November 15th, 2011 1:29 pm | by CHEF GREG HIGGINS Food & Drink | Posted In: Higgins in Mongolia

Higgins in Mongolia: When Life Gives You Camels and Horses, Make Charcuterie

Portland chef Greg Higgins (of downtown's Higgins restaurant) is in Mongolia, sharing his sausage and charcuterie making expertise with local butchers as part of Mercy Corp's Farmer to Farmer project, and he's blogging the whole trip for WW:

Another brilliantly clear mountain day in Khovd. It's a welcome respite from the dense, throat-parching smoke and occasional dust storms that seem to be the norm in western Mongolia.

In the sausage kitchen at Ochir, a restaurant where I'm working, it was a big day. After two days of discussions, explanations, shopping and improvisations, we finally were going to taste some products.

There's a dearth of pork here. Odd since I'm a charcutier, which by definition means a maker of cooked pig. But, from my long lists of recipes and photos Ulziikhuu, the owner of Ochir, had chosen Boudin Blanc, Genoa Salami, Terrine de Campagne, Preskopf and Black Forest ham. No easy task to translate, let alone fabricate without pork or many of the traditional seasonings.

It's key that we work within the confines of available products—both seasonings and meats—as well as respecting their food traditions. No cutting edge gastronomy here. The available meats are typically camel, goat, sheep, horse, an occasional yak and sometimes beef. Everything must be fully cooked—despite our notions of hard riding Mongol hordes subsisting on partially dry or raw meat these folks like their meat cooked and lots of it!

Work went well with Ulziikhuu and her all-women staff. Gender equality reigns here and these women can really work. Through Amurbyan, our translator, we were able to produce tasting samples of three of the five products by mid-afternoon. The pressure was on as I sliced the samples for all to taste. It was a first for them as well as me. Did I really know how to emulsify camel fat? Skeptical looks gave way to polite smiles, and then to big grins as the crew sampled the cooked tasters. The verdict was in.

Next to tackle: stuffing, smoking and designing dishes for the products for the restaurant menu.

Read more of Higgins in Mongolia here.

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