The Market Year - January
Welcome to the January edition of the Market Year
'January brings the snow that
makes your face and fingers glow.'
This month we bring you warming and comforting food using ingredients and traditional recipes from the North – Scotland and Denmark included. There are thousands of versions of these homely dishes so do feel free to make them your own. Prepare extra portions for lunch another day or to freeze for the next time you come home cold and late. When the sun does make an appearance, pack one of these hot meals to take outside and enjoy an impromptu picnic. Our local winter vegetables – potatoes, roots, stems and leaves - are full of colour, flavour and texture: paired with intense smoked and cured fish and well reared meat, they make satisfying one pot meals for the depth of Winter. Draw the curtains, light a candle against the dark and pick up your spoon!
Phil Beal of Beal's Charcuterie
Photograph: Carlotta Luke
While he was still working in the construction industry, Phil and his wife Melisa moved to Spain to manage a project. The family stayed for eleven years, only returning to England when the children reached adolescence and needed more excitement and opportunities than the isolated hamlet in rural Andalucia could offer. The small Spanish community embraced the family, calling on their help with the harvests. Most food, from wine to the cured and dried pork, was still produced at home and every household had the basic techniques. Phil and Melisa learned alongside their neighbours, following the seasonal tasks of the almond harvest and the slaughter of the family pig and then sharing the products of their labour.
Full of enthusiasm for the kind of food they had been preparing and eating for over a decade, Phil and Melisa planned to bring those flavours to Lewes but high business rents checked the tapas bar plan and importing meant quality issues. “Can we make it ourselves?” became the obvious question so Phil started to experiment with well raised local pork and a home made drying chamber. The resulting hams and chorizos were tasty enough to encourage the couple to start their charcuterie business. Their son and daughter in law have since brought their expertise from the restaurant business to support the family firm.
The best ham breed is the Iberian Black pig but there are rigorous controls on its export. So Phil now rears his own pigs using a cross from the rare Mangaliza, which has beautiful creamy fat-marbled flesh, and the saddleback pig. The resulting animals are larger but the meat is very suitable for drying techniques. From the small initial stock in 2011, Phil has steadily increased the numbers so that he rears 120 pigs yearly now and is planning around 150 in 2014. He is clear that upscaling slowly is the right route, “ In order to expand, not only to I need to rear the animals and make the product, I have to find the right outlets, usually high end restaurants, who understand the time taken to produce say, air dried ham, which is four months. We now have our first London customer and are looking both in and outside Sussex for the best relationships.”
Beal's pigs live in pasture and woodland in Chailey where they are free to run in their sociable groups. When he is away from the processing plant in Barcombe, Phil loves to watch them, especially at early light when the rest of the world is still dozing. “ Our pigs are happy living naturally in this beautiful place.”
In Season Now
Red and white onions, leeks, red, white and green cabbages, Brussels sprouts, chard, kale, beetroot, carrots, squashes, stored potatoes, parsnips, swede and celeriac, jerusalem artichokes, salad leaves, chestnuts, apples. Turkey, goose, pork, pheasant, venison, sea bass, skate, brill, gurnard, lemon sole, Dover sole, huss, dabs, pollock, monkfish, grey mullet, whiting, whelks, lobster and oysters.
Seasonal Recipes by Polly Senter
Lewes Food Market is run by Lewes Local Community Interest Company. It was founded to give the people of Lewes, and visitors, a unique opportunity to buy locally sourced fresh food products direct from the producers on a weekly basis.
Details of all the Lewes Food Market traders here...
See www.lovefoodhatewaste.com for help with wasting less food.
See www.makinglocalfoodwork.co.uk for exciting food news.
Buying local and eating food in season supports and encourages our local food producers, which in turn makes us less dependent on importing most of our food - an insecure business these days with rising fuel costs, climate change affecting crops, and regular international conflicts.
Lewes Food Market is run by Lewes Local Community Interest Company. The Market Year is funded and supported by the Lewes Pound www.thelewespound.org