Capreolus does “the Continental”

foodprod-capreolusHISTORICALLY, the Brits have been brilliant at producing ham and bacon but rubbish at charcuterie – which is why most of the best-known examples of classic charcuterie have French or Italian or Spanish names, saucisson, confit, salami, guanciale, lardo, pancetta, jamon iberico, chorizo et al.

But there is a quiet revolution going on in farms and small artisan units up and down the country and nowhere more so than at Uphall Farmhouse at Rampisham, deep in the heart of West Dorset, where for several years David and Karen Richards have been producing some of the finest charcuterie you will ever eat, constantly developing their range and winning a host of awards along the way..

You can buy Capreolus Fine Food products via their website and at local food fairs and festivals, but once a year they have an open day when members of the public can not only buy direct from the farm, but also learn about the production on a tour of the production areas with David Richards.

This year’s open day took place on a bright cold day – just the sort of weather when you want to go exploring and end up somewhere to discover delicious food!

David begins the tour with a brief explanation of what charcuterie is and the different techniques involved in prolonging the life of fresh meat by salting and preserving by making charcuterie.

foodprod-capreolus2Salting ham and bacon was the traditional practice in Britain, – and then having to soak it for hours to remove some of the excess salt. The different climate in more southern areas of the continent allowed farmers and meat producers to take advantage of better conditions and lower humidity to air-dry meat, often adding different flavours. The drying process reduces water in the product over a period of weeks or months – or even years. Dorset air-dried beef (a local version of the classic Italian bresaola) dries for two or three months but the finest Spanish jamon iberico dries for five or six years! (Hence the price!)

Capreolus uses a wide variety of spices, including black and white peppercorns, allspice, blade mace, cloves, star anise, caraway, fennel seeds and cinnamon. They are ground while fresh not bought ready-ground, to keep the essential oils. One particularly unusual spice is the aromatic Urfa chile from Turkey which has a rich dark brown chocolatey colour and tobacco flavouring.

The Capreolus range includes the award-winning guanciale (the 2013 Taste of the West champion product), lardo (three Great Taste Award stars this year), smoked mutton (two GTA stars this year), the range includes venison and pork salami, air-dried ham, saucisson, chorizo, coppa, smoked duck and smoked chicken and smoked goose and goose salami.

They also smoke butter and cheese (including smoking Woolsery goats cheese, another great West Dorset artisan product).

Looking ahead, smoked fish may be on the menu. David is talking to local fishermen about sourcing line-caught bass from Lyme bay, and arctic char farmed sustainably near Blandford.

For more information and Christmas orders, contact Karen and David via their website

Pictured are David in the salami unit and the cool room where mutton, beef and ham are air-drying.