Words - Matthew Curtis, Photos - Dianne Tanner
I've a confession to make, I'm secretly addicted to Peperami. Something about those cheap, greasy, almost sausages provides a certain satisfaction as well as taking the edge off after a few too many thirds of craft the night before. So you can imagine my delight when the folk at Serious Pig asked if I'd like some samples of their porcine meat snacks.
The Serious Pig range currently consists of four different varieties of salty pig flesh. The Scratch is their take on the pub staple, pork scratchings whilst Snackling is literally a bag of crackling that comes in plain, smokey bacon and sage and onion flavours. For jerky fans there is Snackingham which is air dried ham pieces and finally there is Snacking Salami which is essentially a posh Peperami and is available in classic or chilli and paprika flavour.
I've tried and enjoyed a few of Serious Pigs upmarket snacks before at Gospel Oak's The Southampton Arms and Brewdog Camden and remember enjoying them. I then had to figure out a way of fitting them neatly into my blog, this is about beer not dried and cured pork after all. I devised what I thought was a simply ingenious plan. I would pair each snack with a carefully chosen beer and then I'd invite my friends around and make them eat bits of pig while tasting the beers blind to see if they agreed with my choices. Imagine their joy when the smoky bacon dust that tops the Snackling mingles with the dry, woody tones of Orval. Oh, how they'd enjoy themselves and reward me with praise for enhancing their very lives!
I soon realised that this was a terrible idea. The point of delicious meaty treats like these is that you don't really think about them. Pub snacks are designed to fill the void between lunch and dinner when you fancy something salty to keep you going mid session. Hell, you might even treat yourself to a second pack and skip dinner whilst you drink long into the night, who am I to judge.
Then it struck me, I was attending a BBQ at my friends Bek and Dan's place in honour of Dan's birthday. I asked Bek (who blogs her excellent recipes over at Megabekatron.com) if I could hijack the party and force small packets of meat on the rest of their guests. Bek being a huge fan of meat agreed wholeheartedly with my plan. I brought a case of Camden Hells Lager and Brewdog Punk IPA with me to sweeten the deal and to help the guests wash down their salty meat treats.
We got stuck into the Snackling first and we found the plain a little bit, well, plain. It's quite a dry snack and this needed a little more salt to make it more interesting. The smoky bacon was nice, they tasted like Frazzles but instead of crisps you were eating actual pig skin. The real treat was the sage and onion, this worked beautifully, I could've eaten a whole sack of these washed down with pint after pint of Camden Hells and everyone else seemed to agree.
I love a bit of jerky, I would kill to be able to get hold of Jack Links in this country, especially the teriyaki flavour. The Snackingham was really good, it's much more tender than beef jerky which on one hand is good because it melts in the mouth but there is something satisfying about chewing away on a decent piece of air dried beef. People didn't seem to enjoy this as much as the sage and onion snackling but it didn't last long so it was obviously appreciated.
The Scratch are classic pub style pork scratchings, rich and salty with just enough fat to stop them being too dry. It was also nice not to find any hairy ones, I always hate getting a bag of scratchings only to find they haven't been shaved. Finally we got into the Snacking Salami. I loved these, the classic had loads of black pepper running through it which I really liked but the highlight of the whole Serious Pig range was the chilli and paprika. I could've eaten a great length of this, the paprika added some smoke to the juicy meat and the chilli gave it just the right amount of kick. It went beautifully with the growler of Great Divide Titan IPA I was knocking back at the time.
What was also interesting, for me at any rate, was watching a non beer geek crowd getting stuck into the Punk as opposed to the Hells. Times (and palates) are a changing. Serious Pig snacks are popping up at pubs all over London and beyond, you can check them out at www.seriouspig.co.uk and you can follow them on twitter over at @SeriousPig. Thanks again to the lovely people at Serious Pig for supplying me with lots of tasty meat.
Although I was given these snacks for free I don't think that influenced my opinion of them.