Salami Milano, prosciutto, saucisson sec – all words which roll off the tongue and make the mouth water. The UK has developed quite a taste for charcuterie over the years, happily tucking into packets of Parma ham and ogling the various meats hanging from French market stalls. But it’s only in the past ten years or so that we’ve started to produce charcuterie on our own soil, rather than importing it from the continent. Or is it?
Colin Woodall is a master curer at Woodall’s Charcuterie – a company that has been in his family for eight generations. Based in Cumbria, a county that’s a world away from the sunny climes of France, Spain and Italy, he makes delicacies like Cumberland Salami and air-dried Cumbrian Ham. Of course, he isn’t the only one making charcuterie in Britain today. But he is the only one who can trace back the recipes, methods and techniques he uses to his Cumbrian ancestors nearly 200 years ago.
‘In the eighteenth century, every rural household in Cumbria kept a pig,’ explains Colin. ‘When October came around and the pig had been nicely fattened up, it would be killed and every part of the carcass turned into food that could be kept at room temperature for a long period of time. People would make brawn out of the brains, boil the tongues – nothing was left to waste.
‘Woodall’s was started by my great, great, great, great, great grandmother in 1828,’ he continues. ‘She was widowed at an early age after her husband died on on his way home from church one Sunday morning and she was left with five young kids. Of course back then there was no welfare system, so she began to process other farms’ pigs to make a living. This grew and grew until they eventually built a dedicated building at home to meet demand. Every Monday morning in the winter there would be a line of carts outside her door with a pig in the back.’