...and the sausages and the salami and the hams. When six chefs get their hands on two prized pigs, the results are a veritable feast of meaty recipies, says Caroline Stacey

Cappuccino? No, no, no, black," says Stefano Cavallini. An Italian never drinks white coffee after breakfast. Nor does an Italian chef ever refuse the chance to turn a handsome pig into salami. Which explains why Cavallini is one of six men in white - three Italians matched by an all-British trio - who have descended on a Sussex smallholding to butcher two magnificent Tamworths. Combining the different national traditions of making the most of a pig, their common purpose is to transform the carcasses into joints and sausages with a taste that carnivores can usually only dream about.

Cappuccino? No, no, no, black," says Stefano Cavallini. An Italian never drinks white coffee after breakfast. Nor does an Italian chef ever refuse the chance to turn a handsome pig into salami. Which explains why Cavallini is one of six men in white - three Italians matched by an all-British trio - who have descended on a Sussex smallholding to butcher two magnificent Tamworths. Combining the different national traditions of making the most of a pig, their common purpose is to transform the carcasses into joints and sausages with a taste that carnivores can usually only dream about.

The owner of the Battersea deli I Sapori di Stefano Cavallini, and a former chef at the two-Michelin-starred restaurant Stefano Cavallini at The Halkin, Cavallini is taking a break from the chopping, sawing and mincing session. On this damp autumn day, he and the five other chefs (his business partner Giorgio Cingolani makes the grade having learnt the sausage-making ropes from his grandparents) have been up since daybreak dismembering the first of two thoroughly British porkers, or baconers, the term given to pigs of this magnificent size.

The Italians have innumerable ways of cutting up and preserving a whole pig; every region has its own recipes for turning flesh, fat and skin into those highly prized salamis, sausages and hams. Meanwhile, the British equivalent of charcuterie is being revived with Fergus Henderson and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall on similar missions to persuade us that each and every part of an animal slaughtered for food is precious and delicious. They say pancetta, we say streaky bacon, but the chefs today are working to a similar goal: according the meat of these privileged pigs the respect it deserves.

Cavallini, Cingolani and Loni Decay needed little persuading to join the all-British team from The Wolseley. Chris Galvin, executive chef, and Ed Wilson, the award-winning Piccadilly restaurant's head chef, arrived armed with cleavers, a hacksaw and awesome knives; yards of slithery casings (which had to be laboriously washed first) for sausage making, boxes of herbs and a sack of sea salt for curing bacon. The Brits' third man, sous chef Owen Kenworthy, also gave up his day off to work with the finest flesh.

Pigs seldom have such a good start in life as these two. Artist Sasha and her husband Mike Turnbull bought the Tamworths as two-month-old weaners from their friend David Wilson, the farm manager of Duchy Home Farm in Gloucestershire. Which is enough to suggest that their pedigree couldn't be more pukka or organic. The girls grew fat as they scampered in a grassy paddock on the Turnbulls' smallholding, eating only organic pig feed and vegetables from the garden. When the time came, they trotted eagerly out of the trailer into the abattoir. After the carcasses had been hung for five days, the Turnbulls brought them home to be butchered with full honours.

Any plans to compete in national teams had to be scrapped when the butchering half-dozen * saw how much pork they had on their hands. Anyway, as the only experienced sausage and salami maker, everyone is deferring to Cavallini. First, there are unfeasibly huge hunks of meat to be cut into joints: loins, hocks, chops, hands and spare ribs. And those are only the cuts you'll have heard of. Italians would preserve most of the meat as treats for Christmas and beyond. Ambitious as the chefs are, Cavallini dissuades them from making a Parma-style ham, which relies on certain weather conditions for drying.

Although they had to leave the pigs' blood at the abattoir, the chefs are determined to find a use for everything else. Italians treasure even the least promising parts.

Cavallini is stroking the animals' flanks, enthusing about the thick seam of white subcutaneous fat that even the most ardent Atkins devotee might balk at. It is evidence of the animals' health and well-being, a rare quality in a British pig, and exciting the chefs as much as the meat. "Look how white the fat is," Galvin says admiringly. "It's good fat," Cavallini murmurs in agreement. "It's beautiful. The smell is very good. It's sweet, it's clear, it's firm."

Tamworths are not known for being slimline, which is why they're a rarer breed than the wretched, intensively farmed beasts that provide most of the pork we eat. Fattier meat tastes better than lean; Italians rate the fat so highly they eat it on its own.

That's how Cavallini likes it, and he's preparing lardo, slathering slabs of the smooth, white back fat with salt and herbs - rosemary, thyme, coriander, sage, garlic, cloves and juniper can all be used - but he's loyal to rosemary. As the fat matures, its flavour, determined by what the pigs ate, is improved by the aromatics. Cavallini is so impressed, he says he'll take payment for today's work in lardo.

Next, he cuts a great swathe of fat from the breast and strokes that too. This will be streaky bacon. Another piece of the exquisitely pink-and-white-striped pork belly will become pancetta, preserved rather like the lardo with salt and rosemary.

The sausages have yet to take shape. Knowing they would have two pigs to power through, an industrial mincer and sausage maker has been hired for the day. Kenworthy has been manning the mincer, feeding it with the fattier meat and, for Cavallini's cotechino, the skin too. It proves too much for the mincer, which has to be cooled down with ice packs. "That's a Barbie machine," snorts Cingolani, the joker to the less loquacious Cavallini.

The sausage meat, seasoned with different permutations of sage, nutmeg, garlic and rosemary, is finally ready. Most commercial British sausages are made with don't-ask-where-it-came-from meat and padded out with rusk, flavoured with sage, mace or nutmeg. Today's sausages are made only with meat, and, in a revelation for the British contingent, given a magical edge with a dash of white wine. The meat is then coaxed into the skins and tied into lengths before being hung from the kitchen ceiling where they must stay for a day. The even more fragile and bursting-with-fat cotechino should be hung for four days before they're ready for gentle poaching and serving with lentils. It remains to be seen whether they'll survive at room temperature.

Wilson, meanwhile, is the guardian of the head, feet and tail. Cavallini's parents would make coppa di testa - "like a sausage with nose and hair". Nobody has leapt at the idea. Instead, the head Wilson is guarding is on its way to becoming the British version of tête de cochon. Cingolani peers at the simmering vat with an ear and snout bobbing on the surface. "What is brawn?" he asks, but not in that tone of incredulity Italians usually use when they're asking about a native British food. Today, there's respect and curiosity about the differences in traditional pork butchery of the two countries. Along with the head are a couple of boned trotters Wilson is planning to stuff the French way. If he were Italian, he'd wrap them round sausage meat to become zampone, a Christmas treat in Emilia Romagna.

Just for the hell of it, Cavallini makes a couple of salamis with the remains of the mince (less coarse than it should be for salami) and sausage casing. Salamis should have more fat than sausages and be left to hang in a cool, dry place for a couple of months. "I don't take any responsibility," he says, leaving his salamis behind in the kitchen. "In one month's time, I come for dinner and I check it," he warns.

Then, with his reward - his own tray of lardo and the other pig's head - Cavallini is ready to go. Leaving behind a kitchen festooned with glistening lengths of sausages and cotechino, stacks of plastic trays filled with slabs of maturing fat, and countless joints ready to be distributed between friends' freezers, Galvin turns to Cavallini and says simply: "You were right. It was a lot of pig."

I Saporo di Stefano Cavallini, 146 Northcote Road, London SW11, tel: 020 7228 2017. The Wolseley, 160 Piccadilly, London W1, tel: 020 7499 6996. For sausage skins in all sizes, The Natural Casing Company, PO Box 133, Farnham, Surrey, tel: 01252 713 545

Stefano Cavallini's sausages

What distinguishes an Italian sausage is a dash of white wine and garlic

1 kilo fatty pork
150ml white wine
1tsp finely chopped garlic
1tbsp crushed black pepper
1tsp finely chopped sage (or rosemary)
35g salt
Sausage casings

Mince the pork. Mix very well with all the other ingredients. Stuff the sausage skins. Tie them into sausages with butcher's string. Hang them up somewhere cool and dry for a day. Freeze or cook.

Ed Wilson's brawn (or head cheese) The traditional British way with a pig's head

1 pig's head, halved
4 large carrots
1 head of celery
1 whole garlic bulb, cut in half across the middle
1/2 bunch thyme
2-3 onions, peeled and chopped
2 leeks, trimmed and cleaned (optional)
Couple of bay leaves (optional)
Pinch of whole peppercorns
Bunch of parsley, stalks removed and chopped
Salt and pepper

In a necessarily large pan immerse the pig's head in water with all the other ingredients. Simmer, keeping as much of the head as possible covered with water, for about 4 hours, or until the flesh is soft. Remove the head and vegetables from the liquid, leave the head to cool. Drain the liquid through muslin (or a very fine but very large sieve) back into a pan. Return to the heat and simmer until the liquor is reduced by about two thirds. Meanwhile, when the head is cool, pick the meat off the fat and skin and put in a bowl. Chop the vegetables and add them. Take the liquor off the heat, check the taste and only now season with salt and pepper, add the parsley and pour over enough to cover the meat and vegetables in the bowl, mould or terrine tin you'll be using to set the brawn. Mix to distribute the meat and liquid and leave to set. Eat cold in slices.

Chris Galvin's pork chop with prunes

A French classic, via Elizabeth David, that calls for a really gorgeous chop

Serves 4

4 pork chops
250g Agen prunes
50g butter (for frying the chops)
15ml olive oil (for frying the chops)
Chopped parsley

For the sauce
1 carrot, finely chopped
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 celery stick, finely chopped
1 bouquet garni
25g butter
2tbsp red wine vinegar
200ml red wine
10g flour mixed into 10g butter
50ml chicken stock

Start with the sauce. Sauté the vegetables together in the butter until golden. Add the vinegar and red wine and reduce to a syrupy consistency. Then add the chicken stock and simmer to reduce a little before thickening with the beurre manié (flour and butter mixture), so the sauce coats the back of a spoon. Strain through a sieve, add the prunes and keep warm while you fry (in the oil and butter) or grill the chops until the fat is crisp and golden. Put them on plates and pour over the prune sauce, scatter with the parsley and serve with mashed potato and a green vegetable.

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