You Got a Friend in Meat

Friends of Ham - Leeds

Our latest episode features the lovely people at Friends of Ham – a charcuterie and craft beer specialist in Leeds. Its taken us a bit of time to get round to filming here because the place is always so damn busy. Fortunately, owners Kitch and Claire eventually gave us the nod and we bolted over with our camera in tow.

We normally try and do our homework at Little Less Known. We don’t like to rock up at a shoot without really knowing much about the people or the place we’re filming. Portraying at least a vague hint of professionalism is something we always strive for and half the time its pretty easy – because we’re inherently interested in the places we visit.

There’s invariably a great story, a great set of people and at least something that will look good when filmed in slow motion (highlights include sparks from angle grinders, latte art, and of course – Scott’s heroic attempt to insert cereal into his face).

Pre-reading is really helpful. It helped me appreciate the rich family history behind Ernest Wright & Sons – the Sheffield scissor maker, and it helped me realise the calibre of artist House Concerts were managing to stage in their living room. As the one asking the questions when we interview, prep helps me look like I know what I’m talking about (I hope).

What I neglected to do at FOH was take a couple of minutes and learn a little bit more about what being a charcuterie even means. Yeh its all about cured meats – but there’s actually an interesting chunk of history behind the culinary phenomenon.

The word itself takes its origin from the French language – “chair” meaning flesh and “cuit” meaning cooked. Although pork is probably the traditional feature of a charcuterie platter, the culinary practice actually includes various salt-cured or smoked meats, pates, galantine, rilletes, terrine, confit and forcemeat. It ain’t all about just the pig.

Different civilisations all had their variation of charcuterie style food – most likely born out the need to preserve meats during a time where you couldn’t shove something in a refrigerator. The reliable source that is Wikipedia suggests that one of the earliest mentions of the charcuterie trade was made by the famous Greek geographer Strabo in Gaul (which is basically present day France, Belgium, Luxembourg, most of Switzerland and some of Italy and Germany thrown in). In fact the Romans were probably the first to regulate its production by creating laws on how the stuff should be made.

It became more of a culinary art form during the 1500s in France where speciality shops run by charcuterie practitioners (charcutiers) gained popularity. Since then its been adopted and adapted by many different cultures, giving rise to the variety we see nowadays. Even today, that artisanal passion is rooted in its history by using similar traditional techniques to achieve the distinct flavours many have come to love.

FOH have certainly fallen in love with it. They pride themselves on their quality charcuterie selection. Whatever they serve up to you will have been tried and tested by the team. These days you’re seeing a lot more ‘specialist’ bars and restaurants popping up around the place – filling increasingly specific culinary niches. You don’t seem to go out for a meal anymore – you go for a patty, shnitzel, a sourdough pizza.

Is that a problem? Definitely not. If it's served up like the charcuterie is at FOH – (in their case - with a plate of cheese and a beer on the side), then we’re not complaining. LLK out.