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Olympia Provisions: Cured Meats and Tales from an American Charcuterie Hardcover – October 27, 2015
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“Being French, I know how important well-done charcuterie is to everyday life. Olympia Provisions is a wonderful journey through the simple yet complex recipes that have made it a craft throughout time. Visually stunning and conversationally informative with personal stories, notes, and tips, it is a tribute to charcuterie’s versatility and cultural prowess, and the restaurant recipes only make me hungry for more.”
—Daniel Boulud, chef/owner, The Dinex Group
“Portland’s Olympia Provisions has been making some of America’s best charcuterie for years. Elias Cairo is the man behind it, and he has written a book that explains not only how he has been creating this food, but the whys that make it so good. This is a great resource for anyone who wants to explore the craft of charcuterie, with fabulous recipes and gorgeous photography.”
—Michael Ruhlman, James Beard award–winning author of Ruhlman’s Twenty and Charcuterie
“Olympia Provisions is so much more than a charcuterie, just as its cookbook is so much more than simply a collection of recipes. It’s a love letter to the craft of curing, smoking, and fermenting; a passionate family story, rich in history, technique, humor, and lots of good food. Elias Cairo’s utter adoration for cured meat is not only inspiring, it’s infectious!”
—Gail Simmons, food expert, TV host, and author of Talking with My Mouth Full
About the Author
ELIAS CAIRO is a co-owner and the lead salumist at Portland, Oregon’s, Olympia Provisions, which he founded in 2009. Born in Salt Lake City to a Greek family who butchered lamb and goats utilizing Old World preparations and technique, Cairo started cooking at a young age in his father’s restaurants. He began a European apprenticeship in Switzerland at the age of twenty, where he learned classic butchery and charcuterie from renowned chef Annegret Schlumpf before moving to Portland to open Olympia Provisions.
MEREDITH ERICKSON has written for the New York Times, Elle, the National Post, Monocle, and Lucky Peach. She has also worked as an editor and production manager for various magazines, campaigns, and television programs, and was the editor of The Family Meal by Ferran Adria. She is co-author with David McMillan and Frédéric Morin of the James Beard–nominated book The Art of Living According to Joe Beef, as well as Le Pigeon with Gabriel Rucker. She lives in London.
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The book includes six chapters on charcuterie. I have made every recipe in three of the chapters (slow cooked meats, fresh sausage, and fermented) and a few recipes from two (smokehouse and dry-cured) and nothing from pate (not opposed to pate, but some in my house are less-inclined). I have also made several of the recipes in the back of the book. Everything I have made has turned out well.
What I like about the book. It's really cool and unique. It is about 50% charcuterie recipes and 50% stories and other recipes. I find the design to be beautiful and the stories of family and travels reasonably interesting. The recipes turn out pretty well and aren’t too hard to follow.
Why did I give this book only two stars?
First, there are some crazy measurements. Early in the book there is a statement about the importance of measurement and using a scale. However, in the recipes both weight and volume measures are shown. For example, it will read “2 teaspoons (10 g) of ground coriander”. This is in the very first recipe in the book. When I made it I immediately thought, should I do 10g or two teaspoons because they are not even close. Two teaspoons weighs 4.2 grams. This type of error is throughout the book. In this same recipe it reads, “1/2 teaspoon (2 g) of curing salt #1” and “1/2 teaspoon (2 g) of freshly ground nutmeg”. There is no way that ½ teaspoon of curing salt #1 (3.3 g) and nutmeg (1.6 g) would be even close to the weight. This bugged me because it seemed like some editor just went through will a calculator added either weight or volume after the fact. No one ever went through and said, this recipe makes sense. It is just sloppy. This isn’t the only case of sloppiness. Checkout the recipe for nduja. It says to mix up the live cultures with distilled water and set aside, but never mentions them again. They are just set aside – they cannot ferment the sausage if they are sitting on the counter! By the way, when I first noticed issues in the book I messaged OP through Twitter because I thought I was going crazy. I just wanted to confirm that I was on the right track. They never got back to me.
Second, I basically went through and bought everything that they recommended. This included the Little Chief smoker, which the author said was his “smoker of choice”. The thing is, this smoker is useless for almost every recipe in this book. It is too hot to cold smoke, not hot enough to really cook through, and only has one temperature setting. In many recipes they ask you to smoke at multiple temperatures, which cannot be done on their recommended smoker.
Third, there really aren’t enough recipes. I have since purchased many other charcuterie books (including the great books by Marianski), so I have lots of recipes and ideas. However, it would be nice if they included more options. I don’t think it would be hard to do. Most of their instructions are literally cut and paste from recipe to recipe and take pages upon pages. If you look at the instructions for the fermenting salami the instructions are literally word for word on every recipe and take two pages. In some ways this makes the screw up with the nduja recipe even more ridiculous because they had been copying and pasting, then in the last recipe in the chapter they leave out a crucial step.
I am open to changing this review if this book gets updated. Fix the measurement issues, make recommendations for products that make sense for your recipes, and add more recipes. With the high-quality design and interesting stories this could be an easy four star book.