Our ‘Summer of Charcuterie 2020’ – A panelist’s thoughts

We were so pleased with the engagement from both producers, panelists and consumers who had their interest piqued by the Summer of Charcuterie 2020 event. It was this great response allied with lots of new panelists wanting to come on board to be part of what is a very unique format, that has encouraged us to make it an annual event which producer members of The Charcuterie Board can enter free of charge. 

Here is what one of our great panelists, top development chef John Feeney had to say about his experiences of the 2020 event;

“As this was not a blind judging, I found it actually gave me a completely different perspective on the process. It was great to see the product in its’ consumer packaging to give the whole experience – judging blind gives an unbiased flavour experience, but if people can’t get beyond the packaging it can change their perspective of the product and ultimately their purchase. 

As Chefs we can be snobbish on charcuterie – which is not necessarily a good thing and during this process it has opened me up to trying more of our British charcuterie and not necessarily sticking with the norm.

I really enjoyed tasting new innovative products which created some fabulous new flavours, even when combined with older more traditional ingredients. A chef of 37 years and I still saw a couple of products I had never seen before and shown me some new innovative products to get me excited and interested in charcuterie again.

One of those was The Baker’s Pig – Sanguinaccio Dolce – what a new experience, it danced on the taste buds with its’ evocative flavour and needs the acknowledgement of a super product – my 12 year old called it ‘charcuterie nutella’

Another unusual product was the Curing Rebels – Shichimi Togarashi Ox heart – not stereo-typical and when do you see ox heart on a charcuterie board – presented in a little wooden box which was very different and quite cheeky. Eaten by slice or, as suggested in the box, to micro-grate as a flavour enhancement which I tried and you could really imagine it on a restaurant dish like a ragu of beef, put with pasta or a dish with eggs etc., as a chef it really start you thinking what you could do with that one product. It reminded me of how Michelin restaurants have taken many influences from Asia with meaty, umami, punchy spicy flavouring or with a freshness of Japanese flavours.

I thought the story cards from some of the producers were great too including Curing Rebels it was good to get a little insight into the name of the company. A lot of restaurants now have a barcode link (use the camera on your phone) to their restaurant for the history, menu etc. – perhaps a barcode like this on packaging to give the producers details, story etc. may be a good idea?

One of the big positives of this event was as a remote panellist receiving the products at home, it gave me the opportunity to invite family & friends (of all ages) to join in the tasting, share the process and discuss our different views – some of whom would never normally eat charcuterie. 

The whole process was great – socially trying it and socially getting it out there over social media a double hit with a wider more diverse audience. From this, I have been contacted by many people asking about the products – which is a win win for everyone involved in this event. 

In general, all the products I tasted had a consumer-friendly taste and the flavours were great even for the kids too. I used some left over Nduja (including Duchy Charcuterie and The Baker’s Pig) on home-made pizza and my son said “Dad your pizza is the best” my kids who were oblivious of nduja before, now rave about it and have even ordered it on their restaurant pizza’s since! 

Being a passionate man about food I love that these charcuterie dishes originated abroad but we have made them our own ‘Rule Britannia’ versions and there is nothing to say that we cannot stand out with our own unique salamis, nduja or air dried & cured meats.

The current buzz word is ‘sustainability’ – so knowing we are making charcuterie that doesn’t compromise on flavour but is also made from animals raised with some of the highest welfare standards in the world.

Sustainability charcuterie is that you are taking normal meat matter and turning it into a flavour bomb, giving a good shelf life to an animal that has died for us.

High animal welfare and using traditional and heritage breeds is particularly important to the artisan British charcutier and supporting breeders of these animals that would/could disappear is another positive, together with using ex-dairy or breeding animals too.

With such a diverse variety of British charcuterie products now available, it means that there is charcuterie out there for everyone, you just need to find yours and hopefully tickle your tastebuds!

To the charcuterie Producers who are perfecting their craft and creating some amazing products …. Thank You …. it was a pleasure to taste your products. 

Lastly, I just want to say this was a fabulous event and I want to thank The Charcuterie Board for creating it and putting in on this summer and I am so glad to have be chosen as one of the few lucky panellists who got to taste some amazing products this summer and I am happy to say it has reignited my love of charcuterie especially British!”

Although we only did the 20202 event as a last minute effort to step in when the British Cured meat Awards collapsed, we found it was such a great way to get the most comprehensive review of the state of British charcuterie that with a few great tweaks to the format and a host of new panelists coming on board, we cannot wait to bring again and see what our wonderful producers have got in store for everyone this year.