In my early teens I would drive over to the village of Goleen to bring our cheeses to Chris Jepson to be smoked in his Smokehouse. Chris had built his own boat himself, caught salmon which he brought home for salting and smoking in a smoker that was only accessible when the tide was out. You parked on the beach and carried the trays of cheeses up the bank into the tar-black smokehouse that smelt of fire and fish.
Chris had built this himself from a design he learnt from the Pinney System, he had forged the tools for the boat building himself, and he was the first salmon smoker in this area and a great example of the genuine artisan food producer.
Everything about his work was crafted by hand and his fish were wonderful, salmon, kippers and now and then really salty peppery bacon, delicious!
He supported us with our first smoked cheese, maybe the first smoked cheese in Ireland? To this day Gubbeen Smoked Cheese is delicately smoked because of his training and the system he taught me.
Chris helped Tom and I build the first smoker here in l989. It became my project and very soon its potential for a range of foods started to open up - the bacon hanging on Chris' beams had given me the link to my Grandfather's life in Spain where he had taken me as a child to Ronda and into the Spanish bars where Jamon was being cut into see through slices with little glasses of dry Sherry, there were always sharp knives in his house and one day even the privilege of being at a Matanza - old traditions that have stood by me as I learnt my trade.
In the first years I pickled hams in soft brine infused with herbs, spices and wine, I dry cured my bacon with salts and raw cane sugar and a dusting of pepper.
There was a copy of Jane Grigson's Charcuterie and French Pork Cookery in the house; this book led me into a world of subtleties. A dear friend, Darina Allen, sent me down a precious side of her organic pork to "have a go" at making her some rashers. All these people have been such influences on my early days as a charcutier. There have been pigs reared here for as long as I remembered sold locally by Tom when I was young - now I started to cure them and smoke them.
Working with my sister Clovisse whose herb garden and knowledge of herbs has been a great support to our cures and flavours in our meats. Bio dynamic herbs actually do taste better!
love strong bold favours and I have strong principles of not using any ingredients that are not necessary like MSG, Phosphates or sulphurs.
Then, travel to Slow Food's Salone del Gusto in Italy, and several return trips to Spain, especially to visit Sam and Jeannie Chesterton who have shared their passion for Spanish Pork Traditions with travellers like me at their home.
All this has taught me tradition, then taste and some knowledge of traditional Pork products. We now have about 50 - it varies from season to season and of course on what our customers are looking for. We like to hear from customers, we talk to all the chefs who use our meats; we will try to suit all palettes and ideas within reason - and our HACCP.