world larger in so many ways. Thank you!

    And if you’re ever driving through Bonners Ferry, ID, on your way to Banff or Glacier Park or Seattle, and you smell fish smoking, merguez sausage grilling, or a ham roasting in the oven, follow your nose to the humble residence of my charcuterie.

  3. SR

    I’m impressed by the dedication you have all shown to this challenge! And congratulations to my friend Amanda for reaching the semi-finals!

  4. Saint Elk

    Congratulations to all of the finalists! An amazing job you have all done, I am in awe. Thanks for the Croque Monsieur shout out Cathy, this has been an incredible journey.

  5. Mary T

    Congratulations to all of the semi-finalists! I have tasted some of Iliana’s creations and can testify to their deliciousness.

  6. birthemor

    Dear Anne Marie, what an amazing job you have done to reach this stage, as have all your friends. Being your mother I am of cause especially proud of you and you get a big congratulation from Carl and Mor. Hurray, he says.
    Oh by the way, nice hat you have there ??? love and big hugs to my special cook. mor

  7. A Canadian Foodie

    What a beautifully written post. I have had the pleasure to read many of the posts of the participants of this project. Somehow, I missed the onset of it and therefore, participating – however, your project was more far reaching than you can imagine. Getting a great idea is only half of success: acting upon it makes it happen – and look at what you have accomplished! My question – or thought – while reading this is “why” does it have to end. Something must be done… this is something that cannot just end. The contest, OK. The winner is announced, OK. But, I don’t think anyone did this to win something. They did it to learn something. can there be a year two? There are so many of us who would love to undertake a project like this that didn’t do it. Doing it with others is key. Sponsorship may not be necessary for this to continue – but leadership is. Are you too tired – do you have a new project? I would LOVE to participate in CHARCUTEPALOOZA Year 2. Is this possible? You have laid the foundation for an incredible coming together of like minded people over an incredible and still very timely learning experience. The second year can only be easier? You know what to do and how and have learned so much. Am I convincing you? Please let me know if this is a possibility.
    With admiration of you and the difference you have made with this project!

  8. Heidi C. Normand

    Oh how I envy all of you for having made it through!

    I wish I could have done it too…but at the beginning of my Charcutepalooza journey…I began to live the Charcutepalooza life for real…24hrs a day!

    My interest in Charcutepalooza led me to my dream job as Director of Development for Mosefund Mangalitsa, where raising Mangalitsa the right way is just the right thing to do.

    I would have never made the connection to such a great farm and the great people who run it had it not been for Charcutepalooza. For this I thank Cathy and Kim.

    And to all of you who made it through and to those, like me, who couldn’t keep up but learned and grew a great deal…Keep Up The Charcuterie Tradition!

    Maybe 2012 can be the year of Porkapalooza? I know Mosefund would be interested in helping out with the Year of Pork! It’s time for eaters to fall back in love with healthy, tasty and sustainable farmed and produced pork!

  9. Maygun

    Congratulations to all the semi-finalists! I agree completely with A Canadian Foodie who said that many of us did this to learn, and not to win. I made it through every challenge until the final one, my posting and deadlines becoming more lax as the year went on…
    I have to say, while I wasn’t able to complete the December challenge, seeing the look on my father’s face when we fed him a house made Charcuterie plate of Mortadella, Bresaola, and Country Pate before our main course with duck confit was present enough this end of the year.
    I had no idea how to make duck prosciutto in January. Now in December, I have a breadth of skills I will continue to work on, experiment with, and hopefully, perfect. Thank you for coming up with the idea, and following through with a truly tremendous year of meat!

  10. bob del Grosso

    Having to judge and ranks those posts was extremely difficult. They were all more alike in how they met the criteria for excellence than not. I loved being part of Charcutepalooza but I hope that if Cathy and Kim run something like it again and I’m lucky enough to be part of it, that at least ONE of the finalists submit something that I can look at and say “Nah.” Sheesh, that was hard.

  11. birthemor

    I must say I admire all of you talented cooking talents, not least for your creativity and great use of healthy ingredient. I also have to say that the energy, creative thinking , talented photography of food, and the sharing of these magnificent dishes/meals with your friends and family show generosity and spiritual kindness.
    You are a winner in my heart.

  12. William Schiebel

    I would love to have participated but I found out about it only a few days ago! I do hope you will do it again in 2012. Congrats to all. I hope it was as much fun as I think it was.



  1.  Links I Love {Friday Five} | Hounds In The Kitchen
  2.  Charcutepalooza | Portland Meat Collective
  3.  2011: My Favorite Bites, Sips, and Adventures! « Vivek's Epicurean Adventures
  4.  Guest Post – Korean-inspired crepinettes by Iliana Filby | Nose To Tail At Home
  5.  Vivek's Epicurean Adventures » 2011: My Favorite Bites, Sips, and Adventures!

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