Customer Review

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Everything but the squeak, 9 Jan 2011
This review is from: Charcuterie and French Pork Cookery (Hardcover)
Grigson writes in same vein as Elizabeth David; anecdotal, intimate, discursive. She starts off by taking us into the charcutier's shop to select a picnic; what a delightful idea, and one that gets us immediately in the right frame of mind to approach the subject, but a little heady for the beginner. We are plunged straight away into discussing the right kinds of bread and wine, the selection of picnic stoves, the cuts of pork, and the translation of weights and measures.

From this we move to "Charcuterie Equipment", taking us from buying in the shop to creating at home. While some of the equipment can be improvised easily, other items are likely to be expensive and the days of picking them up on junk stalls at rural markets for a few pence are long gone.

Now equipped, and braced by a section on spices, herbs and sauces, we are plunged into the world of nose-to-tail eating. Many of the recipes, such as those for pates and sausages, are suitable for the ordinary enterprising cook, although at first reading they appear daunting. Others are for the more adventurous, happy to source the ingredients. If you are the Fearnley-Whittingstall type who is killing their own pig, no problem; but in rural areas buying half a pig isn't too tricky. If you don't keep pigs, much of the offal, ironically, will be more easily sourced in the conservative North than in the affluent South of the UK.

Curing your own bacon and ham is usually considered a specialist job, and personally I am a bit daunted by the prospect of attempting something so redolent of the risks of food poisoning. It would also be difficult, even for the smallholder, to get some of the ingredients (5 pints of blood?) unless the chap slaughtering your pig is very co-operative; butchers will often hang onto some of the offal unless you specifically ask for it. On the other hand, the reassurance of those who have commented on this review makes me keener to give it a go.

When this book was written (1967), charcuterie wasn't really available to the ordinary shopper, and day trips to France on the Eurostar mere pipe dreams. On the other hand, local pork butchers and small slaughterhouses were still routine. Even so, I wonder how many cooks actually attempted many of the recipes in those days. While it is charmingly written and very thought-provoking, it is no longer the only practical book for the ordinary cook. Up-to-date, well illustrated alternatives are available; however friends have had problems with the recipes in some. It would seem that this book still earns its place on the shelf, ahead of some of its flashier modern counterparts.
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Showing 1-8 of 8 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 21 Sep 2011 15:28:15 BDT
D. Izod says:
While I accept that sourcing five pints of blood is going to be a bit tricky, you are quite wrong to suggest that curing your own bacon and ham (and even salami) is in any way a 'specialist' job. I am not a small holder; just a country punter who from time to time buys half a pig off the bloke down the road and I always make bacon, ham, sausages and salami. It is risk free, easy, enjoyable and the results (especially the salami) are always fantastic.

In reply to an earlier post on 10 Oct 2011 16:56:50 BDT
Last edited by the author on 13 Mar 2012 14:07:59 GMT
Peasant says:
Wow! I stand corrected. But is the book you'd use? I have friends who fatten a couple of pigs each year and are interested in the subject. I've looked at some recent books but am not sure how reliable the recipes are. If a cake goes wrong a) it's not going to make you ill and b) the ingredients don't cost much. I'd be very interested in your recommendation. I've also amended the review.

In reply to an earlier post on 12 Mar 2012 22:00:09 GMT
Henrietta says:
So Mrs Grigson didn't given full enough instructions for curing bits of the pig didn't she? I'm glad you told me that. I've been using her methods for over 30 years and never poisoned anyone yet.

In reply to an earlier post on 12 Mar 2012 22:01:12 GMT
Henrietta says:
Bravo D. Izod.

In reply to an earlier post on 13 Mar 2012 14:13:08 GMT
Last edited by the author on 13 Mar 2012 14:17:59 GMT
Peasant says:
Dear Henrietta, clearly it works for you and after 30 years you'll be good enough at it to write your own recipes. I didn't say that Jane Grigson's instructions weren't full enough, and clearly many people out there have used them successfully. My remark was that I wasn't confident enough that I would avoid problems. I do know someone who followed a recipe in a book by another well-known writer who shall be nameless, and ended up with a nasty inedible mess and a wasted side of what should have been bacon, I am naturally wary.

The fact that several people clearly use Grigson's recipes regularly doesn't make them fool-proof; Henrietta and D.Izod aren't fools. I am not so sure about myself . . . if a recipe includes (as Raymond Blanc's usually do) a bit more about possible pitfalls and how to avoid them, it gives the novice confidence. Neither Henrietta nor D.Izod are novices and this far down the line they'll both have learned a lot of practical skills along the way.

In reply to an earlier post on 27 Aug 2013 18:09:04 BDT
Henrietta says:
"Wow! I stand corrected. But is the book you'd use? I have friends who fatten a couple of pigs each year and are interested in the subject. I've looked at some recent books but am not sure how reliable the recipes are. If a cake goes wrong a) it's not going to make you ill and b) the ingredients don't cost much. I'd be very interested in your recommendation. I've also amended the review."
REPLY: In view of what I have read here, I took my copy to my cousin who was a butcher for many years and cured his own meats to sell in the shop and still does it on a small scale for home use. In his opinion Mrs Grigson's book is fine. He read it from front to back and could find no problems with any of the instructions and would be happy to use the book himself

In reply to an earlier post on 27 Aug 2013 20:41:50 BDT
Last edited by the author on 27 Aug 2013 20:42:29 BDT
Peasant says:
All this has boosted my confidence in using it. The pig-keeping friends' disaster was with a Fearnley-Whittingstall recipe, and they are pretty practical folk so I don't think they followed it wrong. When this year's porkers go to slaughter I'll pass this info on. I've bought them a copy of the book and can urge them to try the recipes with a clear conscience.

Posted on 25 Jul 2014 15:12:44 BDT
Henrietta says:
I've been using this book for nearly 40 years and have never had a problem with any of the recipes and techniques. Mrs Grigson has a lot to say about food hygiene and storage of the product. It is vitally important that you read all the preceding sections before embarking on the recipes.

I have no problems sourcing my ingredients including blood (admittedly I only ordered this once as I'm not enormously fond of black pudding in either it's English or French form!) and a pig's head for brawn - I just order them from my local independent butcher. He looked a tad startled when I first enquired but he's quite used to me now. In fact he has offered to make up my sausages to Mrs Grigson's recipe without any prompting from me!
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