Umami or “mouthfulness”…

Today’s Radio 4’s “The Kitchen Cabinet” (which is nearly always worth a listen) was focused on the science behind the tastes in cooking, with the bulk of the discussion centred around “umami“.

[NOTE: There’s a whole page here on umami for those who’d like some further reading: What it is, why it’s suddenly popular and how it can be used.]

Since the 1990s, it’s become more and more well known as the fifth flavour. It’s the one that gives that “brothy” and “meaty”, savoury flavour. It was also phrased as (and I’m sorry for this one) “mouthfulness” i.e. something that fills the sensorium. But you get the idea.

So, ‘what does this have to do with pork’  I hear you ask?

Let me explain: this post is the first under the Now we got it, what to do with the (bloody) thing? section [*] where I’m adding recipes and suggestions about how to use the wonderful, delightful pig.

We find ourselves more and more using umami in pretty much everything meat related – for all the reasons at the top of the page. Try it in sauces, burgers, stews, broths, soups, home-made ketchup, as part of a rub for roasting meat, as an addition to the items I use to encourage interesting (whilst staying perfect) pork crackling.

Seriously. Just try it. It doesn’t need much — a tea-spoon or two can make all the difference to any of the recipes here and can brighten up those you’ve used in the past.

Natural umami givers:

Ripe tomatoes  Soy sauce  Anchovies

versus, er, a natural umami giver, albeit en-tubed:

As far back as 3,000 years ago, Greeks and Romans used a condiment called garum – a fermented fish sauce – unwittingly boosting the umami in their foods. In the 1825 treatise, “The Physiology of Taste“, French gastronome Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin established the word “osmasome” for rich, meaty tastes, which has since been considered a forerunner of umami.

And long before the current umami craze came along, chefs had been amping up dishes with rich ingredients like sun-dried tomatoes and balsamic vinegar – even chicken stock – for years. In the late 1800s, Auguste Escoffier, in restaurants in Paris and London, created meals that combined umami with salty, sour, sweet and bitter notes. He didn’t know the chemical source of this unique quality, just a natural talent for recognising what worked.

One of my favourite chefs, Richard H Turner,

Josh Hawksmoor & Richard Turner at the Hawksmoor restaurant, Covent Garden, London ©The Telegraph 2013

Josh Hawksmoor & Richard Turner at the Hawksmoor restaurant, Covent Garden, London ©The Telegraph 2013

(author of “Hog“, oft mentioned around here), knows the value of umami:

Turner on umami






It’s hugely useful in cooking almost anything — pushes up the taste dial another notch or two, “brightens up” dishes, really punches above its weight when the taste buds need stimulating.

And on the latter point — as you age, your taste buds become less keen (which is why you find yourself adding more salt to dishes, more sugar to your tea). Nutritionists for some time now, have been suggesting using umami when cooking for older people. I make no comment…

* [Which occasioned some debate with Val — as I want people to read my pages as I post them whilst still retaining them as a resource. Despite her expertise in all things WordPress related, it looks as though I’ll have to duplicate them to make sure people see both the RSS feed as well as it being a more “permanent” part of the site as a page.]

The first cut is the deepest.

Or, at the least, in the case of the pig, it’s the fatal one.

Quickly severing the carotid, the erupting blood caught for use later in black-pudding or similar, this ensures a (comparatively) quick and painless death — although not necessarily a silent one.

This is a commercial guide to the cuts of meat made by the butcher, post-mortem, but it’s a visually colourful and useful one nevertheless.

Cuts of pork

Cuts of pork ©


Happy New Year & a porktious 2016

It’s going to be an exciting pork year here at Salute The Pig Central.

I’ll be adding a lot more more short-form items to this blog in preparation for another (still top-secret) project that we’re working on but will also be posting the occasional longer item, where it fits in with this blog.

So, to start 2015 and to wish all my readers a happy & successful year, here, to emphasise just how important is and were pigs in everyday life from the very earliest times, are two items currently to be seen at the exhibition on “Celts; art and identity” at the British Museum.

The first, discovered in Euffigneix, France, is believed to be that of a god (identity unknown), but there’s no mistaking the boar carved on the torso.



The second, also represents a boar, one dating from the Iron Age.

Beautifully worked & realised and possibly to have originally been found exhibited on top of a warrior’s helmet maybe in an attempt to take on those qualities associated with boars – strength and courage – and to make them feel brave and look ferocious going into battle, possibly as a form of totemism? Who knows? But it doesn’t really matter — it’s just such a lovely piece and still speaks to the modern us, after all these years.

Iron Age boar

An Iron-Age boar figurine, 100 BC–AD 100. Found in Ashmanhaugh, Norfolk. Copper alloy. L. 8.7 cm (Photo: © Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery)

And so it starts…

Who knows where this will end up eh? The necessary paperwork for my Environmental Health inspection and approval is being worked on. And lots of reading to make sure I can tick all the boxes needed to make sure that what I sell doesn’t poison the poor consumer.

Or us.

Environmental health approval

Environmental health approval

The US mapped — as a pig?

The USA. As a pig.

The USA. As a pig.

Just a quick post (with a tip of the hat to the delicious Val Littlewood for coming across this one).

It’s a map of the United States in the shape of a pig, surrounded by more pigs representing the different states, with notations for state foods.

Title: This porcineograph / The Forbes Lith. Mfg. Co., Boston.
Creator(s): Forbes Lithograph Manufacturing Company, lithographer
Date Created/Published: c1876.
Medium: 1 print : lithograph, color.
Summary: Map of the United States in shape of a pig, surrounded by pigs representing the different states, with notations of state foods.
Reproduction Number: LC-DIG-pga-03724 (digital file from original print) LC-USZC4-7315 (color film copy transparency) LC-USZ62-125546 (b&w film copy neg.)
Rights Advisory: No known restrictions on publication.
Call Number: PGA – Forbes–This porcineograph (C size) [P&P]
Repository: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA