Sunday, 1 April 2012

British charcuterie that's a breed apart

For somebody who has been partly responsible for the renaissance of British charcuterie, Graham Waddington wears his achievements lightly.
As the co-founder of Monmouthshire-based Trealy Farm, Graham helped to put his locally made salamis and air-dried hams on the menus of several Michelin-rated restaurants across the UK and London.
Eight years on and this award-winning curer and charcutier has now moved on from Trealy Farm to set up his own Native Breeds brand with his wife, Ruth.
From their modest premises on the Lydney Park Estate in Gloucestershire, Graham and his skilled team have launched a range of top quality cured, smoked, air-dried and cooked charcuterie using native and rare-breed animals.
This is small-scale, top-end artisan food production of the very highest order and since launching the business earlier this year, Graham has gained huge interest from a number of notable chefs and restaurants, all of whom want to put his unique products on their menus.
Native Breeds is unique in that it only uses meat and game from a small group of selected farmers and estates and all of the additional ingredients are local, whether it’s the Bramley & Gage Dittisham plum liqueur used in the Severnside paté, the Gloucestershire Jersey milk added to the black puddings or the Wye Valley perry used to cure the confit of goose.
Graham uses traditional methods to extract the maximum flavour from the meat and signature products include Hereford beef pastrami, Forest of Dean wild boar salami and Orchard ham (Gloucester Old Spot pork cured in award-winning Orchards cider then smoked over applewood).
But it’s not just salamis and hams that sets Native Breeds apart from its contemporaries. Graham makes a number of specialist products rarely made in Britain, including goose magret, poitrine (a French style of bacon) and Bratwurst sausages.
It is this range of delicacies that has helped Graham to get his products on the shelves of Selfridges in London, as well as sought after by top chefs, including Stephen Terry at The Hardwick in Abergavenny.
“One of the things people like is the fact we are making fringe products that aren’t really being made in the UK,” says Graham. “It’s not just salamis and air-dried hams but products like boudin blanc and confit of goose using local ingredients.
“That was what the buyers at Selfridges were particularly interested in because their customers are looking for something British that’s a little bit more unusual.
“The idea for Native Breeds was to have a small business making unique things that reflected what was in the region, which covers Gloucestershire, Wales and the Borders, the Marches and Herefordshire.
“We felt we were perfectly located in the middle of some very good produce to achieve that.”
Over the past five years there has been a wave of new British charcutiers and curers, something that Graham puts down to the increased customer awareness of provenance and traceability.
“People want to know where something comes from and they want something different so we have stuck to these principles.
“We make all our products with local meat and game and we use ingredients like apple juice, milk and the cures, all of which are signatured by something from Gloucestershire.”
Despite the huge interest in his products, Graham says he has no plans to expand the business in terms of mass-production. In a world of fierce commercialism, it’s refreshing to meet an artisan food producer who actually wants to stay ‘small’ and who is more interested in preserving our regional culinary heritage.
“We want to stay really small because it means we can maintain this level of relationship with our suppliers and the producers.
“We don’t really want to get into supermarkets simply because one of the things our customers like most is the fact we can supply them with things they can’t get from supermarkets.
“That’s really important to them and some customers actually ask us to make specific products for them if they are having a special event. Because we are so small we can turn on a sixpence and make it for them if we can.”
Native Breeds products can be bought at Cirencester farmers’ market on the second and fourth Saturday of the month and also from Relish deli in Cirencester.
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