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Chapman's Butchers in Baldock celebrate 70 years

PUBLISHED: 11:08 15 February 2010 | UPDATED: 14:53 20 February 2013

David Chapman

David Chapman

How one family business is making sure it stays a cut above

CELEBRATING 70 years in business this year, Chapman's Butchers in Baldock is thriving. A real family affair, David and his brother Philip along with one of their uncles and their father Bob are maintaining the traditions of quality into the fourth generation.
I'm chatting with David who joined the family business straight from school. More than 20 years ago his early interest in wildlife led him to undertake the first of several trips to South Africa. Immersed in the culture he gradually developed a taste for the country's traditional dried meat products. Ten years ago such items were still a novelty in the UK but David experimented with curing and drying techniques, with a view to stocking the products. As he explains, 'The process for curing and drying took a long time to perfect but is similar to producing Parma ham. For some reason Britain is one of the few countries that doesn't have a history of air drying.' He adds that the recent surge to the UK of South Africans and fleeing Zimbabweans has raised his biltong to be the company's best seller.
They produce dried beef biltong as well as game versions too. Being high in protein and low in fat they make an ideal and convenient snack. David explains, 'We shoot our own venison on nearby estates during the game season. At other times of the year we have South African game shipped over, including antelopes, which are culled in the same way as venison here.'
Other South African products include boerewors, which are fresh sausages - the name roughly translating as farmer's sausage. Typically South African they combine pork and beef with plenty of coriander, giving them an aromatic flavour. Another version, drowors, are similar sausages but air-dried in the same fashion as the biltong.
The meat's preserved nature is ideal for mail order, as David explains, 'I recently had the odd experience of sending products to the very tip of Scotland and to the very tip of Cornwall on the same day. We also have small orders from South African troops serving in Afghanistan; for the work they do biltong is an ideal high protein snack.'
David tells me customers ask a lot more questions these days about where the meat comes from and how it was raised. The company website provides an informative 18-page guide about different cuts of meat and how to cook them.
When all is said though the Chapman's are most proud of the products they make from scratch, such as their dry-cured bacon and black pudding.
'We originally had our black pudding sent down from Scotland - it was very good but we decided to experiment ourselves. Our version has very little fat in it with plenty of pearl barley and oatmeal, which gives it a good texture.'
For the dry-cured bacon they reverted to a very old fashioned process where loins of pork are sprinkled with a mixture of salt and sugar. Twenty or 30 loins are then piled on top of each other to exclude the air. After 14 days of slowly curing they are then dried for a day. Most are then oak smoked, dried for another day and then sliced and sold. Also supplying a delicious range of quality ready meals, handmade pies, sausages, home cured hams, and even home cured salami it would seem the Chapman stage is set for the next 70 years.

Article taken from October issue of Hertfordshire Life

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