Farmer’s Choice Deli-cious Charcuterie

It was more than twenty years ago that I first tasted “uncooked” meat on a hill top in the South Tyrol, Austria. I wasn’t even sure if I wanted to try it but everyone else seemed to be tucking in so …in it went. Soft, spicy, strong and most definitely morish! It was simply served on a piece of wood with lots of mountain cheese, and flatbread. They cured the meat in an old shepherds hut, not something they can get away with today with all the regulations, and wine but it was a memorable meal nun the less.

Austrian Smorgasboard

Austrian Smorgasboard

The word for Charcuterie is translated to “pork butcher”. This has led to a mistaken belief that charcuterie can only involve pork.  It actually refers to products particularly, not limited to, pork specialities such as pâte. These products are usually found in the deli areas of shops or delicatessen-style shops called a charcuterie!

The history behind this way of preparing meat goes back to the first century AD. Intended as a way to preserve meat before the advent of refrigeration. Today it is prepared for the flavours derived from the preservation processes.

This meat is now produced almost everywhere, even here in the UK – I know, I was surprised too. Here at Farmer’s Choice we have a fantastic range of this style of prepared meat.

Our Pork comes from Scott Free Range Farm in West Sussex. The pigs are born and reared outdoors and are Free Range Quality Assured pigs that enjoy the fresh air, freedom and a natural, additive free diet throughout their lives. Richard, our farmer, has carefully developed a style of husbandry that means the pigs live a healthy, unstressful life. The pigs are free to roam and can get onto to do what they do best – eat, sleep and dig!

Scott Free Range Farm in West Sussex

Scott Free Range Farm in West Sussex

The Beef products come from the MACDUFF, a family of Scottish farms who have joined together to set themselves a uniquely high standard of beef production. The cattle are reared naturally and fed only on grass and grass-based products. This natural diet ensure the full, rich flavour of beef as it used to taste before the introduction of intensive farming techniques. MACDUFF beef gains further richness and succulence from being matured the traditional way, on the bone.

Cattle from the MACDUFF family of Scottish Farms

Cattle from the MACDUFF family of Scottish Farms

Our pork and beef is delivered to The Dorset Charcuterie Company in Lytchett Minster in Dorset. The Dorset Charcuterie Company was started in 2010, with the help from the Princes Trust, they have firmly cemented themselves as producers of fine, local, seasonal and ethically sourced British charcuterie.

They season, cure, dry, smoke and mature all the products from start to finish, coupling age old traditional methods with state of the art modern techniques in their purpose built on farm charcuterie.

The Dorset Charcuterie aren’t the only producers of fine British air-dried meats but are amongst a growing number of artisan curers and smokers that are, together helping put Britain firmly on the Charcuterie map. Not in the past noted for our Charcuterie, we do in Britain produce some of the finest meat in the world to the highest of welfare standards and so there is no reason why we shouldn’t also produce unique world beating Charcuterie.

A selection of Farmer's Choice Charcuterie products

A selection of Farmer’s Choice Charcuterie products

At Farmer’s Choice we have a selection of Charcuterie meats. All of our British air-dried charcuterie is made with prime cuts of free range meat and preserved in a number of ways, including salting, smoking, drying and cooking, with extra care taken to ensure that our charcuterie products have the correct level of maturity, texture and flavour.

How about something special for the festive season, our Free Range Reserve Whole Ham…a fantastic centrepiece.

Farmer's Choice Free Range Reserve Whole Ham

Farmer’s Choice Free Range Reserve Whole Ham

Our range of seasoned olives, including garlic stuffed olives, paprika chilli olives and sweet basil olives are prepared using a savoury blend of spices and herbs and are a perfect accompaniment our free range charcuterie meat. So supplement the cheeseboard at your next dinner party with some of our selection of tasty olives and local smoked and air-dried meat products such as free range pork chorizo, Dorset coppa, salami and Dorset air-dried ham.

Silver & Green Olive Selection from Farmer's Choice

Silver & Green Olive Selection from Farmer’s Choice

Storage Advice

In the fridge in a tupperware type container or wrapped in paper or muslin. Slices are best eaten straight away as they tend to dry out quite quickly – not that there will be much left once you open and start snacking! Our meats are vacuum packed to keep them fresh 30 days when kept refrigerated.

Christmas is coming…the Farmer’s Choice goose is getting fat!

George, Jane and Lucy Munns run Westmoor Farm which is part of the Cambridgeshire County Farm Estate situated in the heart of The Fens.  The Munns family have farmed here since October 1959 when George’s dad Lionel took on the tenancy of a 21 acre smallholding and an old farmhouse, funded from £100 pools win!

Jane Munns

George and Jane Munns

George now has 700 acres and the farm cropping (Potatoes, Sugar Beet, Wheat and Oilseed Rape) is still very much that of a traditional Fenland farm and has changed little since then except for a flock of free range geese.

George took over the farm in 1989 when his father retired but it wasn’t until 1999 that they started rearing Free Range Geese, with just 20 locally hatched birds.

Goslings

2 days old – so cute!

George and Jane Munns Geese

Farmer’s Choice Geese

Today they have 1,300 geese. They come in as day old goslings (after being hatched in Germany) and are reared under Gas Brooders until about 2 weeks of age when they are allowed out to free-range, initially with night time shelter. If they let them out any earlier they risk being predated by hawks or foxes. After a further 2 weeks they take shelter at their own choice.

Geese and Gosling Shelters

The shelters used for the goslings

The birds are Free Range although they are confined to about 8 acres and surrounded by an electric fence to keep the bushy tailed predators out! They come in and go out as THEY please. Their wings are not clipped, they stay purely for the feed and relaxed environment. The geese are fed on an additive free diet (from a local supplier) and home grown wheat.

The flock get a vet check twice during the time they spend here (usually from the 18th June through to the 8th December) – George and Jane want to see their poultry cared for from start to finish.

Gaggle of Geese

Non stop noise -it’s like being surrounded by football fans, there are couple of leaders getting the rest of them all riled up!

When the time comes to cull, the birds are dry plucked then waxed to remove the fluffy down.  At this time a local gang of workers are drafted in to help with the processing. After the birds have been hung, up to 10 days to enhance the flavour, they are then dressed and cleaned before being boxed and prepared for delivery to Farmer’s Choice. Everything is handled on site in purpose built buildings supervised by DEFRA vets and local Environmental Health Officers.

Hardly anything goes to waste on this farm, the unused bits of bird are boiled to produce the irresistible goose fat. The fat keeps for months in the refrigerator and up to a year in a good freezer. The feathers are sold for duvet and pillow stuffing.

Our birds will be between 5.5kg and 6kg – enough to feed around 6 people.

Roasting a goose makes a very merry festive meal. It’s different to turkey because the goose meat is intensely meaty and flavourful and cloaked in that layer of unbelievably rich, crispy skin.

Westmoor Farm also bottle Pure Suffolk Honey and Delicious Golden Syrup. Their very own Extra Virgin Cold Pressed Rapeseed Oil is bottled here – a healthy choice cooking oil or dressing beneficial in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats omega 3, 6 and 9.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YKI-pgzBFWc  - Countess of Wessex investigates Munns Rapeseed Oil

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t-RXcibnCl0 – Draining the Fens

 

Westmoor Farm

Westmoor Farm

George Munns Farm

Situated 1.5miles west of the historic market town of Chatteris in the Fenland area of East Anglia. The landscape here is Agricultural, one of open fields decorated with a mosaic of ditches and drainage channels. With an unrivalled open horizon and magnificent sunsets, this area is unique in the UK, an area we are immensely proud and privileged to live and work in. My own passion after farming, has always been nature and wildlife conservation. As a small boy I had a huge number of wildlife books and spent all the spare time I had exploring across the farm, looking for and identifying all the many species of flora and fauna that lived here. I had a chance in 2001 to join the prestigious Countryside Stewardship Scheme  I signed up with the enthusiasm of a small boy…!!  I immediately got to work with the help of the local drainage board building a brand new 5 acre reed bed. I specifically wanted to provide habitat for many of “the species of my childhood”, that sadly were getting endangered due to modern farming practices. Our reed bed was later to become a “Blue print” for other farmers to follow in the years to come. I wasn’t aware at the time but I was embarking on a journey that was as fruitful and rewarding as any I could imagine. – George Munns

Devonshire Daytrip to Merrifield Farm

Nestled down in a Devonshire Valley, just outside Crediton, is Merrifield Farm – home to Peter and James (Creedy Carver) our Chicken and Duck farmers. Peter and his wife Sue have been involved in barn reared chicken for over twenty years, eight years ago they started to produce free range chickens in response to local demand. Their youngest son (James) joined them and quickly developed a reputation for producing ducks to a very high standard.

freerange chickens

Freerange chicken huts

We were taken on a tour of the farm to see how our poultry were getting on. We were shown the brooder units where day old chicks are initially reared, until 28 days old when they are moved to free range units. These are either straw bale shacks or special chicken arks. The arks are four metres wide and pop holes along the full length of each side so no bird is more than two meters from the range areas. Here they are allowed to roam grassy fields yet have the protection from predators and the elements in their specialist housing. Peter and James’ standards are based on Soil Association criteria, although Peter tells us that Merrifield Farm is not organic. Their poultry are fed an additive free diet.

Free Range ducks

Freerange ducklings and ducks

Both Chicken and Ducks are reared in small flocks to reduce stress and increase freedom. A simple diet, greater maturity and a natural environment produces a happier, better tasting chicken.

Freerange Chicken Shelter

Outdoor Chickens

The free range ducklings get plenty of space to waddle around, they are reared at a maximum of two square feet per duck in the special field arks that they have constructed. A bathing trough is provided to keep the birds healthy.  They do everything possible to encourage the birds to range and take advantage of the healthy lifestyle with plenty of exercise. These girls will only come out if they want to. On hot days the chickens prefer to come out early in the morning and late in the afternoon when the sun is not so hot.

Peter is not just involved in the rearing of his barn/free range chickens he is also an avid breeder of rare ducks/geese/birds, you name it, it will probably be in his back garden!

ducks, geese, birds

Peter’s Rare Breeds

Peter is also in the process of creating a natural spring/nature reserve on the farm, a tranquil spot in an already beautiful setting.

Tranquil spot

Natural Spring

When Dan met Princess Anne

Dan has been appearing in a few social media posts recently and we thought you deserved a bit of background info on him.

Dan started with Farmer’s Choice almost 10 years ago cleaning down the machinery that he now uses on a daily basis. Dan decided he wanted to be a butcher so he enrolled in the National Apprenticeship of Meat and Poultry Processing. Two of our butchers Roger Wiltshire and Mark Steinson were his mentors throughout this Apprenticeship as well as support via regular tutorials over the telephone and on Ipswich Centre’s website. Assessors also came to Farmer’s Choice throughout the process to see how he was getting on. It was Level II that he won the National Apprentice of the Year and received an award from HRH Princess Anne.

Apprentice of the Year

Receiving an award from HRH Princess Anne

This course consists of 10 workbooks that the apprentices have to complete. The Apprentice must create a Porfolio to show their experience and understanding of Meat and Poultry and the qualifications gained are equivalent to 5 GSCEs.

dan sawyer 2

Dan and other Apprentices for 2011

Dan and other Apprentices for 2011

The course should last between 12 and 18 months but Dan completed his course within 10 months and out of the national applications, he won Apprentice of the Year!

Dan received his award at Butchers Hall in London and spent the afternoon with the other Apprentices and Princess Anne.

Dan then went on to complete his Advanced Apprenticeship Level III in Management and Poultry Processing gaining his Advanced Certificate in Management, HACCP Level II and Key/Functional Skills Level II in Literacy and Numeracy equivalent to A Levels. This level requires that you go to Ipswich Centre four times a year for three days. Dan passed this within 18 months with 100% pass rate. Level III involves breaking the carcass of the animal down to the finished product (that goes out to the customer). Dan does this now on a daily basis, with our other butchers; Mark Steinson, Steve Sawyer and Rob Newland.

Farmers Choice

Pumpkins Galore!

Last week we took a trip to Hayling Island to see the bumper crop of pumpkins grown on Stoke Fruit Farm.  Sam and his mum Roz run the 300 acre farm and the farm shop.  They started growing pumpkins as a bit of fun a while back when their main crop was wheat, peas, potatoes and sweetcorn.  Now their main crop is potatoes and pumpkins.  The farm has been in the family for 100 plus years. Sam’s grandfather ran it as a vegetable and dairy farm. Sam’s father then took over the farm growing mainly fruit, but twenty years he stopped growing fruit and just grew vegetables.

Pumpkin display

Pumpkins on display at Stoke Fruit Farm

All the pumpkins are planted on the same day, this year it was 5th May, and they grow all types of pumpkins from the Giant Atlantic Pumpkins to the tiny Gourds.

Gourds on offer at Stoke Fruit Farm

Mixed Gourds

Some many different varieties of edible pumpkin on the farm; Turks Turban, Cinderella Pumpkin, Butternut, Celebration, Spaghetti and Crown Prince.  The Crown Prince is light blue in colour and originates from South Africa. The Spaghetti squash can be used instead of pasta for people who need a Gluten Free diet, all very tasty varieties.

They were gathering more pumpkins from the field on the day we visited so we went to see the pumpkins fields.

Pumpkin Gathering

Stoke Fruit Farm gathering pumpkins

This is such a versatile vegetable; soups, pies and cakes but you can also eat the flower if you catch it in time.  These are usually stuffed with cheese and battered.  A tasty treat for those keen gardeners.

Battered Flower

Edible Flower

Super Mario Pumpkin

Who does this remind you of

They grow around 1000 tonne of potatoes a year and store them in a giant warehouses at 7ºC which is perfect for keeping them until they need them.  An average 60 tonne of potatoes is sold from their shop each year, that’s a lot of spud!  A variety of potato from this farm include Marfona, which is similar to Desiree, perfect for mash on a cold winter evening.

The potatoes are sorted at the farm in one giant machine.

Big Red

Sorting the Potatoes

Nothing is wasted.  Any potatoes that don’t make the grade go to cattle feed.

Chicken Chit Chat

Chicken Hangout

This farm has so much to offer, we turn a corner past the pumpkin fields and there are the chickens – free range chickens all producing free range eggs for the farm shop. These girls love a good hang out spot.

Free Range Eggs

Free Range Chickens

 

Interesting Point!

Pumpkins have very little Saturated, Polyunsaturated and Monounsaturated fat but they do have Vitamin A, Calcium, Vitamin D and Vitamin B-12 per 100 grams – Vitamin B12 is important for the way the body works, and people who don’t have enough of it may feel tired or have a lack of energy. It helps in the production of healthy red blood cells that carry oxygen around the body.

Halloween – Spooktakular

What’s your favourite meal at Halloween?

Halloween (All Hallows’ Eve) is a feast initially influenced by harvest festivals, seasonal foods. We have plenty of them at Farmer’s Choice. At the moment almost everything is in season. Harvest is a time when we have traditionally celebrated the abundance of the land.

A good old-fashioned bowl of soup goes down beautifully at this time of year. It’s healthy and nutritious – and a great way to sneak some extra veg into the kids. Pumpkins are piled up ready for Halloween so how about a nice Spicy Pumpkin Soup. Don’t forget to pick up your tomatoes, nice salsa topping for your burgers.

A few suggestions for that party feast:

Whatever you choose to make, we have something that will help your evening go with a bang or a BOO!

Dont forget all those goodies we have from The Garlic Farm – Garlic Mayo, Garlic Salt,
Garlic Sweet Chilli Sauce
, …everything you need to keep mischief from your door.

This Whey To Quickes Cheese

On a recent trip to Devon we dropped into Quickes where Joseph Farrow gave us a personal guided tour of the farm.

For over 450 years the Quicke family has owned and cared for the farm at Newton St. Cyres in Devon, (the estate was inherited from Henry VIII). It was only in the 1970’s that Sir John Quicke and his wife Prue, the 13th generation of Quickes to farm at Home Farm, went back into cheese making and built the dairy where their daughter Mary continues to produce outstanding artisan cheddar.

Quicke's Traditional Farm

Traditional Farm

The Quicke’s Estate is made up of 1500 acres of farmland and 1500 acres of woodland. 800 acres of the woodland are managed with Douglas Fir, Chestnut and a range of other species, planted mainly in the 1960s – 70s.

Quickes Farmyard

Farmyard at Quicke’s

Their herd of 500 Friesian x Monthéliardes and Swedish Reds, are free to graze on 285 acres of pasture. The lush Devonshire grass, fresh air and odd spot of rain helps their girls produce around 5,500 litres of milk per cow every year!

Quickes Autumn Calves

Autumn Calves

The milk is then crafted, by hand, into Cheddar by their four skilled cheese makers. Each Cheddar is wrapped in muslin and matures from 3 – 24 months. Each vat begins the transformation of milk to cheese with traditional starters, which were collected from the best cheese dairies in the mid 20th Century. Each day’s starter delivers its own spectrum of savoury flavour.

When ready, the cheeses are placed carefully into traditional wooden racks in the ripening room and turned weekly, to give a uniform texture throughout the cheese.

Rippening Room at Quickes

Cathedral of Cheese

We were lucky enough to go into the rippening room, it was like a cathedral of cheeses.  When full, this ripening room can hold up to 13,000 cheeses – we might need a few more crackers!

Whilst maturing, the cheese can sometimes get cheese mites (an age-old enemy, sometimes burrowing deep into the rind, eating their way through dry, aged cheese). Several years ago cheddar makers used to fumigate once or twice a year to kill them all, but EU regulations banned Methyl Bromide. Quicke’s came up with a solution to ward off this little pest.  They bring the crates out the rippening room and drive them into a blowing booth – it looks like a car port with two holes at the back, the vacuum. The cheeses are individually blown by hand using a high-pressure air-jet hose. The vacuum at the back of the blowing booth extracts the dust and mites from the air, the cheese is then returned to the rippening room and their label marked “Blown – Yes”.

Quickes Cheese

The cheese is graded every 3 and 12 months by hand. Obviously the cheeses are ready at different times; Mild is ready after 3 – 4 months, Mature after 12 – 15 months, Extra Mature after 18 – 21 months with Vintage ready after 24 months.

From Mild through to Vintage, there is a Quicke’s Traditional Cheddar to suit every palette, as well as Traditional Red Leicester, Double Gloucester and Hard Goats Cheese.

Cloth Bound Cheese

Artisan Cheese

Quicke’s smoked cheese is cold smoked for around 18 hours with oak chips from trees on the Quicke Estate.

All the cheese is cut and packed by hand on the Farm

All the cheese is cut and packed by hand on the Farm

After the tour we dropped into the Farm Shop for a cheese tasting. It was clear that we at Farmer’s Choice prefer Quicke’s Vintage Cheddar, but I also really enjoyed the Ewes Milk cheese. Just have to make space on that cheese board for more!

Check out their regular winners at the major cheese shows, both in the UK and abroad.  (http://www.quickes.co.uk/index.php?pg=award)

Check out their regular winners at the major cheese shows, both in the UK and abroad. (http://www.quickes.co.uk/index.php?pg=award)

Interesting Point!

Despite common misconceptions, most people who are lactose intolerant are in fact able to eat most hard cheeses. This is because most of the lactose in the milk used to make hard cheeses is removed in the whey as part of the cheese-making process, making them virtually lactose free.

 The lactose content of most cheeses can be checked by looking at the nutritional facts on the label – any carbohydrate in natural cheese (excluding cheese blended with fruits or some processed cheese) comes from the milk sugar or lactose. Most hard cheeses, such as Cheddar, contain as little as 0.1 grams per 100 grams, which makes them suitable for most of those who are lactose intolerant.

Cheeses with higher levels of lactose include some processed cheeses, soft white spreadable cheese and cottage cheese and some of these may be inappropriate for the lactose intolerant. Always check the nutritional information on cheese packaging for information before consuming and check the carbohydrate content.

In some rare cases of lactose intolerance it might be necessary to completely avoid dairy foods. Speak to a state registered dietician for advice on reducing or avoiding lactose and to avoid any nutritional imbalance.

http://www.britishcheese.com/facts/faqs-31

Calves in the Filed

Calves in the Filed