Iexcelled myself last week. After 12 years of thinking about it, I actually got around to having a go at curing meat. And, if it works, I will have cured my first duck prosciutto and beef biltong. Charcuterie is the name given to the art of making sausages, and other cured, smoked and preserved meats, of which pates and terrines also come under this heading.
Originally, the word charcuterie referred only to products made from pork. But today, charcuterie is used to describe any product prepared using these traditional methods, even ones made from poultry, fish and seafood.
My Meishan pigs were originally brought from Holland with charcuterie in mind. At the time I had visions of selling my homemade cured meats in high-end delis and restaurants. I have since found out, however, that they are probably too fatty a breed to make successful charcuterie.
Curing meat is a skill, and to learn the basics it’s best to go to a specialist. I travelled to North Yorkshire for a one-day course hosted by Yorkshire Food Finder and held at the Star Inn in Harome. Yorkshire Food Finder is much like our own Savour the Flavours. it is passionate about promoting local producers and food events and runs a few foodie type courses throughout the year. I stayed the night at the wonderful Carr House Hill b&b at Ampleforth before setting off in the morning.
It was very much hands on, from cutting up a pig carcass using a saw and an extremely sharp and large knife, to making sausages, which was hilarious and reminded me very much of the TV programme The Generation Game. The course finished at four and we were given the duck breast and some beef to cure at home.
Getting home, however, was another matter: mechanical failure with my car meant I had to call on my breakdown cover and hitch a lift with a tow truck, arriving home at midnight, eight hours after I left the course. That was bad enough, but on arrival the tow truck reversed onto the lawn and got stuck. The truck, along with my car still on it, had to be towed out the next morning!