Creating a perfect Christmas Part 3
In this, the third and final part in our series looking at the produce that can be sourced in Norfolk at this time of year, we meet a person who is passionate about pigs, someone whose garden shed became a gin palace and the man with the sweetest job in the world.
We might be cutting back on our meat eating but at this time of the year, a little indulgence is excused. Bacon, sausages, hams and other cured meats are all essential parts of a traditional Christmas. Whether this be an early yuletide breakfast, the bacon that wraps around the turkey breast or the ham that takes centre stage at tea-time.
The Fruit Pig Company is the brainchild of former RAF officer Matt Cockin and landscape gardener Grant Harper. The two friends joined forces in 2008 to realise their dream of rearing rare breed pigs. In this case, the rare breed was Gloucester Old Spots.
A decade on and Fruit Pig is a well-known Norfolk artisan producer, whose products grace the shelves of local delis. The products also appear on some well-known chef’s tables, notably Tom Aikens’ restaurant in Chelsea. The most popular product is the fresh blood black pudding, but Matt and Grant have also cornered the market in tasty bacon and cured meats.
Norfolk Gin began life as an experiment after its founder, Jonathan Redding went seeking a new adventure in life. He found it among the gin distilling equipment in his garden shed. 18 months of experimentation saw Jonathan produce gins that ranged from ‘awful to rather good and finally, excellent’.
The first bottles went on sale in 2015. Just months later Jonathan found himself needing bigger premises as the bottles flew off the shelves of wine merchants around the Norwich and north Norfolk area.
The gin comes in a distinctive ceramic bottle, each carrying a unique batch and bottle number. There are only 24 bottles in a batch. In style it is a bathtub gin, smooth and aromatic. It mixes well in all classic cocktails. The main botanical is of course Juniper; others add aroma depth high notes, almost floral yet balanced with fresh citrus. Other botanicals are grown in the garden. The other added ingredient is music; Jonathan bombards or serenades the gin with all manners of music while the botanicals are steeped and is convinced this adds to the spirit or soul of Norfolk Gin.
Honey might not be a hugely traditional Christmas ingredient but we think it should be. Honey roasted ham, honey and goat’s cheese, honey and lemon for seasonal sniffles. And the gift of a jar of honey is a beautiful thing.
Leigh Goodsell has bee hives across the Norfolk countryside. They can be spotted in wildflower meadows and dotted along the coastal areas. The honey is produced with minimal interference, meaning it is was natural as possible.
Leigh explains the process: “The honey is strained through a fine sieve to remove hive debris, bits of wood from the frames, flakes of wax etc. I t is purposely not filtered, ensuring that the honey contains the local pollens that the bees wanted in it in the first place. Where Leigh’s Bees honey is labelled “Raw Honey”, bottling took place at the time of extraction from the hive. In this case no warming has taken place at all. If the word “Raw” is absent, any heating of the honey is done in a thermostatically controlled warmer to ensure that is just warm enough to facilitate bottling, without destroying any of its natural taste and enzymes. A bee feasting from a Leigh’s Bees jar of honey would see little difference from what it would expect to find in the hive.
Besides jars of honey, Leigh’s Bees also produces catacomb honey in Kilner jars and beeswax furniture polish.
Here at Rookery Farm, we hope you have enjoyed our foodie tour of the county and all that is left is to wish all our friends and visitors a fantastic Norfolk Christmas and a wonderful 2019.