A slice of the action: British charcuterie is putting the deli in delicious

From spicy Yorkshire chorizo to Dorset air-dried mutton, Chloë Hamilton tucks in

Britons have eaten Continental charcuterie for decades. Walk into any Tesco, Sainsbury's or Waitrose and you'll see packets of the stuff piled high in fridges, or finely sliced on the deli counter. The predominantly pork-based slivers are served as antipasti in our restaurants, stuffed hurriedly into sandwiches and displayed on platters to impress guests at dinner parties.

Originally a way to preserve meat before the advent of refrigeration, for years we have relied on Italy, France and Spain to satisfy our charcuterie cravings, importing meat from across the Channel to fill our cupboards and remind us of long, languorous lunches in the Mediterranean sun. But, as consumers become increasingly aware of their carbon footprints and wary of mass-produced, over-processed, supermarket fodder, British delis, market stalls and farm shops are competing for a slice of the market, popping up across the country, selling their free-range, locally sourced wares to foodies who care about the provenance of their meat.

One deli buying into the tasty trend is Damson & Co, run by Portugal-born Antonio Cardoso. Located on Brewer Street in Soho, London, surrounded by busy PR firms and fashionable bars, the tiny café couldn't be further from lazy lunches on the Continent. Despite this, it prides itself on its weird and wonderful British charcuterie.

I was brought up on a diet of chorizo so paprika-stuffed that it stained my fingers orange, French saucisson so oily that I left greasy stains on my favourite dresses, and Parma ham so deliciously salty, I would forgo a chunk of melon if it meant I could cram more of the Italian meat into my salivating mouth. Needless to say, I leg it to Damson & Co as fast as my shoe boots can carry me.

"Charcuterie is completely dominated by the Spanish and Italian markets," says Cardoso, as I cast a greedy eye over the menu. "British charcuterie is very artisan, very cool. It's created by people with a passion for food and it's not industrialised. The skill and the husbandry that go into it are amazing."

He's not wrong. The names of exciting and untried meats jump out at me from the menu and soon a smorgasbord of tasters from across the country appears. Charcuterie virgins can test the waters with Yorkshire spicy chorizo and Dukeshill Shropshire cooked ham, while braver, more experienced folk can dive straight in with Dorset air-dried, cured mutton, Wyre Forest wild boar salami and, coming soon, goose salami. A house selection of three cured meats, toast and homemade piccalilli costs £16 and is served with a cheery  smile and advice on the best British wine to accompany the sumptuous morsels.

Cardoso talks me through the meats on the board, stopping to let me taste and insisting that I wash them down with a delectable Gusbourne Pinot Noir. "I'm very keen to promote British farmers," he says, between mouthfuls. "Supermarkets really control how meat is sold, which is good because it is regulated, but it can be difficult for independent farmers. Charcuterie is a slow-pace, long-term income for British farmers."

John Doig, the founder of Moons Green Charcuterie, supports this theory. The New Zealand-born pig farmer started making charcuterie two years ago, after transforming two fridges in his garage into curing stations. Now he spends his days surrounded by bellies, collars, loins, cheeks and several other parts of pig, and couldn't be happier.

"The days of grey meat and three veg are behind us," he says, taking a break from the butchery in Rye, East Sussex. "British free-range pork is arguably the best in the world. These butchers are driven by passion, not by their bank balances. They couldn't do what they do if they were."

Beast quest: Chloe Hamilton samples Damson & Co's meaty wares with Antonio Cordoso (Teri Pengilley) Beast quest: Chloe Hamilton samples Damson & Co's meaty wares with Antonio Cordoso (Teri Pengilley)
The British charcuterie market is dominated by people with a passion for the product. Brothers Sean and Joe Cannon set up their business Cannon & Cannon in 2010, after falling in love with the food on family holidays to France. Sean tells me that simple lunches of meats, cheeses and fresh bread make up some of his happiest childhood memories.

Cannon & Cannon started life in Brixton Village, selling a wide range of British cured meats, which the brothers claim rival anything the Continent has to offer. On the menu are delights such as air-dried alpaca, wild venison chilli chorizo, venison bresaola and cold-smoked mutton, as well as a more traditional chorizo and saucisson selection. The siblings recently set up shop in Borough Market and are in the process of developing a book about the cured-meat movement.

"In Britain, we eat a lot of charcuterie – several million tonnes a year, in fact," says Sean, who claims that Britons actually consume more of the meaty treats than the Italians, Spanish or French. "British charcuterie is made with meat from really well-raised livestock. That's one thing we do very well in the UK – our animal welfare is very sound. Happy animals mean great meat.

"When you cure a piece of meat, you're concentrating all of the flavour. With British charcuterie what you get is a really meaty experience with a real sense of the animal and the provenance of the beast."

This mission statement means that the brothers' produce, sold wholesale to restaurants, pubs, delis and shops, appeals to the ethically aware customer. The meat is sourced in the UK, so the food miles are low and the lads can tell their customers all about the origin of the animal, sometimes even down to the field that the cows grazed in. "On the market stall, we meet people who are fascinated by the concept of British charcuterie," says Sean. "When they try it, it sings because it's made with love and it is exceptional meat."

Back in Damson & Co, I've polished off the last of the spicy chorizo from Yorkshire. I leave with a full belly and a clear conscience, knowing that everything I've eaten lived a happy life. In a world where the meat market is monopolised by big supermarkets and a cured-meat selection platter from Tesco will set you back only £1.70, it's satisfying to eat meat that has been well cared for. The price tag is higher (100g of Cannon & Cannon's Oxsprings English air-dried ham costs £5.50), but it's justified by the quality of the product.

British charcuterie is about well-kept animals, talented butchers, and entrepreneurs who are brave enough to take a chance on goose salami. It may be a slow-burner income but, if made with love, talent and top-quality meat, charcuterie may soon become the trump card of British farmers.

The Banksy image in Folkestone before it was vandalised
Life and Style

Sales of the tablet are set to fall again, say analysts

Brian Harvey turned up at Downing Street today demanding to speak to the Prime Minister

Met Police confirm there was a 'minor disturbance' and no-one was arrested

Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Arts and Entertainment
George Lucas poses with a group of Star Wars-inspired Disney characters at Disney's Hollywood Studios in 2010

George Lucas criticises the major Hollywood film studios

Chris Grayling, Justice Secretary: 'There are pressures which we are facing but there is not a crisis'

Does Chris Grayling realise what a vague concept he is dealing with?

Life and Style
A street vendor in Mexico City sells Dorilocos, which are topped with carrot, jimaca, cucumber, peanuts, pork rinds, spices and hot sauce
food + drink

Trend which requires crisps, a fork and a strong stomach is sweeping Mexico's streets

Blackpool is expected to become one of the first places to introduce the Government’s controversial new Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs)

Concerns raised phenomenon is threatening resort's image as a family destination

Life and Style

I Am Bread could actually be a challenging and nuanced title

Nigel Farage has backed DJ Mike Read's new Ukip song
The number of children in relative income poverty is currently 2.3 million in the UK

A Brazilian wandering spider
natureIt's worth knowing for next time one appears in your bananas
Life and Style
Time and Oak have developed a product that allows drinkers to customise the flavour and improve the quality of cheaper whiskey
food + drink


Peter Biaksangzuala died from his injuries in hospital on Sunday

Life and Style
The final 12 acts will be facing Simon Cowell, Cheryl Fernandez-Versini, Mel B and Louis Walsh tonight

The X Factor's judges colourful outfit was mocked by Simon Cowell

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    SCRUM Master

    £30 - 50k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a SCRUM Master to joi...

    Franchise Support Assistant

    £13,520: Recruitment Genius: As this role can be customer facing at times, the...

    Financial Controller

    £50000 - £60000 per annum: Sauce Recruitment: A successful entertainment, even...

    Direct Marketing Executive - Offline - SW London

    £25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A fantastic opportunity h...

    Day In a Page

    Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

    'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

    If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
    James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

    The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

    Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
    Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

    Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

    Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
    Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

    Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

    Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
    How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

    How to dress with authority

    Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
    New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

    New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

    'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
    Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

    Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

    The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
    Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

    Tim Minchin interview

    For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
    Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

    Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

    Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
    Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

    Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

    Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album
    Hugh Bonneville & Peter James: 'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'

    How We Met: Hugh Bonneville & Peter James

    'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's heavenly crab dishes don't need hours of preparation

    Bill Granger's heavenly crab recipes

    Scared off by the strain of shelling a crab? Let a fishmonger do the hard work so you can focus on getting the flavours right
    Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

    Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

    After a remarkable conversion from reckless defender to prolific striker, Monaco's ace says he wants to make his loan deal at Old Trafford permanent
    Terry Venables: Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England

    Terry Venables column

    Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England
    The Inside Word: Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past

    Michael Calvin's Inside Word

    Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past