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Ordering a board of British charcuterie at the Beckford Bottle Shop restaurant in Bath, food critic Giles Coren noted that home-grown selections were: “unheard of 10 years ago, intriguing five years ago” and now “quite ubiquitous and very good indeed”. Menus across the land reflect this. At the Corn Stores restaurant in Reading, there’s a £20 English Cured Meats Board with piccalilli. Over at The Pig and Pallet in Topsham, they’re offering game charcuterie made in Devon by the owners. Chef Tommy Heaney in Cardiff makes his own cured meats, as does head chef Kuba Winkowski at the Feathered Nest Inn in the Cotswolds. Ever tried wild boar and paprika lonza? Gloucester Old Spot fennel salami?
WHY WAS 2018 A TURNINGPOINT?
It saw the first British Cured Meats Festival at Borough Market and the first British Charcuterie Awards. The latter attracted well over 400 products from more than 80 producers. Category names show the variety: everything from British Regional Products such as haslett, Bath chaps and Lincolnshire chine, to Soft and Spreadable Products including pates, rillettes and n’duja.
WHAT’S BEHIND THE TREND?
It’s a logical extension of the renewal of interest 15 years ago in local food, heritage breeds and nose-to-tail eating. Tapas bars Brindisa, Barrafina and Iberica created a demand for Spanish-style cured meats. British breeders of rare, high welfare animals just needed the confidence, time and skills to develop home-grown versions. If it is that or go bust, you learn fast. The ‘craft movement’ – as explored by Tim Hayward in Food DIY, 2013 – was another influence. Foodies took to their sheds in droves to brew, cure, pickle, smoke and ferment. Some, like the owners of Trealy Farm, Monmouthshire, changed career to pursue their passion.
WHY GO BRITISH WHEN THERE ARE SUCH GOOD IBERICO DE BELLOTA HAMS, ITALIAN SALAMIS AND FRENCH SAUCISSONS SECS?
Britain has higher animal welfare standards and buying British supports our farmers. A weaker pound has made Continental meats relatively more expensive. Plus customers love to try something new. More to the point, Henrietta Green, founder of the British Charcuterie Awards, reckons last year’s winner, Beal’s Farm Yorkshire Mangalitza air-dried ham can compete with the best Italian ham on depth of flavour.
SHOULDN’T WE DO OUR OWN THING?
Absolutely. Henrietta reckons there’s “huge scope to develop distinctive-tasting new products which reflect the terroir.” A particularly promising area is game charcuterie, which is why the British Charcuterie Awards have a new competition category for 2019 – Best Game Product. There’s also masses of potential to explore domestic traditions and develop more lamb and goat products.
WHAT ABOUT SOFT CHARCUTERIE?
Most traditional recipes are French so it’s harder to create something uniquely British. Stringent environmental health regulations also pose problems. Artisan producer, Adrienne Treeby of Crown & Queue, enjoys a challenge and her latest creation – Devil’s Mortar – is a squidgy, spicy, spreadable sausage inspired by a1700s Scottish recipe. It contains locally smoked peppers, cayenne, tomato and a dash of anchovy oil.
OKAY, I’M CONVINCED. WHERE DO I START?
Search Google for local producers. As provenance is no guarantee of excellence, follow up with a search of award-winners. Visit the British Charcuterie Live Awards and Great Taste Awards websites. You could also approach a supplier such as Tempus Foods, Cannon and Cannon, Cobble Lane Cured or Harvey & Brockless and ask for recommendations.
WHAT HAVE YOU GOT FOR PEOPLE WANTING ‘ETHICALLY-SOURCED’ MEAT?
Look for meat from organic producers and those who belong to the Pasture for Life movement. At Peelham Farm in Berwickshire, the owners make a salami from ruby, as opposed to rose, veal. Calves stay with their mothers until weaned, leading to far less stress for the animals.
ANY TIPS FOR MAKING MY BRITISH SECTION A ROARING SUCCESS?
● Slice your meats freshly and offer filled rolls and boards at lunchtime. Hire rather than buy a slicer to test demand.
● Be generous with tastings.
● If nervous, go for reliable sellers, local or not. The British Charcuterie Company in Brighton
told us that Yorkshire Mangalitza ham and Cornish seaweed and cider salami were best-sellers.
AM I ALLOWED TO ASK WHAT THERE IS FOR VEGANS?
Vegan food expert and blogger, Sean O’Callaghan, aka Fat Gay Vegan raves about the Scottish-based company, Sgaia; they offer pastrami, speck and Italian pepperoni made from a soy and wheat gluten mix.
IS THE BRITISH CHARCUTERIE TREND HERE TO STAY?
Oh, yes! Henrietta Green compares the charcuterie scene now to that of British cheese a quarter of a century ago: “Where were British cheeses 25 years ago? But then Juliet Harbutt started the British Cheese Awards and now it’s quite acceptable to serve an all-British cheeseboard.”
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