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When we think about charcuterie in the UK, it is most likely to be with a faraway look in our eyes as it transports us to time spent abroad. Although curing meat is a celebrated culinary craft on the Continent, it is yet to be thought of as an integral part of our own British food heritage. But this is all about to change, as there is a very British cured food revolution coming sharply into focus…
There has always been a strong history of preserving food in the British Isles, but we have become disassociated from it because we look towards Spain and Italy as the main proponents and producers of cured goods. Bacon is perhaps our best example of charcuterie, although it doesn’t rank amongst the most highly-rated products of designated origin such as ibérico ham or cold smoked chorizo.
WHERE DID CHARCUTERIE COME FROM?
Charcuterie derives from the French tradition of using pork and fat so that it could be sold uncooked through the ingenious processes of salting, turning into sausages or via pâtés and rillettes. The term ‘charcuterie’ actually translates as ‘flesh’ (char) and ‘cooked’ (cuit), and the movement came about as a result of restrictive legislation that included a ban on selling raw pork.
‘Salumi’ has its roots in Italy, and is especially focused on dry-curing and air-drying pork and other meats into classic products such as salami, prosciutto, lardo and pancetta. Both traditions were born out of necessity so that gluts of meat could be used beyond the normal perishable date to feed many people.
Six centuries on from when the first Guild of Charcutiers was established in Paris, there’s been little in the way of change. Yes, there’s been the introduction of modern commercial factory outlets making and selling charcuterie and cured goods, but they bear only the name of recognised cured goods and none of the quality of the independent, traditional curers. However, the quality products aren’t restricted to France or Italy – there is a great deal of wonderful charcuterie emanating from Spain, Scandinavia and Eastern Europe. And now there is a major charcuterie-charged revolution from Britain that is about to put the deli back into delicious.
WHAT ABOUT BRITISH CHARCUTERIE?
At last we’ve woken up to the fact that even though our preserving and curing lineage has been broken, we’ve got everything we need to create world-renowned cured goods. Just like the sudden rise in the quality of our sparkling wines (which regularly knock French vines out of the terroir), there are some British charcutiers making products to rival the best Europe has to offer.
The main reason why Britain is making huge strides in this area of artisan food production is because of the abundance of quality meat that is being produced using the highest animal welfare standards and good husbandry methods. Salting, drying and smoking food is not a technique for making below average ingredients barely palatable; it is a layer of skill and craft applied to fantastic quality meat, which in time turns it into preserved perfection.
DIFFERENT TYPES OF CURED MEATSSALAMI
Salami is one of the oldest forms of curing and perhaps one of the most extreme because it requires a period of fermentation before slowly drying and maturing. It can be made from any minced meat (traditionally pork) and should contain a certain amount of fat to retain moistness and flavour. The meat could come from an area of the pig that has a natural balance of fat to lean, such as the shoulder or belly – or with lean meat, back fat is added to the mix and appears like lovely white mosaic cubes when sliced. Salami is often reduced to pizza topping, although it can take centre stage on any charcuterie platter.
Pancetta and coppa are also traditionally made from pork, yet where pancetta is common because it’s similar to streaky bacon, coppa is a bit of a mystery. Pancetta is a cured piece of pork belly that, once fully cured, can be sliced and eaten raw, or before sufficiently dried out, can be cooked. Pancetta lardons are great in soups, stews and pasta sauces or even sliced and placed over a pheasant breast to protect it from drying out on cooking. Coppa is a cured muscle that runs from the shoulder into the neck – which is not a common cut in the UK but has wonderful marbling which, when sliced, looks like a river’s tributaries viewed from space.
Beef production in the UK is also of the highest standard and is used to make bresaola – often a dry-cured fillet of beef finished in a cold red wine bath, before being dried and sliced thinly to look like stained glass windows of a church. Bresaola is classically served with rocket and shaved parmesan and drizzled with olive oil as a starter.
Then there is pastrami, which is viewed as a typical New York deli classic. You often see it served on rye sourdough with pickles, but it is in fact much closer to being British than American. Pastrami is actually Yiddish/Romanian in origin and historically was cured brisket which was then cold-smoked and cooked in a pot of stock. The British version of this dish was salt beef or corned beef and was actually created by the Navy, so that they could feed crews on long journeys across uncharted waters. Although the individual herbs and spices of true pastrami such as ginger, garlic, coriander seeds and black pepper weren’t part of the Navy version, the techniques were similar.
So much momentum has been gained in the UK over the last few years, that we’ve now got some independent charcuterie producers pioneering methods to create cured goods without the need to add any artificial curing agents. Nitrate-free cured meats are being seen as the epitome of craft and skill, because they are as close to the original cured meats our ancestors ate, but under controlled conditions and without any risk of bad bacteria. There is still some way to go before this becomes the commercial norm, but I’m sure the rest of Europe is looking over its shoulder…
Check out my top 4 British charcuterie producers:
- Cobble Lane Cured
- Good Game (nitrate-free charcuterie)
- Henson (perfect pastrami)
- Trealey Farm (multi-award winning charcuterie)
Why British charcuterie is worth celebrating: 5 minutes with Crown & Queue Meats
Adrienne Eiser Treeby, self-professed pork whisperer, fearless heroine and managing director at Crown & Queue Meats, tells us what makes British charcuterie special, why bangers are called bangers and what she’d bring to a summer picnic.
What’s your ethos in three words?
Low-waste, sustainable, delicious and British. Sorry! Cheated by one. Shows that my real ethos is to cram as much as possible into every bite!
How did Crown & Queue come about?
I spent three years as an apprentice learning about Italian salumi in the US. When I moved to England, I expected to find both a rich history of curing and a mentor to teach me. I was shocked to find the former but not the latter. There’s a large history of preserving meats here, but few people know about it and even fewer practice it. While working for Neal’s Yard Dairy, I launched Crown & Queue . We’re devoted to recipes that are a firm part of British culinary history or ones that could have been. So few recipes exist in easy-to-interpret forms anymore, and while the references exist, I do follow my own whimsy from time to time.
When we think of charcuterie, we tend to think of French saucisson, Parma or Serrano ham. Why not British?
Part of the issue is vocabulary. Britain has been let down by its own language. In the Middle Ages, ‘bacon’ referred to the entire side of a pig! So the collar, loin and ham (respectively coppa, lonza and Parma on the continent) were all cured under the same catch-all term bacon. Since we now consider bacon as exclusively the middle of the pig, no wonder we give short shrift to British curing. Even today, we hesitate to embrace the words sausage or ham when talking about cured meats, preferring to use ‘charcuterie’ or ‘salami’ because we think it denotes higher quality. It makes British curing seem derivative when that can be far from the case.
What makes British ‘charcuterie’ unique?
First of all, Britain’s indigenous heritage-breed pigs are extraordinary. Wet and cold weather has bred hearty animals that have wonderful fat layers and rich, flavourful muscles. I’ve come across more farmers in the UK devoted to great animal husbandry and welfare than anywhere else I’ve lived. It not only makes the best ethical sense, but also ultimately results in better meat (look it up!). It’s no surprise that British pork is second to none. Add to that a tendency for recipes to flatter their main ingredient – the meat – over other seasonings (and that these seasonings are very rarely, if ever, found in cured meats elsewhere. Think: beer, dried fruits, horseradish to name a few…), then you have the makings of traditions on par with the other more famous countries.
Why is provenance important to you?
I love that I get to offer a really transparent supply chain on a traditionally obscured product. Sausages are famed for containing things they shouldn’t. The term ‘bangers’, so closely connected to British cuisine, actually came from the sound that wartime sausages made in the pan because they were so heavily cut with water and rusk they exploded!
Even now it’s often hard to know the real provenance of cured meats. I only work with super high-welfare, heritage breeds because I believe there is a way to farm meat sustainably, especially pigs. These animals can fit smoothly into a small, mixed-product farm. They churn the earth and make it ready for arable crops, they forage in a way that clears land of disruptive weeds, they can eat many of the by-products of your other products (like whey from cheese-making) and after a long life they can be eaten in their entirety. The joke in my world is that everything on the pig is edible, except for the oink!
Farmers that work in this cyclical way, in my opinion, offer the most sustainable course for farming, and I love that I can support a large network of farmers who are working hard to raise animals well, hand-in-hand with the land.
What’s your ultimate picnic spread?
I’d need a giant basket! A nice walnut and rye sourdough . Some Graceburn cheese from Blackwoods Cheese Company, which is basically an English version of feta – you don’t even need a knife to smear it on bread, and the flavoured oil makes for a great salad dressing. My Hoghton Loin cured pork , which is a lovely blend of lean and fat. A couple of bottles of Kernel Brewery’s seasonal fruit beers and some Kentish strawberries for dessert.
Served either flat or in loose rolls and thinly sliced (not the thicker cuts typically used in sandwiches), whole-muscle cuts of cured meat may include:5
Prosciutto, jamón Serrano, and jamón Ibérico
Italian cured pork legs that are salted and air-dried Spanish Serrano uses a different curing process, but has a comparable taste and texture.6
Lomo de cerdo(or “lomo” for short)
Spanish cured pork tenderloin the Italian version is called lonzo.7
Italian beef tenderloin that is salted and air-dried the Spanish version is called cesina.
A bacon made from pork jowl often considered similar to pancetta but with richer, porkier flavor.8
Filetto bacciato (or “kissed fillet”)
A cured loin, wrapped in salami when sliced it is said to look like kiss-ready puckered lips.
Essentially grown-up bologna, but richer, silkier, and more complex in addition to distinctive polka dot fat marbling, some mortadella are cooked with black pepper or pistachios.
A German cured, smoked pork shoulder that’s said to be similar to prosciutto, but with more notes of juniper and smoke.
Celebrate Great British Beef Week with quick simple recipes for all the family
From quick curries to fiery steaks and delicious pastas, beef remains one of the nation’s favourite meats. In celebration of Great British Beef Week - which takes place between Monday 23rd April and Monday 30th April - we’re encouraging you to cook these delicious and nutritious recipes at home.
Organised by Ladies in Beef, this event is an annual weeklong homage to all things beef, and this year thin cut steaks are the true star of the show. These versatile cuts of meat can be used in a range of contemporary and delicious dishes including stir-fries, fajitas and steak sandwiches and are ideal for mid-week meals that can be created in a matter of minutes.
Jilly Greed, Co-Founder of Ladies in Beef, said: "Our aim is to encourage Brits to eat more red meat by reminding them of the equality and versatility that comes with assured British beef. Thin cuts in particular are ideal for busy working families because they are quick and easy to prepare, yet tasty and nutritious making them appeal to the whole family.
“With food trends constantly evolving, especially in younger Brits and their families, we’re excited to remind people that beef can be enjoyed as part of a healthy balanced diet and is a positive health choice for children and adults to enjoy at any time of the week.”
Try these three exclusive tasty recipes, perfect for time-poor families in need of delicious mealtime inspiration.
Our fiery steaks recipe uses thin cut beefsteaks, are quick to cook and full of flavour. They are pan-fried and served with a spicy, piquant tomato sauce made with red onions, chopped tomatoes, chilli sauce, fresh thyme leaves and a pinch of sugar. A perfect mid-week meal option.
4 thin cut beef steaks1 medium red onion, peeled and finely sliced1 x 227g can chopped tomatoes15ml/1tbsp freshly chopped thyme leaves10ml/2tsp good hot chilli sauceFrom the Store Cupboard:30ml/2tbsp rapeseed or olive oil5ml/1tsp white sugarSalt and freshly milled black pepper
Heat the half the oil in a non-stick pan, add the onion and cook over a medium heat for 3-4 minutes or until soft.Add the tomatoes, sugar, thyme and chilli sauce. Cook for 2-3 minutes. Season.Heat the remaining oil in a clean non-stick frying pan.Place the steaks on a chopping board and season on both sides.Cook the steaks for 2-3 minutes on each side.Serve the steaks with the sauce, sauté potatoes and seasonal vegetables.
If preferred replace the thin cut steaks with sirloin, rump or rib-eye steaks and cook according to your preference using the timings below: (Based on a 2cm/¾-in thick steak): Rare: 2½ minutes on each side Medium: 4 minutes on each side Well done: 6 minutes on each side
Smoky Beef Wraps with Kale, Onion and Red Pepper
These wraps using thin cut beefsteaks, kale, onion and peppers are quick to prepare and cook. Perfect for brunch or a light supper with a crisp salad.
350g/12oz thin cut beef steaks15ml/3tsp rapeseed or sunflower oil10ml/2tsp smoked paprika5ml1tsp ground cuminSalt and freshly milled black pepper50g/2oz kale or baby spinach leaves, rinsed and roughly shredded1 small red or yellow pepper, deseeded and sliced½ small red onion, peeled and thinly sliced5ml/1tsp lemon or lime juice1 ripe avocado, peeled, stoned and mashed4 -6 tortilla wraps, warmedGreek yogurt, to serveFreshly chopped coriander or flat-leaf parsley, to serve
In a small bowl mix together 10ml/2tsp of the oil, smoked paprika, cumin and seasoning together.Combine the kale or spinach, peppers, onion and lemon or lime juice and remaining oil. Season, toss together and set aside for later.Heat a non-stick pan until hot. Put the steaks on a plate and brush with the seasoning mix on both sides and cook for 2-3 minutes on each side, then slice thinly.To assemble the wraps, place the flour tortillas on a clean work surface and spread with the avocado, vegetables and beef. Top with a spoonful of yogurt and herbs.Fold up to make a neat roll, secure with a cocktail stick, if required, and serve immediately with a crisp salad.
Tips: If preferred, for extra heat, add 1 small chopped red chilli to the avocado, or use a prepared guacamole instead.
Try this midweek beef curry using thin cut beefsteaks, prepared curry paste, coconut milk, stock, new potatoes and herbs. All ready and on the table in under 40 minutes.
450g/1lb thin cut beef steaks, cut into 2inch/5cm strips20ml/4tsp rapeseed or olive oil1 onion, peeled and sliced30ml/2tbsp Thai Massaman curry paste or curry paste of your choice400ml/14 fl oz can reduced calorie coconut milk30ml/2tbsp crunchy peanut butter150ml/¼pint good hot beef or lamb stock450g/1lb small new potatoes, unpeeled and cut into quartersSalt and freshly milled black pepper25g/1oz roughly chopped roasted unsalted peanuts, to garnish (optional)Large handful of freshly chopped coriander, to garnish
The best items for a dinner antipasto
First, raid the pantry: In my pantry I keep things like various jars of pickled vegetables, canned fish like white anchovies or smoked oysters, canned stuffed grape leaves, and spreads like artichoke spread or tomato chutney.
Next stop, the grocery store: In addition to whatever cheeses and salumi I have around, or pick up for the occasion, I will hit the olive bar at my local market for items like marinated artichoke hearts, a variety of olives, and other interesting, brined items.Then it is off to the prepared food counter to fill in with some other composed salads. Think of lighter items like calamari salad, cucumber salad, maybe some grilled vegetables that can be drizzled with olive oil. Finally, head over to the produce section to pick up some perfectly ripe tomatoes, fresh mushrooms, heads of fennel or endive, to bring some easy bright flavors and crunch to the party. Some crusty bread and crispy crackers and you have a feast fit for a principessa!
It is a meal that you shop instead of cook for, and assembly can be as fancy or simple as your heart desires. If I want that Italian flair, hit a local Italian market, but it is also fun to explore other markets and expand the offerings. You&aposll find amazing stuff at your local Middle Eastern, Indian, or Asian markets, so don&apost hesitate to explore.
The best part? Nearly any item left over from an antipasto dinner is perfect for some interesting sandwiches and salads for lunches for a few days.
Having a good array of sauce recipes under your belt is a must for any budding chef. From sauce vierge to a great homemade ketchup, sauces are the cherry on the cake of any dish.
The sauce world is very broad. First up, we have the classic sauces that often come from the French culinary tradition, such as bearnaise sauce, ravigote, beurre blanc and hollandaise. Although they make seem intimidating at first, it's worth putting in the time to master the classics if you want some really next-level, delicious dishes.
Not all classic sauces hail from France, though. Argentinian chimichurri makes barbecued meats sing, while romesco sauce is a revelation daubed over grilled vegetables (we recommend baby leeks or calçots).
Desserts can also get in on the action with our selection of sweet sauces. Our easy raspberry coulis recipe is perfect for finishing off summer desserts, while our decadent chocolate ganache is a triumph all year round on a plethora of rich puds.
Everything is available to buy online and with their skilled team they will make sure everything leaves in its peak condition. With their next day courier service, you’ll receive your order straight to your door before you know it!
What a pleasant surprise. Stumbled upon the venue during an event in Brighton marina. Amazing charcuterie boards to share with sussex wines. Favourites include their beer sticks and the charcoal cheddar. Great for stocking up on quality supplies for the kitchen.. oh and by their off cuts. Great for cooking stews at home. Highly recommend
Matt has been a butcher all his working life. He used his first boning knife at the age of 14 when he got his first Saturday job.
Matt has been a butcher all his working life. He used his first boning knife at the age of 14 when he got his first Saturday job helping his local butchers in the Christmas rush. At 16 he enrolled as an apprentice butcher where he was traditionally trained.
He has managed butcher shops in and outside of London, and competed in butchery competitions across the continent. Matt prides himself in developing new products, taking inspiration from different cultures and butchery styles, searching for a way to give old traditions a modern edge. Matt continues to add his creative flair and skill in developing our range of British cured meats.
Matt loves our Fennel salami with a nice cold beer.
Adam is the production master at Cobble Lane. He grew up on a small farm in Poland beginning his butchery journey.
Adam is the production master at Cobble Lane. He grew up on a small farm in Poland beginning his butchery journey by helping his family make their own smoked sausages. After gaining his meat processing diploma he worked across Europe, honing his knowledge and skills in charcuterie production. He learnt from the best and worked for the best. Adam applies his exacting standards to everything we make and our products are all the better for it. Adam’s favorite meat is our award winning Islington saucisson which he recommends with a good red wine or a rose in the summer.
Lucy runs the business and customer services side of Cobble Lane Cured. A food lover she began her career.
Lucy runs the business and customer services side of Cobble Lane Cured. A food lover she began her career in the food industry where she met her husband and Cobble Lane Cured Founder Matt. She gained her business experience within HR Departments of London Business School and the Evening Standard. As demands for Cobble Lane Cure products grew Lucy joined the team to support our business to grow.
Currently pregnant Lucy can’t wait to have some cured meats which she’ll enjoy with a sparkling elderflower juice.
Sabina is a hands on member of our processing and production team and wife of Adam.
Sabina is a hands on member of our processing and production team and wife of Adam. She works in our butchers assisting in the making, packing and general grafting that makes our meats so delicious. She has been involved in Cobble Lane Cured from the very beginning when we first sold at Farmers Markets. Her insight and taste buds make her a brilliant addition to our team.
Her favorite meat is our nduja delicious melted on top of a pizza.
1 Stock up on a solid selection
When you&rsquore shopping for a charcuterie board, you&rsquoll want to get three to five different types of meats. As with a cheese board, try and mix up the colors, textures and flavors. For instance, spicy coppa, buttery prosciutto, a salty dry-cured sausage like finochietta, and beefy bresaola make a good selection. Look near the cheese section for whole dried sausages and pre-sliced meats in plastic trays, or hit up the deli counter.
2 But only buy what you need
Cured meats can get kind of expensive, and there&rsquos no need to go overboard in buying. Aim for about two ounces of meat per person, total.
3 The slice is right
Oftentimes, these meats are rich and salty. So when you&rsquore shopping, ask the person at the counter to slice the meat as thinly as possible. If you have a whole dried sausage, cut at least one third of it before you place it on the board, and position a paring knife nearby for people to finish the job.
4 Pick the perfect sides
Accompaniments make charcuterie look and taste even better, so pick up some nuts, dried or fresh fruit, olives, or pickles, plus one or two sauces, like mustard, honey, or tapenade. And don&rsquot forget bread and crackers!
5 Consider your serving strategy
Now you&rsquore ready to build! You want to use something large and flat as a base: a wooden or slate board provides a nice contrast with the color of the meat, though you could also use a platter or large plate. You&rsquoll also want one or two small bowls for your accompaniments and sauces&mdashthey&rsquoll add visual interest (plus flavor).
6 Consider the composition
To start, arrange your small bowls off-center, and place the meat and accompaniments around them. As you work, think about the overall look: place non-meaty elements like crackers, fruit, and nuts between the various kinds of charcuterie, and change up the look of the meat itself. Gently gather individual slices of prosciutto to create easy-to-eat bundles, fold big slices of salami into quarters, and fan out smaller slices of sliced charcuterie.
7 Prep it in advance
Don&rsquot be afraid to make this a few hours before your party&mdashjust cover with plastic and refrigerate until you&rsquore ready to serve. (More than a few hours, though, and the meat might start to dry out.) Add any fruit that might brown, like apples or pears, just before serving.
Non-Alcoholic Distilled Spirit
“We absolutely loved this beer. It was crisp and refreshing with just the right amount of hops. We simply wanted another when the first one had vanished.”
Pressure Drop Pale Fire, £3.70 shop.pressuredropbrewing.co.uk
The glorious natural colour first attracts you to this jar of deliciousness, which is then followed by a perfectly set marmalade. The blood orange flavour is strong as it should be and I loved that it is not too sweet. I can imagine using this in one of my desserts
These are delicious! Super light, super crunchy and really nutty… the box disappeared in minutes as you can’t stop eating them. Proper fine chocolate!
Demarquette Cobnut Praline Crunch, 2018 winner
A worthy alternative to a gin and tonic - great complexity of flavour and a well rounded, refreshing drink
Caleno Non-Alcoholic Distilled Spirit, 2018 winner
Beautifully spiced with a great texture, this dhal is extremely easy to cook and is deliciously light
Organic Ancient Grain & Sweet Potato Dhal, 2019 Finalist
Nice light sponge good balance of fruit and liqueur and a great flavour
The Proof of the Pudding, Cherry and Almond Pudding with Alnwick Rum Almond Liqueur, 2018 winner
Very interesting on the nose with elements of minerals, salt, sea herbs, and hints of fennel and wheatgrass. This was the most interesting gin out of the lot
Sea Glass Gin, 2019 Finalist Sea Glass Gin, 2020 Finalist
Imagine an apple as bright and powerful as a comet! Pulsing with intense, characterful flavour, this single varietal cider has richness, balance, and complexity - with star power to light up the moment. Organic excellence
Browns Medium Dry Cider, winner in 2018
Zestier and brighter than a lightsaber carving citrus peel, this phenomenal fizz is underpinned with elegant toasty finesse. An English icon - and world class
The title of this fabulous product says it all. The beautiful taste of the Seville oranges is a real delight and the flavour is not too sweet. I loved the texture too
Wildman Charcuterie Wins Gold at the British Charcuterie Awards
Award-winning Wildman Charcuterie based in Malhamdale at Town End Farm Shop is celebrating after being awarded a Gold for its Craven Longhorn Bresaola at the inaugural British Charcuterie Awards.
The new awards took place in August 2018 at Blenheim Palace with a prestigious panel of judges and food industry experts, including Henrietta Green, John Gower, Prue Leith, Xanthe Clay & many more…
Chris Wildman, owner of Wildman Charcuterie, says: “We were thrilled to win a Gold for our Craven Longhorn Bresaola, especially as it is a completely home produced product. Our Craven Longhorn cattle are born and bred on the Limestone Pastures around Malham in the Yorkshire Dales. So we know the provenance is impeccable and a true farm to fork product.”
The results of this year’s awards at Blenheim Palace proved that British Charcuterie is thriving and more than ever appreciated throughout the country.
“We’re delighted at the quality and number of entries for the first British Charcuterie Awards and astonished by the quantity of British businesses – producers, farmers, butchers & chefs – making great Charcuterie. Roll on 2019!” Henrietta Green & Charlotte Sharpe-Neal co-founders of the BritishCharcuterie Awards.
The Wildman family have been making cured meats for five generations in The Yorkshire Dales and still uses some of the original traditional Wildman family recipes.