Surely the best kind of school? It definitely beat double English Lit. on a Friday afternoon.
I was invited to the launch of Cannon & Cannon's Meat School. Cannon & Cannon are purveyors of British cured meats. They're not producers as such - they're curators of the good stuff. They have stalls at various markets, and they also occupy the space underneath Salon, in Brixton (have you been there for brunch yet? Go. Immediately.) Their HQ is in Borough Market, which is where we went to be schooled.
We started off with cured loins, and the first was delicate and sweet in flavour, laced with an incredibly creamy strip of fat.
All of the loins were from different producers, so each had a distinctive style. I particularly liked the paprika-cured loin from Trealy Farm, Monmouthshire, for its subtle spiciness. The others, from Moons Green in East Sussex, Black Hand Foods in Hackney and Capreolus Fine Foods in Dorset all held their own with other charcuterie I've tasted on the continent. Ed Smith, creative director of Cannon & Cannon, talked us through the process of how the meat is cured. Alongside, we tasted wines from Jascots, matched for each style of charcuterie.
From the collar now, which came from Trealy Farm and Capreolus Fine Foods again, and also Native Breeds in Gloucestershire. These are a little firmer, denser and all round meatier, each with their own unique flavour.
Ahh, these air dried sausage variants were a bit more like the saucisson I'm used to, particularly the pork, fennel seed and garlic from Moons Green, back right. This in particular was much like the salami you and I think of when it's mentioned, and in the background left there, pork, seaweed and garlic from Cornish Charcuterie was a little lacking in seaweed flavour, though I enjoyed the chewiness of it. In the foreground, the pork, fennel seed and cubeb pepper from Black Hands Food won my heart with its spicy pepperiness. In between, we cleansed our palates with bread from Bread Ahead, and the most insanely addictive sweet pickled cucumbers from Vadasz Deli.
And then, something a little bit different - venison and long pepper (back), from Native Breeds, and the other from Great Glen Charcuterie in Scotland. Spiked with green peppercorns, it was supple and floppy, gently cured, and the other a little more robust. Deep, rich and gamey, I loved them both.
Finally, a little treat. Trealy Farm had been experimenting using pork, duck and Sichuan peppercorn. I got to have the first taste on account of being the most Chinese (read: pushy) in the room, and it was absolutely fantastic. There was the richness of the duck fat, the mellow sweetness of the pork, and then lip-tingling spiciness from the Sichuan peppercorns. I am ordering more as soon as I can.
Meat School isn't just about tasting charcuterie. They also run classes on how to cure your own bacon, cured meat butchery, and pates and terrines. The one I went on was £25 - along with a welcome drink, it really is worth it. Just don't break their meat slicer...
Browse the courses here.