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.