Get a Slice of the British Charcuterie Revolution
Steve Williams didn’t set out to create artisan charcuterie. His job in finance in the Middle East seemed very far from such ideas. But that was precisely the problem.
“I was living abroad and I started watching Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s show. He was doing so many interesting outdoorsy things and it struck me how far away from that lifestyle I now was,” he said.
Steve decided he needed to return to his roots and moved back to Devon, so he could reengage with the environment and do something more fulfilling. He ended up taking a course at River Cottage in charcuterie making in 2012 with Steve Lamb.
“I got a business partner, Pete, who’s very practical and good at building things,” he said. “At first, we were making charcuterie in the garage, and serving food at festivals. But Good Game grew and grew. We eventually opened a restaurant, Pig & Pallet, and then set up an independent production facility. Eventually, we ended up selling charcuterie to local chefs, including River Cottage.”
The British Charcuterie Movement
The British charcuterie scene has transformed since Steve first joined it a decade ago.
“When I started it was a bunch of guys in their sheds doing it badly. Now, there’s a growing number of professionals making it really well. We have some fantastic British charcuterie producers and their products are serious contenders to continental charcuterie.”
“A couple of years ago I attended the World Charcuterie Awards with Marc Dennis from Duchy Charcuterie (who specialises in air-dried charcuterie) and he won an award for his speck. It was really great to see a British product win such a prestigious award.”
“It makes sense that we could be a contender - we have some of the best pigs and cattle in the world.”
Using the Best British Meat
Steve uses ethically-sourced British meats and traditional artisan methods to make his charcuterie.
“We only buy pigs from people we know and have seen alive,” he explains. “We make sure they’re slaughtered close to where they live, so they don’t have to travel anywhere.
For Steve, it’s really important to work with brilliant farmers who have consciousness for animal welfare standards.
“I heard an interesting talk recently about how pushing your cows to produce more and more milk doesn’t work as a model. If you half the milk yield you get from a cow you actually improve profits, because it reduces your vet and medicine bills. Cows are like people - if you push them and push them it’s neither healthy nor productive,” he says.
Good Game sells a range of charcuterie ranging from Devonshire Nduja (spicy spreadable salamis) to wild venison bresaola, pairing ethically sourced British meat with techniques drawn from European charcuterie makers.
One of the most exciting things about the British charcuterie industry is that it’s still very much in its infancy, and is populated by independent businesses. Many British charcuterie producers are, like Steve, are committed to using the finest quality ingredients and working with local suppliers.
“My view is that we shouldn’t be getting involved with any mass-produced products,” Steve says. “That definitely includes mass-produced meat, but it also includes soya products. We need to be more educated about our diet.”
Spreading the Word
Like many food and hospitality businesses, COVID-19 radically altered Good Game’s way of operating.
“We had a restaurant and were selling charcuterie in farmer’s markets and delis. We lost most of our business practically overnight,” Steve explains.
“We moved the charcuterie production from an independent centre back to the restaurant, and downsized production significantly. I started to do consultancy work for former customers - going out and showing them how to make charcuterie themselves, instead of selling it to them.”
Scaling back, he says, was no bad thing in the long term.
“It means I’m actually making charcuterie again,” he says. “My nickname was always ‘Salami Steve’, but I’d become more like ‘Spreadsheet Steve’. That guy’s pretty boring - I’m happy that Salami Steve’s back again.”
Charcuterie lovers will be pleased to know that you can buy Good Game’s award-winning charcuterie in its online shop. Its range of charcuterie includes everything from Wild Venison Salamis to Devon Fire Chorizo and a mixed charcuterie platter.
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