Old-breed English pigs and classic French technique meet in southern New South Wales.
Who Lauren and Lachlan Mathers are a husband and wife team with a herd of 80 Berkshire breeding sows at their property in Barham in southern New South Wales. Lauren, a country cook who owned the local café/deli, is an ardent Francophile who discovered her latent love of charcuterie in Paris, eating rillettes on the lawn under the Eiffel Tower.
How Lauren is the farmer and butcher. She sells prime cuts at farmers' markets and to restaurants. The full-flavoured but lesser-loved cuts are made into rillettes and fricandeaux. The rillettes are made from brined, shredded, slow-cooked pork cuts that are seasoned, blended with clarified lard, sealed and pasteurised. The fricandeaux, meanwhile, are made from soft trim minced with starchy potatoes and onions, seasoned with salt, pepper and nutmeg, shaped into balls, then wrapped in caul fat, roasted, placed in a jar, covered with cooking juices, then sealed and sterilised. The Little Smoked Hams, meanwhile, are made from the six different leg muscles, which are brined with allspice, bay, juniper and local grapefruit juice for a week, then slowly hot-smoked for eight hours over river redgum chips.
Why Spread on crusty bread and served with a glass of muscadet, the rillettes capture the allure of French charcuterie to a tee. While the traditions of some French regions call for generous spicing of their fricandeaux, Mathers has opted for a relatively neutral recipe that lets the full flavour of the pork come through. It's also quite delicious with pinot noir. The hams are wonderfully spiced, robustly smoked, and best served thinly sliced with a little salad.
Where Rillettes and fricandeaux, $15 for 280gm, Little Smoked Hams, $42/kg, Little French Hams, $65/kg. bundarraberkshires.com