One of the things I tend to do around Christmas is pay a visit to Fortnum and Mason’s. It’s the best of the one-shot department stores in London (so much more fun to visit than Harrods). This usually culminates in a browse of the food floor to see what we can see.
Wandering around there always screws with your perception of what is decently priced (I mean, they sell lobes of foie gras there for over £70). Last year I walked off with some special raisins. This year, it was a bit more special.
Buying this marked a real first for me: the first time that someone has ever complimented me on by butter buying. This particular person was the butter buyer for Fortnum’s (seriously, who do I need to apprentice under to become an official butter buyer for a major department store) who commented on how this was the best butter in France and the way to pronounce the name.
Now, here is the thing with Écheré butter – I did not know that butter could taste so good. I mean it was easy just to eat small pieces of it on its own for my official tasting notes. As butters go it starts of with a delicate and creamy flavour… and then it melts on your tongue. As it melts there is a flavour explosion where the taste of the salt and the full richness of the butter can be experienced.
I have read further on this butter to find out that the winter butter may not be the best Échiré butter out there. In fact, it is the spring butter (where cows are allowed to eat flowers) that might be the superior butter. So, I will be buying this again for an Easter tasting.
One thing that stopped me from getting Bradenham Ham was that I did not know it also went by another name: Shropshire Black Ham. Bradenham is a named owned by a company for selling Shropshire Black Ham, so I just went for Shropshire Black Ham because life is too damned short.
I know it’s weird to say this, but for a ham this didn’t taste too hammy. If anything it tasted more like pork (apologies if I am not making any sense here). The thing that identified this as ham, other than the colour, was the saltiness. The salt in this ham is deeply entrenched in the ham – as in you need to properly lubricate the ham as you chew it so that you can drew out the salt content.
In order to prepare this ham it is wet-cured in a mix of spices and molasses (the latter giving the leg of ham its distinctive black colouration). I could taste the sweetness of the mollasses when I ate the ham meat closest to the outside fat. Sadly, I could not taste any distinct spices (apparently juniper is used in this mix usually).
Still, this was better than regular ham and (amazingly) not that much more expensive when you consider the increase in quality.