This isn't intended to be a coffee-table cookbook but one to be read thoroughly for the methods and their pitfalls, then used for its recipes.
Curing and Smoking: River Cottage Handbook No 13
Smoking and curing deserve a dedicated book much more than, say, vegetable cookery, quasi-scientific stuff or the endless procession of books promising quick and easy recipes. The techniques, skills and equipment are different from whatever we cooks would normally be using. There isn't much that is quick or easy on offer here, of course, despite the explanations which help make curing and smoking less daunting than you might have thought.
I had always supposed wrongly that the damp British weather made drying salami and sausage dubious, and that the glorious Scottish herring and haddock smoking, along with the East End Jewish cold-smoking of salmon, were our main heritage. Not so, it would seem.
The book is almost pocket-sized, with irritatingly small print but good, practical photographs and a reassuringly knowledgeable writing style. Steven Lamb is a bit like an experienced and enthusiastic mentor helping you through the craft skill aspects of the subject.
It isn't intended to be a coffee-table cookbook. It's designed to be read thoroughly for the methods and their pitfalls, then used for its recipes.
The methods covered are comprehensive and include dry curing, from bacon to prosciutto; and wet curing, involving brines for salting fish or meat; while the smoking sections instruct not just on cold and hot smoking, but also on how to build your smoker to do the job.
The recipes are sensible and relevant to the book's subject. I was intrigued to see how to reproduce the southern Italian hot and spicy soft salami, nduja, that was making so much impact on dishes a couple of years back. Charcuterie like lardo and mortadella, chorizo and coppa are there also for those wanting something less fiery and more traditional.
I also enjoyed learning how to make sauerkraut, even though I plan to keep on buying it. There is also a fine method for brining turkey for Christmas, an idea I've used before only with chicken.
My advice is to buy this little book even if you have little intention of producing your own dried or smoked dishes for you will, like me, understand a lot more about how these products are made.
If you like this, you may enjoy these:
- Cured: Slow Techniques for Flavouring Meat, Fish and Vegetables, by Lindy Wildsmith
- Salumi: The Craft of Italian Dry Curing, by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn
- Preserves: River Cottage Handbook No 2, by Pam Corbin