The Fabulous Meat & Fish Company from Yorkshire
PUBLISHED: 00:00 05 October 2018
Where there's smoke, there's fire - and flavour. It's not a new technique - our prehistoric ancestors were preserving meat with smoke while still discussing whether or not to invent the wheel (they voted 'yes' in the end) - but it is enjoying something of a renaissance among contemporary carnivores.
For Amanda and Allan Goodwill, owners of The Fabulous Meat & Fish Company (now there’s a bold name if ever there was one) in Helmsley, their taste buds were first tweaked as children.
‘We both clearly remember a time when whole sides of pork could be seen hanging to dry in many farm houses around the Yorkshire Moors,’ said Amanda. ‘Allan has been a life-long foodie and has dabbled over the years, trying to produce the traditional bacon he remembers from those happy childhood memories.’
Traditional British drying produces a distinct, rich flavour that permeates the meat and leaves it with a deep, ruby hue. The process is easy to do but tricky to perfect and took Allan many years of ‘tinkering’ before he mastered the craft.
Luckily, his success coincided with the family’s move to Hovingham in North Yorkshire, where they discovered a host of small farmers (they weren’t hobbits – they had small farms) producing fabulous animals.
‘Four years ago, we bought half a pig from Peter Stark, a local farmer, with a view to producing a slightly larger quantity than the small joints we had previously bought from local butchers,’ Amanda explained.
‘This was the beginning of what was supposed to be a tiny cottage industry supplying small amounts to family and friends but which quickly became a landslide of orders driving us towards making more old-fashioned bacon, sausage and black pudding.’
Allan built their first smoker in Amanda’s old school trunk. They began by producing smoked salmon before venturing into charcuterie, smoked meat and fish, and even an old Elizabethan type of black pudding.
‘It became very clear very quickly that there was a huge demand for local meat and responsibly reared fish that has been preserved, cured and smoked slowly with care and passion using ancient methods,’ said Amanda.
This is not fast food; producing dry-cured, smoked delicacies takes time. But it is worth it as the methods used by the Goodwills deliver delicious results with a lower salt content and lower levels of free water than intensely produced products.
Their salmon is sourced from Wester Ross Fishery, an RSPCA award-winning farm in the Scottish Highlands, which doesn’t treat its fish with growth promoters or insecticides, utilising wrasse instead which feed naturally on salmon parasites. The fish take twice as long to grow compared with densely farmed commercial fish, resulting in a flavour and texture much closer to wild salmon.
The pork they use is also specially selected from designated ‘caring’ farms deemed to rear happy pigs in good conditions.
When it comes to actually processing the meat and fish, the Goodwills’ curing methods are pretty much the same as those practiced for thousands of years by indigenous people around the world.
‘Our methods of dry curing bacon and ham are similar to those used in ancient Rome,’ said Amanda. ‘And our process for curing and smoking salmon is based on the one used by the first nation Sioux in Northern Ontario, which requires the best and freshest fish; slow, gentle dry curing; and time for the cured fish to rest and mature before smoking.
‘The finished product is then matured to allow the fish to even out and all the flavours settle. This can take a total of six or seven days from start to finish.’
The Fabulous Meat & Fish Company has now been up and running for two years. It has established a slew of happy customers, now happily queuing at their new Bridge Street shop, while also supplying well-known chefs like Peter Neville at the Pheasant Hotel in Harome, Matthew Beverson at Maison de Vin in Malton and Andrew Pern at The Star in Harome and Mr P’s in York.
Their still source all their meats from local farmers: free range pork from Fraser Aitken in Escrick; grass-fed, late season lamb from Peter Stark in Hovingham; beef from the Kemp family in Barton le Street and from Duncombe Park; free range ducks and geese from the Matheson family in Beverly; and free range chickens from Loose Birds in Harome.
‘Our determination to source the very best that Yorkshire farmers produce here in Ryedale and across the North York Moors allows us to provide our customers with the highest quality meat available,’ said Amanda. ‘It also means we can visit the farms to see the high standards of animal welfare for ourselves while keeping the food miles to an absolute minimum.
‘We are very fortunate to receive a great deal of support from local farmers and businesses and hope that all our trading friends will stick with us as we grow.’ Mutual support, time-honoured rearing, curing and smoking methods and pride in a job well done? Now that really does sound like the recipe for success.