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Pancetta or bust

Months, literally months after attending a curing and smoking course at River Cottage I got around to making some of my own pancetta. It was easy: the hard bit was worrying that I had made something that would make people sick, but this didn’t happen. These are the pics I took during the process.

CuringRolled

Charcuterie frenzy

When I was a teenager I had phases. There was the cars phase, then computers, followed by tropical fish and logically enough, girls. With middle age it appears that phases are coming back and this year’s seems to be charcuterie: eating, producing and consuming it. When you buy a new car, you suddenly notice how many other wise people have also bought the same model as you. Well, in a similar vein, since becoming interested in charcuterie, I’ve noticed how surprisingly available locally-made cured and smoked goods are in and around Monmouth. So pleased was I by this that did a vaguely arty Instagram photo of some pancetta, smoked pork belly and salami that I bought within ten miles of Monmouth.

My kingdom for a Choucroute Garnie

Sometimes serendipity or perhaps Providence plays a role in the delivery of a meal. One such is a Choucroute Garnie I cooked today. Chance encounters with ingredients that, on their own, don’t promise much, bubble away in my subconscious until I have an “Aha!” moment in which I realise what they could become together.

So it was with the piece of smoked belly pork and kielbasa suasages on special offer at Lidl this week. Buy some then think about about what to do with them. Being a semi-German household there’s always a bit of sauerkraut available. It must be Choucroute Garnie. Of course. Google some recipes. It’s obvious that there is no definitive recipe: it’s probably one of those dishes that exists as a meme, a set of principles. In this case, it’s essentially smoked pork cuts and sausages slowly simmered in sauerkraut, then served on a monstrous platter in its steaming Rabelaisian glory.

But do we have the ingredients? Riesling? Juniper berries, spare ribs, bay leaves, duck fat? Yes to some and no to others. Belt down to Waitrose to get the missing bits and cure the spare ribs overnight. In the morning, I am reminded that Keith Floyd (hallowed be His name) had a recipe for a Choucroute Garnie in his Second Epistle to the Gastronauts, Floyd on France. No spare ribs there. But wait! He adds liver dumplings. I’m about to leap into the car to go and buy some liver when I am reminded by my wife that we have leberknoedeln in the freezer. As one does.