We always have time for a taste test of Unearthed’s produce, they have a knack of unearthing things that you’d have to usually find at a specialised small shop and getting it on the supermarket shelves at a fair price. Okay it’s in plastic and not in waxed paper, but you needn’t tell the people you feed it to that, just make up some story about a little producer you know.
Their latest wheeze is UK charcuterie, and it’s a good one. We may not have all the romance of a rolling Umbrian landscape or Spanish sun-drenched fields but we do have pigs and cows of increasingly high quality.
Unearthed have three British cured meats available in Waitrose and we tried all three.
First up was British Air-Dried Beef, which is very close to being Bresaola or Pastrami to my mind; I suspect it’s a question of legality and PDO stuff that it’s not called either of these. Anyway this was delicious, lightly spiced and with a hint of heat from either chilli or pepper, we enjoyed in buttered brown bread but it really came alive in a bowl of pasta, cream and radicchio from Theo Randall of Theo Randall at The InterContinental’s excellent book Pasta. The meatiness of the meat melted into the mix wonderfully.
Second was British Cumberland Salami that had clear notes of sage and thyme. Again we made sandwiches and also scattered some shredded slices into a risotto at the last minute where they worked well. We also ate quite a few straight out of the fridge whenever we were there for other purposes such as getting the milk out, and you would have to I’m sure so don’t judge us.
Third was the British Sweet Chilli Chorizo. I do like chorizo and I am a bit fussy about what I consider what is right and what is wrong. This apparently had Ancho and Habanero chillies for a sweet and smoky taste, which was okay but I would nonetheless have preferred more paprika. My main concern though was that it was too soft in its texture, I like some chewy bite to my chorizo. However this is after all a British chorizo and that softness may well find fans.
Overall, well done chaps. We can do all kinds of great foods in the UK, and cured meats should surely be one we can take to new heights. We do after all have the dampish autumn climate that cured meats love when maturing.