Chef Frederick “Fritz” Sonnenschmidt is a master in the art of charcuterie, and he’ll be in Omaha on Monday.
He’s the author of many books, including “Charcuterie: Sausages/Pates/Accompaniments,” and he is one of fewer than 70 chefs who have achieved Certified Master Chef designation from the American Culinary Federation.
Charcuterie was originally used as a way to preserve meat, but it has become a popular menu item in lots of Omaha restaurants.
We talked to Sonnenschmidt, of Rhinebeck, N.Y., in advance of his Omaha talks at Metropolitan Community College.
Question: What kind of charcuterie will you make in Omaha?
Answer: Well, first thing in the morning on Monday we will be making some German bratwurst and also a German beer sausage along with a couple of other things to be served at the talk. I’ll be talking about the basic fundamentals of charcuterie and what it is.
Question For those who might not be familiar with charcuterie, what is it?
Answer: It is meat prepared in different forms. It can be cured, smoked or dried. It can also be poached, baked or boiled. The result is sausages or hard salamis or salumi and other items. It is very tasty as an appetizer with a glass of beer and some conversation.
Question: Has charcuterie gone in and out of popularity?
Answer: I call it the oldest culinary profession in the world. It’s been popular on and off throughout history. It began when man first had domesticated animals and they had to figure out a way to preserve the meat. The pig was the first animal man domesticated, and legend said that the more pork you ate, the more offspring you would have. So that is why the pig became so popular. Now we make charcuterie with beef and other meats.
Question: How do you make the sausages you will serve in Omaha?
Answer: The German brat is made with a food processor or a chopper at a temperature of about 45 to 55 degrees. Then you put it into a casing, either natural or artificial, then poach it until it reaches 150 degrees internally. Then you cool it and brown it. It can be served with potato salad or sauerkraut. The beer bratwurst is flavored mainly with beer and is put through a meat grinder. Then you put it into a casing or make it into a patty.
Question: Is it easy to make charcuterie at home?
Answer: A lot of people don’t realize how simple some kinds of charcuterie can be. Sausages and pates can be made as a hobby in the home kitchen. People have been doing this for centuries. The Ukrainians and the Polish made kielbasa, the Germans made the beer brats and beer sausage, and the Swiss made a knackwurst. Everyone had their own sausages they made, but it didn’t become popular until restaurants started making it in the 1970s in America. It became something everyone wanted.
Question: Some kinds of charcuterie, like prosciutto, are more complicated to make, right?
Answer: Yes. When it comes to curing meats and fermenting, it is more of a science than sausage-making. It is much more difficult and is not really for the hobby cook. It requires more studying.
Questeion: Is this your first trip to Omaha?
Answer: No, I was in Omaha once before for a gathering of chefs. The food was outstanding.
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