It’s a remarkable thought that a year ago I donned a pig emblazoned apron and took up my position behind the cured meat counter for the first time. At that point the extent of my cured meat knowledge was limited to choosing between the own brand and slightly poncey-er chorizo rings in Sainsbury’s, and I wouldn’t have known a coppa from jamon if you’d slapped me round the face with either of them.
At the risk of sounding very pleased with myself, I’m extremely pleased with how much I’ve learnt. I quickly managed to explain to non-plussed tourists that they’d just eaten ‘Bambi’ (our wild venison chorizo) or that I was offering them some cured Duck whilst quacking at them. In between the animal charades I picked up thebasics of the business of curing, and somewhere along the way I became a convert to the small but ever developing religion that is the British Cured Meat industry.
As I moved from the market to the wholesale warehouse, I was fortunate enough to come in to contact with the fantastic producers we work with. Characters one and all, these people are the beating heart of this growing world of British curing. The love and attention they pay to the animals they rear and subsequently the meat they cure, smoke and slice is unrivalled – something that is evident in their end products.
This is an industry that is not without its challenges and pitfalls, however, being ‘artisan’ for the most part. The price of meat is steadily rising, squeezing margins across the British farming board meaning the repercussionsare most harshly felt by the small, artisan producers. These tough times are intensified by post-Brexit concerns, as we’ve seen in the pound’s recent slump. I don’t mean to preach, but it seems that at this time more than ever, we should be looking to support these farmers and producers so as to reinforce British farming against an uncertain economic future. The quality of British Cured Meat can at least rival that of the continent (if not better it occasionally), and whilst it may cost a little more, you’ll be rewarded with something very special indeed.
It’s not all doom and gloom, however. As myself and the team at spread the word of British Cured Meat we have seen the special versatility it possesses; standing proud together with a deep Scottish whisky, bouncing around on the palate with a zingy Gin & Tonic and mopping up pint after pint of craft beer. Luckily I can attest to all of these things – it’s been a pretty good year on the tasting front…
The last year has seen the British Cured Meat word spread further and further. We’ve seen unprecedented numbers of you visit us on our market stalls at Borough Market, Kings Cross, Herne Hill, Primrose Hill and most recently West Hampstead. We are more than always more than happy to see you and we have plenty of things to taste so do please come again. We’ve put on a record number of tasting evenings and hands on butchery sessions at Meat School this year. Your enthusiasm and interest continues to astound us and we can’t wait for even more exciting events coming up next year.
In the new year we’ll be opening a new cured meat bar called Nape in Camberwell, serving up British meat and cheese platters with excellent craft beers and natural wines. We cannot wait to invite even more of you to try our unique British-made meats wherever it may be, over the year to come.