Marc-Frederic Berry fondly labelled Le Charcutier Anglais is described as one of the most knowledgeable and experienced Charcuterie Englishmen. This is ironic because Berry has spent a large chunk of his life learning about Charcuterie in Germany and rural France including the regions of the Languedoc, Limousin and the Charente.
He is a delightful man, a storyteller and a joker with a passion to educate us all about the fascinating world of Charcuterie.
Having returned to the UK nine years ago Berry has taken to teaching like a duck to water. I was lucky enough to participate in one such lesson at www.thymeatsouthropmanor.co.uk earlier this year and this is an account of what I learned.
The class included a variety of interested parties; a mix of people, some with small tracks of land with pigs wanting to know what to do post slaughter, hobby cooks, a retired gentleman breeding pigs in Oxford and wanting to produce his own small joints, an arable farmer with a few pigs dotted around and a local butcher from the Charles Whitbread Estate.
The pig we butchered on the day was a mix breed from Eastleich Organics. I am told Pigs sold to chefs as dead weight cost between £3-£3.50 per kilo.
If you want to take up charcuterie as a hobby or to advance your skills (like chef Tom Aikens who attended one of Berry’s courses) you will need some basic utensils; these include: a meat saw, a boning knife, a steel, a steak knife and a Stanly Knife. You might also like to invest in a Lardon kneedle and try not to compromise on quality.
With supervision from Berry we attempted some basic butchery, taking turns through the correct process: starting with taking the head off – this is piece one. There are six cuts in total. This is not for the feint-hearted and it’s physical work. The skill required to be a butcher had never really hit home before this session.
Once we had our various cuts of meats, Berry talked ‘Charcuterie’. Charcuterie is the artisan skill of taking raw meat and preserving it by curing it, smoking, cooking or a combination of all three methods. Some examples are: Jambon, Boudin Noir, Gayettes, Fromage de Tête and Pâté en Croute (translated as ham, black pudding, faggots, brawn and pork pies).
We attempted some basic crepinettes, (soft cornered triangles of savoury breakfast sausage wrapped in Caul Fat with herbs and fruits) and made our own Cumberland sausage mix and a spicy Chorizo. Stuffing the sausages with the sausage machine and skins was hilarious, and, again not easy, I was assured it gets easier.
We talked about all sorts of cured pork meat: Streaky bacon, Short Back bacon,
Spanish Lomo, Ayrshire rolls, Gonchali (or pork cheeks).
You must never wash cured meat, just pat it dry with paper towel, then air dry it and if air drying add another 10g curing salt.
Charcuterie is a fascinating subject and Berry is definitely the font of all knowledge, his book Le Charcutier Anglais www.lecharcutieranglais.com will provide you with step by step instructions and recipes if you are interested in learning more about the subject. He describes it as easy reading with buckets of humour and laughter. We certianly enjoyed both on our day at Thyme at Southrop Manor.
Southrop Manor has become a destination for foodies. It is owned By Caryn Hibbert and the Thyme cookery school is located within 140 acres of farmland adjacent to luxury accommodation and the Grade II listed Manor.