Italian styles of salumi include prosciutto with bread sticks, coppa (background) and different renditions of sopressata (center and bottom right). - MCT

Hog Wild

A childhood spent hunting antelope, deer, elk and the occasional moose in Montana gave Gillian Gifford reason to handle meat still on the hoof.

"We always made sure that we used every part of the animal we possibly could."

Attending culinary school in Seattle broadened Gifford's understanding of nose-to-tail cooking to include Old World styles of preservation known in French as charcuterie, salumi in Italian. The artisan curing methods went hand in hand with Gifford's interest in making aged cheeses while interning on a farm in Portugal.

"Cheese and whey and pigs all go together," she says.

A hog raised on a Williams farm was destined this week for the butcher block, so Gifford could demonstrate breaking down large parts of a carcass in a Saturday, Oct. 6, class — "The Whole Hog!" — at Ashland Food Co-op.

"We're gonna have belly," Gifford says, explaining that two whole legs also will be used in the class, one for her demonstration, one for participants' practice.

Some of the pork will be salted, baked in the oven, then stored in the freezer as bacon, she says. Air-curing is the primary method Gifford will teach for making salami and chorizo, as well as the Italian specialty guanciale, from the hog's cheek and jowl.

"It's delicious for cooking," she says.

Home cooks have started probing the depths of traditional food-preservation knowledge resurrected in recent years by American chefs and artisan-food entrepreneurs. More and more restaurants feature charcuterie or salumi platters as appetizer courses, and many chefs make sausages in-house. Meanwhile, interest in making and selling gourmet meats coincides with the trend in high-end cheese.

Mold-ripened and hard cheeses were the topics of the first classes Gifford offered at the Co-op this the summer. Those indicated that participants are taking the "logical next step" in the eat-local movement, says Mary Shaw, Co-op culinary educator.

In a similar vein, a November class is planned around smoking and curing meats. The last in personal chef Kristen Lyon's "Cooking Rogue" series, the class will show students how to use a smoker or make one in an outdoor grill. Lyon says she will go over salting and brining and quicker means of adding a touch of smoky flavor to any food, even vegetables.

"I'll have a whole meal that has these layers of smoke," she says.

Although Lyon advocates freezer storage of smoked meats that won't immediately be consumed, last year's class participants asked how to maintain those items in a natural environment.

"They wanted to learn more about old-age storage methods," says Lyon.

So Lyon will discuss confit, a way of cooking and storing meat — likely duck legs, in this case — in its own fat. The duck breast will become proscuitto, says Lyon.

No previous experience in butchering meats is required to take either class. Lyon, in fact, is acting as the assistant in Gifford's class to learn more.

"We both have our little specialties," says Gifford.

Reach Food Editor Sarah Lemon at 541-776-4487 or email

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