Charcuterie came about as a means of preservation, but the art itself has been preserved for its flavour. The reason we love this kind of meat is because of the fermentation that happens as the meat steeps in its environment. The final product unleashes meaty, umami flavours upon the palate and has us going back for more.
When envisaging the artist who puts such delights together, one couldn’t be blamed for picturing a thick-wristed butcher – Bill, perhaps, or is it Roger? Not the maker of these meaty treats – they come from the more delicate hands of Hannah Miller. “I’m not trying to be as good as the men,” Hannah says. “I’m trying to be myself.”
Originally from Portland, Oregon, Hannah has been making her bresaola (cured beef), capicola (also called coppa, made from pork neck), and pancetta (cured pork belly) out of the kitchen of Apero in central Auckland for just a few months. Going by the name A Lady Butcher, she has already attracted the attention of some top chefs, and her products are on the menu at Apero now.
The 31-year-old started her career as a chef, spending 10 years in kitchens in Australia, Bermuda, New York and London. It was in the British capital where she picked up her butchery skills, at Paternoster Chop House.
While the Rogers and Bills of the world can lug a carcass and hack quickly with the cleaver, Hannah says female butchers are becoming sought after for their finesse and attention to detail.
Hannah has always been passionate about nose-to-tail cookery – any waste is an insult to the animal, she says. She’s also making sure the mileage on those cuts is minimal: “Everything I do is 100 per cent New Zealand. I feel really strongly that New Zealand has some of the best produce in the world. I just want to highlight that stuff.”
Hannah recently represented her adopted country, and Neat Meat Ponsonby, at the World Butchers’ Challenge in Australia, joining five other top butchers in the Pure South Sharp Blacks.
This no doubt contributed to the propositions for her charcuterie increasing by the day, and she’s keen to add other products to her range that make use of the rest of the animal. “There’s a reason behind each thing I’m doing,” she says.