Cookery school review: The School of Artisan Food

Cookery school review: The School of Artisan Food

August 2015

By deputy editor Susan Low
Where: The School of Artisan Food, Welbeck, Nottinghamshire
The course: Curing and Smoking, one day, £190 (includes lunch and a bag of cured products to take home)

What it’s like
The School of Artisan Food isn’t just a school, it’s an institution dedicated to getting people back in touch with real, homemade, traditional food. It runs hands-on courses in cheesemaking, breadmaking, brewing, butchery, charcuterie and preserving for all levels, from beginners to would-be professionals. Housed in several beautiful stone buildings (formerly the estate’s fire stables), it’s a special place with a high level of expertise.

Expectations are raised – and the course doesn’t disappoint. Our tutor Chris Moorby has 40 years’ experience in the meat industry, from small retail kitchens to large commercial enterprises, and now teaches about his passion: charcuterie. He says, “I’ll give you the basics, the dos and don’ts and dispel a few myths. And we want you to take away something that will inspire you to greater things.”

What I learned
I learned there’s a lot to learn. In the first part of the day, the dozen course students (including a couple who are raising rare-breed pigs and several chefs) were brought up to speed about pig breeds, and why the right breeds (as well as rearing and slaughter practices) are important for quality charcuterie.

I learned there’s a lot to learn. In the first part of the day, the dozen course students (including a couple who are raising rare-breed pigs and several chefs) were brought up to speed about pig breeds, and why the right breeds (as well as rearing and slaughter practices) are important for quality charcuterie.

Next, Chris demonstrated how to break down a pig carcass into the main cuts and what each cut is best for, then it was time for the students to take specific cuts from the carcass. We learned about curing processes, including wet curing (brining), dry curing (using salt as a major component) and hot and cold smoking, as well as the science behind each technique.

Chris used recipes to demonstrate the principles and in a hands-on afternoon we tackled hot-smoked sausage, dry-cured streaky bacon, biltong, duck breast ‘ham’ and French-style cold-smoked hams. Chris also showed how to make traditional pressed ox tongue and ham hock terrine by brining. We left with a huge bag of goodies, including our own duck hams in progress and streaky bacon.

The verdict
There was almost too much to take in over the course of a single day, but I certainly gained a deeper appreciation of the craft – and left wanting to know more (always a good sign). Chris clearly knows his stuff and was keen to pass on his knowledge. I’ve since made duck ham and bacon successfully at home, so it’s safe to say I’m a convert to curing.

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