What happens when you combine meat, salt, and time? Evidently, a cultural phenomenon.
Late last year, bloggers Cathy Barrow of Mrs Wheelbarrow's Kitchen and Kim Foster of The Yummy Mummy got talking on the subject of cured meat. They wanted to take on specific projects each month of 2011; Foster dubbed it "Charcutepalooza." Turns out, plenty of other people wanted to do the same. And so, what started as a friendly challenge between two bloggers exploded into a major blog event on a global scale. To date, there are more than 180 blogs that have expressed interest in participating.
Get ready for that number to take a major spike. Today, Barrow announced a major update to the challenge's grand prize. Once Charcutepalooza is over, one blog will be selected, and that winner will receive an all-expenses paid trip to France (from New York, but still). While there, they'll receive three nights' accommodation in Paris, then high-speed rail fare to Gascony, where they'll take a week-long butchery and charcuterie class at the Kitchen at Camont.
Ready to jump on the meat-wagon? Better hurry ― the official blogroll closes on Jan. 31. The winning contestant must blog all 12 months' challenges by the 15th of each month (except for the first, duck prosciutto, which can be posted at any time during the year). The winner will be judged by a panel of food luminaries: Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs of food52; Ariane Daugin, owner of D'Artagnan; Bob del Grosso, professional cook, charcutier, and teacher at the Culinary Institute of America; Matt Wright of the blog Wrightfood ; and Michael Ruhlman, co-author of Charcuterie, the book that inspired the challenge in the first place.
So what are you waiting for? Grab yourself a slab of pork belly, crack open a big box of kosher salt, and hop to it! February's challenge is the salt cure: bacon, pancetta, or guanciale. Don't have a basement to hang your meat in? Poke around others' posts to see how they found hanging space in wine fridges, cabinets, or ... over the baby's crib.