To help promote our wealth of glorious meats, The Cleveland Arms in London is holding a British Charcuterie Day on 26 January.
As we head towards Brexit, with all its subsequent uncertainties over food imports, it’s good to know that salami from Sussex and guanciale from Gloucestershire are now very much in vogue.
“We really do seem to be on the brink of a massive resurgence of interest in charcuterie in this country,” explains food writer Henrietta Green, who is leading the way with her annual British Charcuterie Awards, aiming to raise awareness but also to recognise the best.
“Last year, the first year of the Awards, over 80 producers entered a staggering 450 products. This year, entries have only just opened but when you compare how many had entered in the first few days last year, we’re considerably up on numbers.”
The Awards were set up “to acknowledge and celebrate the excellence and diversity of the charcuterie out there – both Continental and Traditional – and promote interest in charcuterie among chefs, farmers, butchers and, of course, food lovers.”
As Henrietta rightly points out, there are parallels with the way in which Juliet Harbutt, 25 years ago, championed British cheeses via her awards, leading to a revolution in regional and artisan production.
To help promote this wealth of glorious meats, The Cleveland Arms in London is holding a British Charcuterie Day on 26 January.
Head chef Louis Lingwood has created an imaginative charcuterie-themed five-course set menu (£35) based around cured meats, porky “bits and pieces” and specialities.
These will be paired with specially curated wines from Lea Sandeman Wine Merchants, designed to enhance the flavour of the cured meats, while cutting through their richness.
We were lucky enough to enjoy a press preview and kicked off with pork puffs & apple sauce, an inventive riff on the traditional accompaniment to roast pork, served with Suffolk smoked bacon pastry twists – think cheese twists with a porcine profile. The charcuterie board selection was next up.
It includes Spiced Coppa from Tempus (Champion of Champions Producer), Mangalitza Air Dried Ham from Beal’s Farm (Champion of Champions Product), Traditionally-cured Ham from Suffolk Salami, Venison Salami with Cacao and Chilli from Ambrose Sausages, Fennel Salami from Marsh Pig, Smoked Bath Chaps produced by Lishman’s of Ilkley, and a home-prepared rillette. T
This was the stand-out course for me – served au naturale to accentuate the variation in cure, saltiness, flavour and texture of each meat.
A chorizo coddled egg followed, then a hearty casserole of ham hock, split peas, kale and parsley and caper sauce.
The ham was tender and flavourful, while the other ingredients provided the kind of dish that’s the perfect winter warmer. To finish, we happily tucked into Treacle Tart, Apple Syrup & Double Cream.
Wine pairings were excellent: the wonderful Albariño Adega dos Eidos and Riesling Feinherb Weingut Bamberger were great white wine choices, while Baan Shiraz Salomon was the stand-out red.
Excellent beers from the acclaimed St Austell Brewery included Trelawny, Proper Job and Tribute.
In 2010 there were just 10 producers curing in the Continental style in the UK whereas this year there are nearly 400 – an enterprising band of butchers, farmers, chefs and producers who are giving our charcuterie an excellent reputation.
Going back to our culinary roots should be welcomed, rather than presenting a British version of an Italian, Spanish or French meat.
And, unlike our meat-producing cousins in France and Italy, British producers have much more freedom when it comes to flavourings and methodology.
As Henrietta says: “If we embrace Continental charcuterie too strongly, we could end up losing our own traditions. We’re on a mission to get everyone enjoying the incredible diversity of British charcuterie, from traditional products to the highly adventurous.”
Visit britishcharcuterie.live to find out more about entering the 2019 British Charcuterie Awards and for details of the 2018 winners. For the charcuterie dinner at the Cleveland Arms, book here