Friday, 20 April 2012


Sweet cure brisket and smoked Loch Duart salmon
The New Forest is a posh kind of place.There are lots of well-heeled, well-bred sorts looking for an Egyptian-cotton clad pillow to lay their heads after spending a day strolling through verdant glades. Lime Wood Hotel fulfils all Egyptian cotton aspirations (600 thread and counting) with bells and whistles. Alas, we are not staying here, but we do have lunch in The Scullery. I love the 'Downton Abbey' schtick this implies, but Carson has long since left the building. 
The Scullery

The grounds, conservatory and bar are all fantastic places to while away a few hours, along with a number of discreet drawing rooms.  The hotel also has a health spa, a serious restaurant and a helipad.
The Conservatory

After a chance conversation with one of the staff about the smoked salmon and brisket cured on the premises, we find ourselves being shown the smokehouse by head chef, Luke Holder.

The Smokehouse

This is a kind of rustic, 'Little House in the Prairie' hut where Luke has been experimenting for the last couple of years with legs of pork, making Pata Negra style ham (he imported one from Spain to "infect" his native pork with the right kind of mould). These take around 14 months to cure, and hang from poles either side of the smoker, surrounded by racks of red-wine steeped bresaola, brisket, chorizo and salami.   
Brisket, copa, cured pork fillet
The smoke chamber, empty just now, is ready to hold salmon  sourced directly from Loch Duart. The result is a far cry from the slippery, wafer-thin slices that stick to the palate - his is cut thickly and robustly flavoured. 

Luke is pretty honest about the pitfalls of curing. A rogue fly can spoil months of work, a fire in the smokehouse destroy many sides of salmon and half the building. However, he is a man with a mission, reflecting that The British Empire was founded on sending fleets of men with enough dried and cured provisions to quell the natives and erect the Union Jack on foreign lands (I did say this place was like Downton Abbey). We have lost those old  skills, unlike the Italians and Spanish who have built multi-million pound businesses from Parma Ham, Serrano, Pata Negra and salami. In the same way as British beer, bread and cheese have been transformed, Luke envisions a brave new world in which a British artisan charcuterie tradition can take its place on an equal footing with the giants of Europe.  
Hampshire Chorizo and Bresaola
To this end, in addition to his own efforts at Lime Wood, he is working to persuade the local meat suppliers to pool their offcuts in a co-operative to make Hampshire sausages (beef, pork, lamb) in much the same way as the French and Germans do with their grapes. 

Leaving the smokehouse with some troubleshooting tips for home bacon curing we repair to the drawing room and ring for tea... Carson is a long time coming.   
Lime Wood Hotel, New Forest

1 comment:

  1. looks very good! It's a good things for me! i will
    fllow with interest your post. Good Lucky!