This post is long overdue. One year ago nearly to the day I gave my first charcuterie course at African Relish in Prince Albert. Many of you will have been to this little gem of a Karoo town nestled below the Swartberg mountains. It is well known for olives, figs and mohair, has a wonderful Jersey dairy and sunsets that are very hard to describe.
It boasts two local produce markets every Saturday with a wonderful array of fresh seasonal produce, beautiful baked goodies and two little old ladies that could teach Zig Ziglar a couple of tricks on selling. The Commander is selling a furry squirrel neck warmer if anyone is interested. They are all the rage this season (mostly in the Karoo). It has a very special place in my heart for many reasons, mostly related to the inhabitants and I will try to give you a taste so that you can see it through my eyes.
One of the participants of the first course last year was local legend Bokkie Botha. After a successful career in labour relations, during which time he managed to eat his way around 35 Michelin starred restaurants in Europe, he decided to retire to Prince Albert and open a little restaurant called “The Olive Branch”. He is also one of the official Prince Albert Witblitz stokers and in order not to interfere with this important career he only opens the restaurant once or twice a week. What this really means is he that he cooks when he feels like it – my kind of guy. He also doubles as Kris Kringle during the festive season.
Two weeks ago I conducted my second charcuterie course at African Relish and cannot wait to return again. We had fun from the first minute and I was fortunate to once again be surrounded by dedicated curing enthusiasts who were only too keen to get stuck in to block work, curing, cooking, mincing, filling and talking about charcuterie all day long.
African Relish is owned and run by Jeremy Freemantle and without him and his staff the course would not be half as much fun. We were pampered, spoiled, wined and dined and nothing was too much trouble or a problem. The pig we used for the course was provided by Gay who owns the local Jersey dairy and she feeds a couple of pigs on whey every year which was a real treat as the meat has a lovely aroma and marbeling of fat
The course is aimed to give the participants a real hands on taste of curing their own meats and while it is impossible to learn everything about charcuterie in 2 days the idea is for enthusiasts to be able to return home and attempt some basic creations without feeling too intimidated. As their confidence builds they can become more adventurous and add their own creativity to the process. You may be wondering why I would want to teach people how to do what I do and surely is would be detrimental to my business to give away trade secrets. It is in fact quite the opposite as a proper understanding of the traditional methods of curing, an appreciation for pasture reared meat, a realisation of where our food really comes from, an insight into the shortcuts of commercialism and the satisfaction of eating something home made are the best forms of marketing for my business. Just because you know how to cook does not mean restaurants go out of business, however if you are a cook of any reasonable ability you probably don't eat at the Wimpy too often.
During the weekend we managed to make bacon, pancetta, chorizo, sausages, rillettes, slow roast pork, terrines, coppa, prosciutto, lomo and braised cheek. We worked hard and had fun but there was still time to visit the market, attend the annual wit blitz stoke, wonder through the olive grove and vegetable garden at African Relish and some even found time to make a few purchases at the local art gallery.
A very big thank you to everyone who attended, Jeremy, Virna, Simone and all the staff at African Relish and the town of Prince Albert for once again restoring the Commander and my connection to nature.