Nose-to-tail charcuterie: this blog walks through every part of the pig, and what we use to make our much-loved charcuterie products, from our Little French Ham to our locally sourced pheasant terrine - and everything in between. Absolutely nothing is wasted and each part of the pig favours a different kind of charcuterie.
When my mum and I travelled to France in 2010, we ate a lot of charcuterie. Ready to eat cured meats and salumi products are mainstream fare in Europe, preserved for non-refrigeration in the old days but proven over time to be a most deliciously enhanced way of consuming meat.
This appealed to the green pig farmer and butcher in me, preserving our gorgeous meat and being able to consume it months later in smaller amounts was a no-brainer. Travelling really opened my mind to charcuterie and planted the seed for what our business does today. Plus back then it was hard to source good Australian free-range charcuterie. I thought, "this is it"! The next obvious step in our pig production was to preserve preserve preserve.
We started out making whole muscle cured meat. Each part of the pig has different traditional uses. The cheek also called guanciale in Italy is a delicious fatty meat best used for pasta carbonara. Simply sautee finely diced onions, garlic and the guanciale in lots of extra virgin olive oil, then add white wine, breadcrumbs and loads of good parmasan and crack your raw egg to stir in while it's hot. Belissimo!
The neck of the pig or coppa makes a beautiful salumi called capocollo. Ours is aromatic and a hint of heat, marbled and ruby coloured. We love capocollo to eat alongside a good cheese and a good full bodied red wine like Shiraz. Also good on pizza with buffalo mozzarella and olives.
Next comes the loin of the pig, or Lonza. Lonza has the back fat and also the lean loin muscle. Ours is aromatic and delicate and matches beautifully with a white wine such as Chardonnay. Also great on pizza, all the salumi is good on pizza actually!
The other half of the loin is the belly, which we make a flat (sometimes seen as a round cut) pancetta from. Pancetta is such a great ingredient to use in the kitchen. Diced up to use in pasta sauces, enhance beef, lamb and chicken dishes, cook with eggs (guanciale also so good with eggs!), have on pizza or sprinkle over fish or potatoes. Also use pancetta for replacing bacon on oysters if you're into Kilpatrick... oh lordy. Delicious! So versatile, best cooked and it just lasts forever in your fridge stored in greaseproof paper.
The legs we use for two products. A whole cured ham, or prosciutto cured just in salt. The other is a French meat called Noix de Jambon or coined by us as The Little French Ham. It's a single leg muscle and varies in size as there are 4 main muscles used. Some have a fat covering, some are lean. It's a simple cure of salt and pepper and the end result is simply gorgeous. It's our best-selling product by far and we have trouble keeping up with demand. We match the Little French Ham with Semillion wine but also works well with cool-climate Pinot Noir and gooey triple brie cheese like L'Artisan Extravagant.
The shoulders are a versatile cut. We dice ours, marinate in spices and immerse it in rendered pork fat. Slowly confit cooked for 6 hours the meat is then shredded and potted in a jar and sealed in more rendered lard. Our pork Rillettes are amazing, many French customers have groaned openly after consuming telling us that they have finally found a French comparison in Australia. We pasteurize the jars so that they have a long 12-month shelf life.
The belly after making pancetta has a layer of soft fat at the edge near the nipple. It's too soft for sausages, too fatty for pancetta. We mix this with the outer edges of the shoulder and sometimes the cheek trim to make a little known delicious morsel called Fricandeaux. I first learned about this little beauty in Trentham with Annie Smithers when she had a fabulous French husband and wife pig farming and butchery team, the Chapolards and American charcutier Kate Hill visit for their 'French Pig' workshop. This little product was minced with potato and onions and wrapped in the caul fat (fat that separates the organs from the gut) much like an English faggot. Also confit cooked, the rich, salty aromatic meat is like a jarred terrine, and is so good with a sharp mustard and vintage cheese.
We also make a terrine, which is minced pork wrapped in bacon or pancetta - we make ours with a locally-sourced pastured pheasant and are about to launch a special Christmas one. Terrines are so good on a platter with some pickles, cheese and fruit. A staple in France at truck stops (hahaha, yes) and bistros.
Lastly, pigs have livers and heads so we use them to make a pâté and head cheese and also a bone broth. The heads are boiled down whole and the meat savoured with fresh herbs, garlic, onion and salt and pepper and spices. This is then pressed which produces a lovely aspic that holds it all together.
Our last step for our nose-to-tail charcuterie mission is to make salami. The licensing and regulations surrounding making salami is very strict because of the high-risk nature of the process but we are on track to have salami available for Summer.
The take-home message from here is to get into charcuterie if you haven't already! We don't use nitrates and the products are all handmade in small batches. Our sweet pork really shines when salt is added and time is applied. Yum!