The cure: British nduja

Categories: Product stories

A soft, spicy, spreadable salame of continental origin, from Cannon and Cannon

“Like all charcuterie, nduja was created because small holders wanted to make sure they got maximum value from slaughtering an animal,” says Sean Cannon of Cannon and Cannon, the vendor and canonise-r, as it were, of this delicious sausage staple. One of the products to be found in abundance upon a pig carcass is fat—“which goes into a lot of things, like salami,” continues Sean, “but there’s still quite a bit left over, and it tastes wonderful.”

The idea behind nduja, which traditionally is roughly 70 per cent fat and 20 per cent chilli, was to create “a super spicy pig fat you could fry up or use in pasta and stews.” To the question of how he cooks with it, Sean becomes almost trance like: “Nduja, spread thick on sourdough toast then drizzled with honey or with a soft poached egg on top. The unctuous, crispy sourdough, the sweet honey, the fiery heat of the nduja—it’s a whirligig of flavour,” he says dreamily. “Just a small amount can improve so many dishes and because it melts at room temperature, you can just stir fry or spread it. It is a fridge staple for me.”

It’s addictive, he says—somewhat needlessly, given his recent reverie. The addition of fennel seeds and garlic adds a punch of herbaceous flavour and balances the chilli heatwave. The colour—the rich, deep orange of tropical sunsets—comes from paprika, which adds a smoky warmth to the meat. “While we always maintain a measure of respect and gratitude for original continental products, we like to accommodate British tastes and take it in its own direction.”

Rare breed pork
In this case, Kent-based producers Moons Green—which makes charcuterie with rare breed, custom-reared Gloucester old spot—has added more fennel, chilli and paprika, and less fat; “more 40 per cent than 70 per cent, so you can slice it and serve it on a charcuterie board. We like our fat here of course, but we do also like a little bit of lean meat.”

Though the recipe has changed a touch, the methodology remains unaltered: sausage mixture (“always back fat, as it’s the best fat on the pig”), salts, aromatics and spices, mixed, ground and stuffed into a skin, then hung to dry for four weeks. “With any curing you have to ferment the meat, to kill the bacteria in it,” says Sean, “but with nduja it’s not a hugely long drying process, as we want it soft. It’s more like slow cooking a stew.” By controlling the atmospheric conditions, temperature and airflow, moisture is drawn out of the pork and the flavours meld together, intensifying into a fatty, fiery, fragrant dream of a meat.

“This is a brilliant example of our industry taking an intense, quite challenging product from the continent, using the ideas, the concepts and flavours and turning it into something very British.”