A Burgundy-born pork saucisson made with pomace brandy
“It is often true that in food which we know today as delicacies, there are ingredients that were added not for the purposes of taste, but for preservation,” says Martin. That salty, whiffy rind on a port salut was born initially out of the need to further preserve the cheese, not to pound your taste buds with pungent deliciousness and imbue your fridge with its characteristic honk. The same goes for pickles—and the same too goes for Une Normande a Londres’ canne au marc: a pork saucisson from Burgundy, which for hundreds of years has been made with a soupcon of the local marc.
“Marc [or pomace brandy] is a liquor made by distilling the pomace that is left over from winemaking, after the grapes are pressed,” says Martin. This particular marc, made by local Burgundy winemakers, is known as marc de Bourgogne. “They would have added it to help preserve the meat better. Then they’d have realised it tasted nice.” Fast forward almost 120 years and the people of Burgundy are still adding marc to their sausage meat, despite modern refrigeration techniques rendering the need to preserve meat in this way almost entirely redundant.
The family Une Normande a Londres sources from have been making this and a range of other saucisson for generations. Whereas in other areas of France the pigs tend to be confined to corn or other grains, these pigs are “only finished on corn and acorns near the end of their lives, for flavour,” explains Martin. “For most of their lives they are outside, roaming the fields and feasting as they go.”
Food turned fancy
The canne au marc is a classic case of the food of the poor turned fancy with history. Where other products might rely on prime cuts, this salami is designed to “use up leftovers”. This method is one of the oldest—and, it is worth mentioning, most sustainable—ways of preserving meat. “They’d kill the pig in October or November, as winter was coming in. That’s how they’d survive—by preserving the meat of their animals,” he continues. “The prime cuts would be removed first and eaten fresh, then the remaining meat from the carcass and offal would be ground and stuffed into the gut lining to make saucissons”—relying upon little more than salt, pepper and the aforementioned pomace brandy for flavour and preservation.
The saucisson is aged for four months at around 10 to 15 degrees—a long time, even in the time-steeped world of charcuterie—in cold store or caves, which in some cases have been used for centuries. By the time they reach the shelves of Une Normande a Londres, they are hard, knobbly, chalky, and deeply, boldly pink.
“This is not a saucisson to cook with; stick to pancetta for cooking and eat this on bread—sourdough, I think, for the sour tang, or rye,” says Martin, misty-eyed. “Canne au marc on rye bread with salted butter. That would be a treat.”