I heard about the event last minute and was lucky that they had a few extra spaces available, (even allowing T to join us after he got back from work – very kind of them!) so I walked the long 3 min over and joined an array of fellow beer enthusiasts – those from Beer Genie, fellow food bloggers, beer writers and even Tom Parker Bowles and Matthew Fort – for an evening that turned out to be more than just pints with scratchings.
Rupert of R&R started us off with a brief history on scratchings, which are thought to have originated in the Midlands in the 19th century and are made from the rind and fat from pig shanks just above the ankle. These strips are then frozen before they’re cut and cooked in boiling vats of their own lard and coated with a bit of seasoning.
We sat down to a plate of five scratchings – Once cooked, twice cooked, curry, pork crunch and leaf – and were asked to taste them alongside five different beers – Bank’s Mild, Harvey’s Sussex Best, Sol, Carlsberg Export and Captain Smith Strong Ale – to see which pairings we preferred. Many of us weren’t fans of the ‘leaf’ scratching – which is essentially pig fat in its purest form with no rind, with ten kilos of belly fat used to make one kilo of leaf. My favorite pairing of the evening was the Carlsberg Export with the Curry Scratching, and others agreed it was a classic pairing like a cold Cobra with their favorite curries. The Mexican Sol was too light of a beer to stand up to many of the scratchings, although it did work slightly better with the more American-style Pork Crunch. Bank’s Mild and Harvey’s Bitter worked well with the Once Cooked, with the hoppiness of the Harvey’s Bitter cutting through the fattiness of the scratchings and making it a pleasant complementary drink.
After working our way through this platter of scratchings, we moved on a 5 course meal with each course incorporating scratchings and paired with a different beer. I’ve posted a photo of the menu so you can see the pairings in detail, but thought I’d mention a few interesting courses. We started with the Pork Terrine paired with a St. Austell Coud Yellow. At first, the light aroma of banana and taste of vanilla in the beer worked well with the terrine, but many of us felt letdown by its weak aftertaste alongside the richness of the terrine. The Ram’s Horn & Crunch Scratchings with guacamole was served with Oakham JHB, made with aromatic American hops, and likened by Rupert to a Gewürztraminer. The pairing worked fine until the hit of lime in the guacamole came through in the end and I think the Mexican Sol would have been a better-fitting, and more natural pairing alongside the guacamole. One pairing that did work phenomenally well was the Chocolate covered Pork Chipolates with Vanilla Ice Cream served with Mackeson Milk Stout. I had never had a sweet stout before and loved both its lightness and sweetness, (derived from the addition of lactose to the beer) alongside the dessert. It was incredible to have a beer that worked so well alongside a sugary dish and made for such a nice change from dessert wine. The chocolate-covered pork scratchings reminded me of the homemade chocolate pretzels I used to love as a kid back in NY, but the richness of the scratchings prevented me from eating them in a similar volume to the pretzels. T even bought some more Mackeson for us to drink at home – yum!
T and I headed home with lovely goodie bags filled with yet more scratchings, and wishing we had more than those three minutes to walk off all that pork. We had a great evening, (made even better perhaps by the fact that the five beers we started off with were topped up all night) and it was lovely to see some familiar faces and meet many new ones. I wish evenings like this were in greater abundance, as these would seem to further the aims of Beer Genie, (mainly, to promote beer and food pairing) so I ask: why not hold more dinners like this for the Londoners who couldn’t make it that evening? All those I told about the evening were incredibly envious of our experience and I doubt an evening of beer and pork would be a hard sell, especially to those who call the White Horse their local.
The White Horse
1-3 Parsons Green
London SW6 4UL, United Kingdom
020 7736 2115
(Thank you to Claire and Rupert at R&R).