Feasting on some home-cured British salami, JESSICA CARTER is as happy as a Buttle Farm pig in mud
In case you weren’t aware, we’re slap bang in the middle of National Sausage Week. Yes, there’s a whole seven days dedicated to this fry-up staple, long-time friend of puff pastry and proverbial toad in the Yorkshire hole. But it’s not all just about the traditional banger this week, you know. Let’s talk salami.
Having originated in Italy, salami is still most strongly associated with southern European areas. But, as you know, we’re all about keeping things close to home here at Crumbs, so we don’t have our sights set across the Channel for this week’s celebrations. Oh, no. In fact, we only have to look as far as Compton Basset to find some winning cured sausage. (And the word on the street is that it’s even better than what you’ll find on the mainland, too).
Just to clear things up, we’re not talking imports here; we’re dealing with locally reared, home-cured treats from the native British pigs that live at Buttle Farm. This small producer – we’re talking a two-fridge capacity here – has only been around for about five years, but has already made a name for itself and its neat meat offerings.
Robert and Sara bought this small, one-time dairy farm half a decade ago, and now use the land to rear rare-breed British pigs in a free-range, 100-per-cent-outdoor environment. A number of grassy paddocks are home to small, chirpy groups of Oxford sandy and blacks, British saddlebacks, large blacks, mangalitzas, Tamworths and Berkshires, and allow them plenty of opportunity for roaming and grazing.
They all come bounding over as soon as they hear Robert calling (although, granted, it may also have something to do with the bucket of apples that he’s carrying). The enthusiastic farmer tells us how much he enjoys having people to pop over to visit – not because he’s deprived of a local social scene (Buttle Farm hosts its own events and invites the whole neighbourhood, including Robbie Williams, whose estate you can see from the paddocks) but because he’s passionate about linking farm and fork. An ardent member of Slow Food UK – an organization aiming to ignite people’s interest in where their food comes from and how it is produced – Robert champions food education and locality. “We could take all our stock to Borough Market and probably do really well – but I can’t help but feel that would be selling out,” he tells us. “We’re either really stupid or really dedicated. I like to think it’s the latter!”
Not only are the pigs born and bred on Buttle Farm, but the meats are all cured on-site too. And it’s also on this same patch of land where we got to sample them (talk about saving on food miles, eh). A range of charcuterie and bacon is made here, but given the occasion, we were all about the salami on our visit.
Robert and Sara make their cured sausage using prime cuts of pork. The fat is stripped from the meat before mincing, and then re-added by way of hand-chopped back fat (some of the best-quality fat on a pig, don’t y’know). The mixture is then seasoned, although less so than with a lot of salamis (with meat this good it’s a case of if it ain’t broke don’t fix it), using a smidgen of salt and black pepper, and a glug of red wine. Then, the salamis are hung for between eight and 14 weeks. And that’s it, really. No nasties, no unpronounceables, and nothing that doesn’t directly benefit the flavour.
This modest but committed farm is case in point that good things really can come in small packages.
Robert’s easy Christmas stuffing
– Preheat the oven to 350F/180C/gas mark 4.
– Put the sausagemeat, porridge and chopped onion in a bowl. Mix well – get your hands in there.
– Form up into balls (you’ll get about 6-8).
– Wrap each ball in a rasher of streaky bacon and place on a baking tray.
– Bake in the oven for 30-35 minutes.