With a view to champion Welsh food, Ruth and Andrew Davies have developed their own unique charcutire range. Emily Ashworth reports.
Husband and wife team, Ruth and Andrew Davies, run Cwm Farm Charcuterie in Rhydyfro near Pontardawe, Swansea. Their charcuterie has won an array of awards and their passion for rare breed pigs and locally produced food is what sets them apart. They also farm Highland cattle and have just developed a beef biltong with a laverbread crust, that has only recently been for sale.
Are you from a farming family?
My husband Andrew was from a farming background and he grew up working on the farm until his teenage years. My great grandmother and all before her were farmers, so you could say it is in the blood.
What made you decide to get in to farming and charcuterie?
We bought the farm in 2010 with a view to rear our own rare breed pigs across 16 hectares (40 acres). We started off selling meat boxes, making products like bacon and sausages. In 2012 we were looking at more ways to add value to our products, so bought a catering trailer and parked it in our local village selling hot food. Although this was successful, there was still something I believed was missing. In 2014 I was lucky enough to get a grant from the Welsh Government and went to Denmark, to see what else we could do to add value. This is where our charcuterie business was born, and I discovered Beer Sticks which is a snacking salami.
How many pigs do you have, what breed and why?
We have 36 breeding sows, a mixture between Saddlebacks, Large Blacks and cross Gloucester Old Spot. Our pigs are outdoors and free range, and we feel these are the breeds that suit us best in the valleys with our Welsh weather. My favourite pig of all time is the Middle White with their squashed nose. They do not lend themselves to charcuterie as well, but the taste of the pork is outstanding. They also do not thrive well outdoors.
What qualities do the pigs have to create the taste you want?
The pigs we raise are slow growing, rare breeds, and we raise them and supplement their feed on acorns and apples. This puts a fantastic fat coverage on the pigs which makes perfect charcuterie. Being outdoors, the pigs are free to forage on worms, acorns and love to root around in the woods. We take them to about 120kg dead weight.
How do you make the charcuterie?
We do not add any gluten or meat glue, and we also do not spray or dip our salami to create a mould. We just add the salts and spices. We prefer to be more natural, and our most famous by far is our Laverbread Salami, where we developed this unique product at the Welsh Food centre in Horeb. We try and create a Salami with a Welsh Twist by adding things like laverbread or leeks.
Where do you sell?
We sell at local deli’s, our local Rugby Stadium, restaurants, Rhug Estate and, have just started to have enquiries as far afield as Hong Kong.
How did you learn to make it?
It was at the Welsh Food Centre in Horeb, where they have a fantastic team of food technicians by your side. By far the best move for me was to learn how to do it right and safe, then the vision came in as to what products to make. But our Laverbread salami was the first product we ever developed.
What do you love about what you do?
I love making and developing new products, talking and chatting to farmers about adding value to their produce and not to copy anyone, but to think out of the box and develop something new in the food industry. I am a people person and love the markets and food festivals. You will always see me in the food hall at the Royal Welsh Show, telling my story and chatting to new and old customers. We are just about to build a new salt cave for curing our products and take on a bigger building to grow and expand. But my biggest wish would be for me to own my own deli and bistro, so I could make my own charcuterie boards and serve customers with our local cheeses and local wines. I feel this is what the customers now want: an eating and drinking experience where they can socialise, meet friends and eat locally produced food. Hopefully one day this will happen.
Do you think people like to buy in to the story of locally produced and homemade food?
Over the last nine years, this has become more important every day. I see food and drink producers building more visitor centres on their farm or land and making the whole thing a learning and tasting experience. More and more people are now turning to farmers markets for their weekly shop, and the traceability and story means so much more.
Please tell us about any awards you have won or any organisations you are part of?
Where do I start? I am a part of the Fine Food Cluster of Wales and I attend trade events all over the world attached to the Welsh Government, who help me promote, taste test and showcase our products. I find this invaluable and their support has been overwhelming. I am also a part of “Across the Atlantic”, which is building relationships with other food producers overseas. I love working with other producers around the world and collaborating is a huge draw for me, as I see this as a big way forward.
We have been lucky enough to win a lot of awards including Great British Farm Produce Awards 2015 Winner under Rosemary Shrager and Great British Farm Produce Awards 2016Winner under John Torode. We also have many Great Taste Awards and 30 golds over the years at The Royal Welsh Show. Within the last two weeks, we have also won the Best Meat Snack with some of the top judges in the industry at Canopy Street Charcuterie Festival in London.
The Awards are fantastic, give me great exposure and always put a big beam on my face.
But it is the customers that keep on supporting us that gives me the greatest pleasure, as without them I would not have a business.