Cornish charcuterie with a true sense of terroir
Seaweed and cider salami. It sounds, to the uninitiated, like a children’s tongue twister: as tricky to say as “Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled pepper” and almost as hard to envisage. Nevertheless, if you go down to a small farm in north Cornwall, you’ll find that this unusual combination—as well as chilli chorizo and sloe gin pork rillette—being conjured up by City workers turned pig farmers Richard and Fionagh Harding.
They’ve created a whole ecosystem down there, comprising several artisanal businesses: distillery, dairy, bakery, shop—and a cider press, which is where the idea for the combination originated: “We thought it would be wonderful if they could make something that was Cornish in its ingredients,” recalls Sean Cannon of Cannon and Cannon, on whose stall this salami can be bought. “They wanted to use their cider, and as they were thinking about how they could do it they found themselves gazing out toward the sea, and the town of Bude.”
Once famous for wreckers, Bude has since made its name as a beach resort—but it was the seaweed, rather than the sand, that sparked the Hardings’ imagination. Bude already boasted a seaweed processing unit (hardly an industrial task—it’s just dried out), and the tang of the local cider and the meaty heft of their own rare breed pork would, they felt, marry perfectly with the seaweed’s smooth sense of the sea.
Reflection of regionality
“We are always working to source products that reflect the surrounding terroir,” says Sean. “The seaweed and cider salami reflects its regionality more than anything else we stock.” Even the lop pigs are indigenous: a traditional rare breed which, 15 years ago, was on the brink of extinction. “At one point, there were only about 100 breeding sows left in the world.”
They’ve been making a comeback, Sean continues, “largely because it has been discovered that their fat is great for charcuterie.” After decades of being dismissed on account of their ‘inefficiency’, pig farmers have found the lop’s slow growth pays dividends when it comes to flavour. “Most mass-produced meat grows incredibly fast, but it isn’t mature,” he says, “and hasn’t the freedom to roam as these pigs have.” The Hardings’ pigs are fed on natural produce, including apples from the same orchard that supplies the cider, so “it’s just always going to make for a better taste”.
Taste of the sea
“The seaweed plays a textural role, giving the salami smoothness, and the cider lends a light vinegary taste which cuts through the fattiness,” says Sean. It shouldn’t work, but it does, brilliantly. Don’t be misled by any preconceptions based on Chinese takeaways: the seaweed, what little you can taste of it, tastes only of the sea. “We always want the meat to be the star. Any aromatics used in charcuterie should be to lift it.”
To serve, Sean recommends either a charcuterie board (“It is brilliant to have on a platter, because it looks really wonderful with the flecks of green, and it’s a bit different”) or as a snack before dinner with an ice-cold beer from Utobeer: preferably, he continues with the precision of a man who has done this many times before, “with a Berliner Weissbeer by Brew by Numbers—our local brewer in Bermondsey.”