Foodie and meat lover Leon Semerjian has just established his business of curing meat and making sausages. The Food Heritage Foundation’s Zeinab Jeambey meets the young entrepreneur in his industrial kitchen in Baabdat and delves into his story
Tell me about yourself in three statements.
I have a background in hotel management. I am Armenian. I have a passion for cooking
What got you into curing meat?
When I started cooking in Lebanon, I realized how hard it was to get quality ingredients at fair prices. The Lebanese market is way behind in the business of meat curing; we only have a few products and a few artisans who specialize in that. I love meat and I couldn’t find the quality I sought on the market. So I raised a pig, fed him peanuts and the result was quality meat. I decided to make sausages with the intestines and this is how it started.
What technique do you use for curing and why?
I respect my meat and I treat it as it deserves to be treated. This is why I use the air-drying technique, while monitoring temperature and humidity. Air-drying requires a lot of time but the effect on texture and flavor is noticeable.
What was your first product and how many types do you currently produce?
I started making basturma [air-dried cured beef] and the end result was very good. Now I make sujuk [dried spicy beef sausage], makanek [spicy sausage], and wood-smoked sausages using hickory wood. I am still in the experimentation phase and the recipes are evolving. My basturma and makanek mix is final and I’m very satisfied with the result.
What kind of meat do you use and where do you source it from?
I struggle to find local ingredients of the quality standard I look for but I don’t mind going to the four corners of the country if I can get that. At the moment, I use imported black Angus meat from Australia to make my basturma.
What spices do you use for the different products you make?
For basturma, I use fenugreek seeds, paprika, cumin and garlic. For smoked sausages, I use Cajun spices and black pepper. For sujuk, I use cumin, black pepper and garlic and for makanek I use coriander seeds, cinnamon and white wine.
Any tips for cooking the different types of sausages?
For sausages and sujuk, remove the casing and cook over low heat for about five minutes. For the brave hearts, eat them raw. This is what I do.
To order, contact Leon Semerjian on 71 924414; food-heritage.ord
Photos: Manal Naji