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Wednesday, 25 September 2013

A chat with award winning Johnny Pusztai - a proper butcher.

I recently met up with the affable and award winning Nottinghamshire butcher Johnny Pusztai at the Festival of Food and Drink at Clumber Park and arranged to pop into his business (JT Beedham) on Mansfield Road in Sherwood near Nottingham for a chat about his business and in particular to check out the charcuterie side of his butcher's shop. The shop website is certainly worth checking out for a great overview of what this fantastic butcher and his loyal team are all about. Click back here after you have read about my time with Johnny today...

The wonderful Johnny Pusztai

First of all it would be very appropriate to say that Johnny's passions for what he does are very evident in meeting with and chatting to him. In my opinion he is a proper butcher - knowledgeable - friendly - passionate to be the best - diverse in offering something traditional and yet modern and expansive in terms of his other business at . BBQunique offers his meat products and more for small private parties to weddings, events and special occasions. His fantastic meat products have won him numerous awards within the food industry and he even has the Michelin starred Sat Bains as a regular trade customer. His meat is very high quality and locally farmed and his ranges of sausages are Gold Award Winning Speciality sausages. He encourages his staff to take their job seriously but also to have fun and be creative. His latest apprentice, Joel has just won Butcher's Apprentice of the Year and JT Beedham's sausage range is now graced with Joel's own sausage recipe based on Haggis and they have named it Haggis McJoel!

Joel with his sausages.

Haggis McJoel sausages! How cool are they!?
So, Johnny was very welcoming and showed me around the prep room of his shop in Sherwood, plus the air drying cellar and the smoke room. We also had a smashing mug of tea made by young Sam and a scrummy bacon cob from Johnny's own bacon. You couldn't ask for more!

The meat fridge was chocker with the carcasses of pork, beef and short legged lamb and Johnny explained to me about the longevity of the hanging/maturing process for each type of animal carcass. He believes that the shorter legged lambs provide better value for the customers and are from his own farm at Wellow. The hind quarter meat is hung much longer than the fore-quarter ( fores being used mainly for braising and stewing) and the pork sides come into the shop at about twenty eight weeks old and the bacon pigs at about thirty-eight weeks. We discussed that the pork for supermarkets would be sold on a counter at about twenty two weeks old. A lot of the business at JT Beedhams is sausage related including many European and Eastern European inspired sausages, smoked and otherwise and mostly pork based. Only natural casings are ever used for the sausage skins. An exception would be the lamb based merguez sausages that for such a skinny sausage have a lot in them like, Hungarian paprika, cumin, white salt, oregano, crushed black pepper, garlic and crushed cloves.

Meat fact: In the early 1990s there were about twenty thousand registered butchers businesses in the UK. Today there are about six and a half thousand in the UK.

From the meat chiller we ventured down some steep stairs into the shop cellar where Johnny has re-created a traditional Pince (pronounced like Pin sah)  - a temperature controlled room where the meats are air dried and sometimes preserved in brine baths. As Johnny Pusztai said to me with a cheeky grin, "This is where the magic happens!" The smell was truly heavenly for anyone like myself who loves smoked products. The Pince is modelled on one that his grandfather would have had back in Hungary and Johnny explained that the air dried meats would have been stored on one side of the room and oak barrels of red Tokaji  (tokay) wine on the other. The oak from the barrels might well have a been a contributory factor to the taste of the meats. Johnny said that traditionally this would have been a very male environment with no females allowed. A funnel would have gone into the back of the room or cellar from the outside world to let the air circulate and bacon, sausages, and other dry cured meats would have been stored there along with fruits at about six degrees centigrade to ensure freshness and this temperature was also perfect for storing the Tokaji wine. We also spoke about the salt element and the drawing process of curing. I was left for a few minutes to take a few pictures (not my best I admit) whilst Johnny asked one of the members of his hospitable staff to make a cuppa for us. Regarding the air drying and the smoking processes Johnny put a lot of emphasis on the present day provenance of the meats and the past historical methods used by his Hungarian ancestors and their contempories  in the world of charcuterie.

Johnny had to take a couple of phone calls so I had my cuppa and bacon cob and then we tasted some of the new sausage mix based on pork, leeks and chilli. Our tasting was part of what they always do at the shop. The mix is completed and then they cook up a patty of the sausage mix, taste and improve if necessary. This one was sweet to begin with then you got an explosion of the chilli as a back taste. Very nice it was too!!

                                   Preparing and trimming the pork for the sausage mixes.

At the back of the shop we had a brief look at the smoking box where a fusion of dry and weathered fruit tree wood (taken from the Beedham orchard) and charcoal is burnt very slowly in two twelve hour sessions to impart the hung meats with a sweet smoky flavour. Layers of wood and charcoal, more wood and charcoal very slowly burn until the process sets the other element off.

Johnny wanted to tell me some more about his business so we went upstairs to his kitchens above the shop to chat some more. Johnny said that the key to the success of the business at JT Beedham's is about the fact that they take the time and love to produce products of great quality through the crafts of butchery, salting, curing and charcuterie.

Every year there runs a competition called British Sausage Week and amongst this is a part called Iconic Sausage which butchers can enter sausages depicting a, or about a, noble British person or event, past or present. Johnny and his team have been entering this competition and have had great pride and fun in presenting their sausage entry.  I had to smile as he told me all about their entry in which they depicted Christopher Hoy the great British and Olympic cyclist through the medium of bangers. Firstly they created a cycle tyre out of sausage in a circle and then created the spokes with long small sausages within. Another idea was for the  sausages filled with haggis ingredients for Burns night (a winner in 2012) and this year they have created a sausage made from the ingredients normally found in a spring roll with added pork and the linked items they called (and I laughed out loud at this!) the Orient Express! The judging of any sausage competition would be, of course, down to the palates of the panel. As Johnny said "One judge might prefer the taste of a Lincolnshire sausage to one of my spring roll sausages but for us there are two key things in our sausage production and those are honesty and consistency ."

Finally, Johnny intrigued me with the notion - apparently true - that the Romans originally  nicked the idea for air dried hams like those we know of and from Bayonne, Spain, or Palma ham from the Welsh! I will have to look into that one for sure!

            "Yep really Phil, the Romans stole the idea of air drying ham from the Welsh. Honest"

I had a wonderful hour or so at Johnny's shop and in the company of him and his great team and I look forward to meeting him again this weekend at the Great Notts Show in the city's Market Square. For the future we have discussed the notion of me doing a day in their shop and maybe having a 'Phil makes his own sausage recipe day' with a bangers and mash meal for the staff!

I couldn't leave without purchasing some of the wonderful sausages, pork and bacon on display. This is the air dried bacon, merguez sausages and Haggis McJoel sausages. As I unwrapped them at home they smelt fresh and fantastic. I can't stop sniffing them! Thanks guys - you are all proper butchers at JT Beedhams!

Now go back to the top of the blogpost and click on the link for the JT Beedham shop website and do go there if you get the chance. You won't regret it.


Karen said...

I am ashamed to say that, even though I used to live in Sherwood, & now only live in Arnold, I have never been into J T Beedhams. Goodness knows why. This will have to be rectified very soon. A great article as always Phil - & I hope it encourages more people to visit what must be a very good Butcher. And you've made my mind up about one thing - we weren't sure what we would be doing on Saturday.....should we go to teh Southwell ploughing Match at Ravenshead or into town to the foodie event. The foodie event has now won.

philip lowe said...

Delighted that you like the article Karen. Given the fact I left home at 8.30am to go to the shop in Sherwood and the time I spent there and the two plus hours it took me write the piece after sorting my notes out at home and calling the shop again to clarify a few details it took me until about four thirty to complete I feel it has been a real labour of love supporting a guy who is passionate about his work in food. And, to be honest - worth every second. I would like to spend more of my time reflecting on such people as |Johnny but feel they are relatively rare. But who knows what the future may bring. Phil x

Caroline Taylor said...

What a great butcher and great story. What a nice way to shout about his passion.

philip lowe said...

Caroline: Hi Caroline, great to see your comment on my blog. He is a very nice guy and I will always promote someone like Johnny who has integrity and passion for what he and his hard working team do.