“What was once a necessity for survival has today become a culinary choice,” says Richard Bosman, creator and owner of Richard Bosman Quality Cured Meats, a business committed to using traditional salting and drying techniques to create an exceptional and unique product. Hundreds of years ago, people across Europe but particularly in Italy and Spain developed a way of curing meat using salt to last through the summer months. Households would raise a pig, feeding it scraps from the table and then slaughter it in winter. All the neighbours would be invited for a celebratory feast and then the curing and preserving began: making prosciutto (ham from the leg) coppa would be made from the neck, the loin used for bacon, the belly was used for pancetta and all the left-over trimmings made into salami.
Soldiers would carry their own food supplies with them and along the way, so the story goes, the discovery involving gunpowder (which contains potassium nitrate) spilling accidentally on the meat resulted in the addition of sodium nitrates and nitrites being added as a preservative. This not only breaks down any bacteria on the cured meat, but also helps to preserve the colour. And so a tradition of curing meat was refined over the centuries, a tradition which continues today.
The secret behind using Oryx Desert Salt
When Richard first began to cure meats, he used sea salt which he felt was a natural choice especially living in Cape Town near the sea. However, once he was introduced to Oryx Desert Salt at a trade show over 5 years ago, everything changed.
“There’s a very precise ratio of 3% salt to the weight of meat that has to be used during the curing process,” he explains. What he discovered was that even though he used exactly the same amount of Oryx salt as the sea salt, his products tasted less ‘salty’ yet far more flavourful. Richard has continued to use Oryx salt ever since.
The best introduction to Richard Bosman products
Richard didn’t hesitate to say that the best way to get to know his products is to start with the one he’s best known for –his prosciutto or parma ham. This has the richest flavour and is also cured the longest. Of course there are many others including bresaola, smoked hams, mortadella, salami and chorizo. One of his most striking and exciting products is this stunning black activated charcoal salami, flavoured with fish sauce and sherry.
The Future trend is Japanese – with a Richard Bosman twist!
What’s next in food trends? Richard believes we’ll start seeing a greater interest in Japanese traditional cuisine that extends far beyond sushi and tempura; such as open hibachi charcoal grills, the piquant flavour of umeboshi plums, the drama of spiky shiso leaves. He’s currently experimenting with using the koji fungus which can be grown on the outside of meats during the curing process. The koji fungus is well known in Japanese culinary traditions for its role in miso pastes and soy sauce and has all sorts of exciting implications for cured meats, but that is a whole other story which hopefully we’ll get to tell another day!
For now, we’ve got the Italians to thank for perfecting the art of dry-curing meat in their own special way. But they’re not the only ones. Let’s not forget local is lekker and so is our biltong!
You can find Richard Bosman products at his shop in Paarl on the Spice Route which also offers wine and charcuterie tastings, Melissa’s, Wellness Warehouse, some Checkers stores and other good deli’s. Bacon on Bree was launched in 2015 by Richard and his wife – a small restaurant and ‘baconporium’ featuring Richard’s real, dry cured bacon on the menu (none of that stuff pumped up with brine here!) another place you’ll find Richard’s products.