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An adventurer in the Ardennes
In a sanglochon, everything's good
4 mins OF INDULGENCE
If one day, for whatever reason, anybody wants to make me happy, they should bear in mind that there's nothing I enjoy eating more than a good saucisson! The Ardennes is therefore a choice region as far as my stomach is concerned. However, there's one place in particular where, as a lover of charcuterie, I feel absolutely blessed... the sanglochon farm!
Pig or boar?
As you've gathered, I've eaten charcuterie in every shape and form! I've tried dried boar ham on many occasions and, like lots of other people, I frequently pop a slice of regular ham between two slices of bread to make my favourite sandwich. But even I had never heard of "sanglochon", which isn't surprising when you learn that this marketing term is also the French word for the boar-pig hybrid, the offspring of a farmyard sow having engaged in a "forbidden" love affair with a wild boar. Sows used to be allowed to root in the woods, where it wasn't unusual for them to be attracted to their feral cousins. A few months later, they gave birth to hybrid piglets who ended up on our dinner plates just like any other pig. However, confined to their enclosures, these domestic sows can no longer maintain relations with the wild boar and the boar-pig hybrids have disappeared! So I won't be tasting a real sanglochon today, but I might well try a saucisson made from a combination of pork meat and wild boar!
A great place to pig out
This farm conversion in Neufchâteau is now a restaurant that feels just like an authentic Ardennes farm and there's no doubting that pork takes pride of place here. Cute little pig faces and curly tails adorn the walls, literally from floor to ceiling, everywhere, throughout the establishment. Cuddly toys, postcards in different hues of pink, sketches and various other items including statues and statuettes of porcine mammals can be seen in every corner. I'm almost tempted to go and roll in the mud! But no, I'll leave that to the star of the show, a sow who's a mud expert and can be viewed by visitors behind the restaurant. And anyway, I'm getting hungry! A very nice waitress serves us some nibbles, fortunately, because the delicious smell of smoked meat is making my mouth water. Before the main dish, we're invited to try a selection of saucisson and dried ham. Venison saucisson, plain and fennel-flavoured saucisson, the house specialities! This really is a warm and friendly place, ideal for enjoying a good meal with family or friends or even on your own. I've already spotted a regular customer who's on his own and doesn't even need to tell the waitress what he wants to eat. The new business is a great success, because people feel at home here and always come back!
The delicious smell of smoked meat is making my mouth water
It's all made in-house
Everything's good in a pig and it's practically all made here. For the aperitif, for example, we drink a subtle elderberry wine made from flowers gathered in June and left to steep. Most of the beer selection - Neufchâteau, Troufette, Chatte, Corne, etc. - is from the region and, naturally, the charcuterie, including smoked meats, ham fillet, smoked bacon and dried ham, is made in-house!
In terms of meat and game, pride of place is given to pork, wild boar and, when it's in season, venison.. It's difficult to choose between the thousand and one different pork dishes, but I don't regret my choice, a succulently tender knuckle of ham that's cooked to perfection. A real feast.
A living ham museum
What makes this place even more exceptional is that as well as the restaurant, it houses a museum and a boutique! A quick visit to the living ham museum is the ideal opportunity to discover more of the secrets of making good charcuterie. First I learn about traditional salting methods. The walkway is dark and a soft light on the charcuterie generates a level of intimacy with the visitor. Next I go to the 12-metre high smokehouse. There, the mistress of the house explains that a small joint of ham rests for 15 days in beechwood and oakwood sawdust, while a larger cut may take up to four months to be good and ready for the following stage. In the fermentation chamber and smokehouse, where even pig-shaped saucisson is left to mature, I'm envelopped by some very pleasant aromas.
My stomach is satisfied, but I find it hard to leave the sanglochon farm without giving in to the temptation of a local delicacy from the boutique. Despite having totally succumbed to the house specials in the charcuterie range, I can't resist trying some local artisan products from a different category: cherries in alcohol and a nice pot of jam.