12 questions with Jean-Simon Petit, master butcher

12 questions avec Jean-Simon Petit, maître charcutier

From a very young butcher to becoming a winner of the Laurel for Artisan of the Year , including participation in the first season of Chefs!, Jean-Simon Petit has certainly carved out its place in the world of artisanal charcuterie in Quebec.

This wonderful professional journey today leads the head of the Ferme des Quatre-Temps with the publication of his first recipe book entitled Baloney – Charcuteries, Preserves and Company.

To mark the occasion, discover the journey of this master butcher in 12 questions and answers!

Jean-Simon, tell us a little about your story. Where does your passion for charcuterie come from?

I started working in the field very early. Already at 15, I started my butcher's course. Then I worked in small butcher shops and also learned a lot from an old career butcher. Afterwards, I did my cooking class and waltzed between the two. But it was really when I was working at the Square Dominion Tavern that I started making homemade charcuterie full time and discovered this profession.

How did you learn all these techniques that you are now the master of? Do you consider yourself self-taught?

In terms of charcuterie, yes, I would say that I am self-taught, because there are not many people who make it in Quebec and who can pass on their knowledge. I also learned a lot through my travels, reading a lot of American and European books and participating in competitions.

What competitions have you participated in?

More recently, we participated with the Ferme des Quatre-Temps in the Mondial Rabelais in France, which is basically the Mondial du Saucisson. We won 4 gold medals there!

Wow, congratulations! Besides, you are now Chef at Ferme des Quatre-Temps. How has direct contact with animals and agriculture impacted your work?

The relationship with animals is super important, because basically, charcuterie is pork and salt. The quality of the meat plays a huge role. So the fact that the pigs we raise are on pasture and in the forest really has an impact on the quality of the muscles and marbling of the meat. And then in terms of herbs, we work directly with the farm's market gardeners, so we have everything we need. I think we're pretty much the only ones who can do that.

A shelf filled with a variety of preserves made by Jean-Simon

I imagine that this proximity allows you to have great creative freedom?

Yes, it pushes us to innovate and do things differently. For example, when market gardeners harvest leeks, they have to remove a lot of the dark green leaves. Well with my partner Olivier, we decided to take these leaves, put them in the smoker and dehydrate them to create a new sausage flavor. This allows us to make unique products while limiting farm losses, which is ultimately our goal.

Now that you work in agriculture and livestock, what are the issues or problems that differ from the time when you worked in butchery or in the kitchen?

The biggest problem is very much on the side of animals and breeding. Access to slaughterhouses is more and more difficult, there are almost no more. You have to send them further away, which is really not ideal.

You have just written your first book: Baloney. What inspired you to do it?

I had a lot of friends and acquaintances who told me they wanted to learn how to make their own charcuterie at home and discover other little professional tips, so I decided to get started and make a sort of little legacy to everyone. world. I really wanted to adapt everything so that it was as small as possible and that the recipes could be made on a small scale, which doesn't really exist in similar works currently.

Cover of the Baloney recipe book by Jean-Simon Petit

So I take it that Baloney is aimed at everyone who is interested in charcuterie?

It’s for everyone, but also for professional cooks. In Quebec, we have a lot of fine cheeses and excellent artisans at this level, but we really don't have many artisans specializing in charcuterie. The majority of charcuterie products found in Quebec come from commercial chains that do the processing themselves, or they are products from outside. At the moment, I would say that there are a maximum of 10 artisan charcutiers in Quebec, so there is a lot of room for development. I would like to see more artisanal charcuterie from all over our region on charcuterie platters, and that's why I want to share my recipes and make them accessible.

It’s really a great idea! Would you say that it is easy or even feasible for ordinary people to make their own charcuterie at home?

Of course there are levels of difficulty. For example, prosciutto is harder to make, so I don't recommend starting with that. I would say to start with fresh sausages, then try sausages, and finally move towards more complex cold meats.

A platter of charcuterie and other homemade confections by Jean-Simon Petit

Aside from recipes, what can we expect to find in your book? Any anecdotes, tips...?

Each recipe comes with an anecdote or story that really follows my journey over time. I'm talking about chefs who have had an influence on my work and artisans I've met for example, so there aren't just recipes to discover. Also, we don't just find recipes for charcuterie, but also for preserves, fermentations and even baking, so I'm sharing some tips on that.

After the release of Baloney, what awaits you professionally? A second book on the horizon perhaps?

I'm already working on two book ideas! While visiting other farms, I realized that something that really helps market gardeners is the processing of their products. I spoke in particular with Stephanie Wang from the Le Rizen farm. Previously, she did not do any processing, but she taught me that today 60% of her sales come from her processed products. This is why I want to create a sort of encyclopedia of market gardening processing, with all the techniques to help market gardeners preserve their products and process their products.

This is great, I hope this project sees the light of day! To finish in style, the question that kills: French charcuterie or Italian charcuterie?

I'm really more into Italian charcuterie. For me, prosciutto is better than Bayonne ham!

Thank you very much Jean-Simon, I can’t wait to try your beautiful recipes!

My pleasure!

The book Baloney – Charcuteries, Preserves and Company by Jean-Simon Petit and published by Éditions Cardinal is available in bookstores from October 24, 2023.

Photo credit: Stéphan Doe

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