Year of the Pig – British Charcuterie here we come!
Today we start the Year of the Pig. In Chinese culture pigs are symbols of wealth and fortune, so here’s hoping that the Year of the Pig will bring us great fortune.
Certainly on the charcuterie side of things, Britain is all set for an excellent year. NFU Mutual identified British Charcuterie as one of their A-Z of British Food and Drink Trends:
“Our continental cousins have long dominated the market for cured meats but things have changed in recent times. Britain has seen an explosion in native charcuterie businesses thanks to the rich abundance of quality meats that we produce.”
The quality was exceptional and the range of styles also impressive. Henrietta Green is on a mission to champion the best of our charcuterie and last year launched the first ever British Charcuterie Awards. I was delighted to find the winners of those awards on my plate at the charcuterie tasting recently.
The Cleveland Arms provided some excellent information about each of the suppliers and their selected charcuterie. On the menu was:
Beal’s Farm is the winner of The British Charcuterie Awards 2018 Champion of Champion’s Product for their Mangalitza Air Dried Ham that is remarkable for its complexity that delivers a mild salt finish and a lingering sweetness. Based in East Sussex, they cure their own reared Mangalitza pigs, a breed thought to produce amongst the best pork in the world due to its intensely marbled, richly flavoured meat. Rumour has it that it is also a very close relation to the now extinct Lincolnshire Curly Coat.
Tempus Charcuterie is the Champion of Champions Producer in this year’s British Charcuterie Awards. Awarded to the best producer over a minimum of three classes, their impressive range included a subtly Spiced Coppa for which they won Gold. In production for under a year, their philosophy is “in order to make great charcuterie, you have to start with great pigs” and they favour the Large Black. The coppa, or collar of pork, is delicately spiced with their own-made blend of spices that includes cardamom, cloves and cinnamon.
Then there was venison salami with cocao and chilli from Ambrose Sausages. grandson of Gilbert Ambrose, a traditional butcher famous throughout the south of England for his sausages. But there is nothing traditional about the cured sausages or – as some prefer to call them – salamis that Philip Ambrose now produces. His Venison Salami with Cacao & Chilli is an arresting combination of the sweetness of cacao with the bite of chilli (a favoured combination in Mexican cookery) and proved a well-deserved Gold Medal in The British Charcuterie Awards 2018.
There was fennel salami from Marsh Pig. Based in Norfolk, they insist on using free-range leg meat for their salami. Traditionally shoulder, belly and “trim” (scraps) are what is used and the resulting product normally has a fat content of between 40-60% and is often full of sinew. Their version has a much lower fat content – they add a mere 15% – and is far meatier than most. Fennel seeds are widely used in Italian salamis as not only do they make a great flavour combination but the seeds offset the richness of the pork which is particular pronounced in this Gold winner.
We liked smoked Bath chaps from Lishman’s of Ilkley. In the 16th century, a “chap” or ”chop” was an animal’s jaws or cheeks. Originally a West Country delicacy, traditionally the meat is boned, wet cured (brined) or dry cured (salted), pressed into a cone-shaped mould and finished in bread crumbs. Lishman’s Bath Chaps are a world apart and an interesting take on a regional classic. They come lightly smoked and thinly sliced for a rich meaty and lingering finish and won a worthy Gold.
Finally there was ham from Lane Farm Country Foods. A family farm in Suffolk, Lane Farm produces a range of both British and Continental-style charcuterie under the Suffolk Salami label from their own-reared pigs. Theirs is a traditional ham, plain and unadorned, with a meaty resonance that is unmistakable. Cured on the bone, then slowly cooked, it is firmly textured and a delight to eat.
What a sumptuous treat! I was accompanied by Tried and Supplied developer, Ali, and we had a great time sampling all the different charcuterie. Ali also tried pigeon for the first time and decided it was definitely better than chicken! If I were to pick my favourites of the charcuterie they would be:
- Tempus Foods Spiced Coppa – this actually tasted of the Mediterranean! It was hard to put my finger on exactly why, but instantly I was transported to the Amalfi coast, where I had previously done a cookery course with Mama Agata and Saucy Dressings herself. If I were to try and explain I think it would come down to a very fresh combination of floral, citrus and herbacious notes. Quite how that relates to the spices they actually put in, I’m not sure, but that was the effect it had on me.
- Ambrose Sausages Venison Salami with Cocoa and Chilli – venison is a very rich meat and somehow or other they had managed to make the seasoning subtle in a way that it seemed as if it were coming from the meat itself.
I’ll definitely be looking out for these in future and will be interested to see what treats the British Charcuterie Awards hold this year.
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