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A Miracle Cure: Britain’s Rare Breed Charcuterie Boom

15th May 2019

Meet the makers shaking up the British curing scene with rare breed charcuterie made with lesser-known native meats and game including mutton and muntjac.

Caprelous’ award-winning charcuterie includes smoked mutton – a cured meat that you’d be hard-pressed to find outside of the UK.

There’s no two ways about it, heritage breed pigs are a great animal for curing, but they’re not the only animal that make a good salami.

For centuries, people selected their pig to slaughter before winter set in, hanging and salting the meat to preserve it for the colder months ahead. As efficient storers of fat, virtually every part of the pig can be eaten.

Rare breeds beyond the pig

These days, Britain’s realising that it is far more than pigs that contribute to a flavourful sausage. You can find mutton, cured with rosemary, juniper, garlic and port, then air-dried and cold smoked. Lamb and pork chorizo, wild venison chorizo, sloe and garlic venison salami, smoked duck. The list goes on.

Peelham Farm on the Scottish Borders makes a beef salami with coriander and a lamb salami with cumin. They’re one of the few to do so from their own livestock. 

Hugo Jeffreys of Black Hand in Hackney uses Muntjac deer from the nearby Epping Forest in his salami.

Closer to home, Hackney-based Black Hand started out in 2012 thanks to a young man named Hugo Jeffreys and his basement fridge. Over the years, they’ve branched out to lamb and deer. Of the latter, there is Muntjac, a timid variety introduced to the UK by the Duke of Bedford in the 1800s.

David Richards of charcutiers Capreolus is also a fan: ‘we should be eating as much as we can of Muntjac; they destroy bluebell woods, breed all year round unlike other deer and the meat is sweet and delicious’.

The ultimate sustainable meat?

Capreolus are doing incredible things. Among other awards, their smoked mutton and truffle-infused lardo (cured, fermented back fat) won two and three stars at the Great Taste Awards respectively. As they show all too well, it’s not simply a case of picking up any old sheep, hanging it for a bit and off you go.

Cold smoked mutton by Caprelous Fine Foods cured with rosemary, juniper, garlic, black pepper, and port.

‘Mutton is a sheep at least three years old,’ Richards continues, ‘and they do tend to develop quite a layer of fat, which is not especially pleasant.’ His best solution?

Castlemilk Moorit, an incredibly rare breed that almost went extinct in Britain forty or so years ago; ‘they can’t be commercial because the animal’s quite small. But the meat is simply extraordinary and the amount of fat in there is really low.’

Eating breeds that are damaging the countryside, savouring parts of the animal otherwise neglected and helping to encourage appetites for mutton, lamb and game puts charcuterie as a strong contender for the ultimate sustainable meat. I’ve heard producers say that Britain has the best pork in the world. Perhaps charcutiers will help realise the potential of its mutton, venison, et al, too.

Read more about the rise of British charcutiers and 5 minutes with Bermondsey-based curers Crown & Queue.

Have a nose around our full range of British charcuterie and cured meats.

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