My day starts early. During the week I’m up at 4am and enjoy getting a few hours work done in peace and quiet – there are absolutely no distractions at that time in the morning. Depending on which day of the week it is, these valuable extra hours allow me to maybe bake a batch of pies, or get some packaging done or even get through a pile of paperwork. Even though we are working now to streamline processes and procedures, no two days are ever the same. We are still in our infancy and there is always what seems to be a mountain of tasks to do. However quickly I get through them, more somehow get added to the list! I don’t know if that will ever change – I suspect not as we ever strive to improve and build the company.
My walk to work takes all of a minute as I’m lucky that we have been able to convert the old granary building on the farm into our Butchery and Production Kitchen.
First job – after putting the kettle on! – is always to check the chiller units and to record temperatures for our HACCP records. I also like to weigh the water lost from our salamis (these simple looking sausages are the most technical challenges we face and so it’s critical to record and analyse every aspect of the process). The cold smoker is in use for most of this week and one of the first jobs of the day is to top it up with wood dust. Not only does the smoking give an added layer of flavour, it helps to dry out the meat and it does have antiseptic qualities – both of which help us in our quest to make consistent, safe products.
Rich arrives at 7am to start his 10-hour day. And that’s just the minimum – often he’s still working here gone 7pm. Old school, not afraid of hard work and I love that. True dedication. In fact it is just that and Rich’s passion for good honest British fare that has allowed us to develop and produce our range of charcuterie with our three core values at its heart: provenance, welfare and at the end of the day – great taste.
This week isbutchery week. We work to a two weekly cycle – we alternate between one week taking in raw meat and curing, then doing all the cooking and packaging the following week. This has really helped to streamline operations and although we are an artisan company there is no reason why we shouldn’t be on a continual strive for perfection. Every stage of production is critical for us to produce the quality of produce that we do. It starts with choosing our meat suppliers and it goes right through to getting our product to the end consumer.
We cure virtually all of the meat that comes to us, excluding maybe a bit of trim that might go into a pie. This ancient method of food preservation, and the magic of salt, continues to amaze me. Once cured some of the meat goes on to be cold smoked. Our cooked products head for the hot smoker, the ham boiler or the oven. And the air-dried meats and salamis go into special maturing cabinets. We are fortunate nowadays to have the technology that allows us to back up time-honoured techniques and to produce these products professionally and consistently, safe in the knowledge that we can supply food that is fit for the end consumer. We have invested in some of the latest technology in terms of curing and maturing cabinets to enable us to do this.
Our free-range whole pig carcasses are delivered on Tuesdays, provenance and welfare are very much at the heart of our business. Rich has a big day breaking these down and getting it all into cure. This week we have also taken delivery of our first venison carcass of the season. It’s salami-making week and it’ll be a joy to have Venison Salami back on the menu. I mix up the batches of salami meat on a Wednesday, which gives the meat time to cure overnight, ready for stuffing into the casings today.
It’s a big day today as we have three batches of salamis to get through – Fennel, Garlic & Caraway and Venison. It’s 8:30am by the time we get going and it’s a two-man job. Rich fills the casings and I tie them off as they come off the nozzle. Three different salamis made in three and a half hours. This is truly hands-on artisan work but when you see what you’ve achieved at the end of the day – a cabinet full of salami – it is well worth the effort. The salamis still need to be individually massaged and pricked, ends tidied up and put onto rails for hanging. All very labour-intensive.
At midday Nicky comes to check for any on-line web orders. We have a 12pm cut-off for next day delivery. We have several orders going out this afternoon. I pick the products whilst Nicky prints the labels and does all the relevant paperwork. Boxes filled and packed, these will be collected mid-afternoon by our courier company.
Neither Rich nor I stop for lunch, we very rarely do. We both crack on as we have a trade visitor booked this afternoon with a view to stock some of our products in their collection of farm shops. We always try to encourage potential customers to pop in as they get far more of an understanding of what we are all about seeing our set-up first-hand.
It’s a very good, productive day today. I just need to stock our display fridge ready for any visitors who may call in tomorrow – it’s Friday tomorrow, which means it’s Foodie Friday! Anyone’s welcome to come and have a tour and a taste.
Then it’s time for a well-deserved glass of wine and a slice or two of salami!Oh and just one last job – a quick nip back over to recharge the smoker before going off to bed.