Writing this blog, there are many people I come across, working in all walks of the food sector. There are charming front of house staff, knowledgeable bar specialists and creative chefs – but there’s nothing that impresses and excites me more, than someone with passion.
Finding a passionate individual or company is what reminds me why I love food. Luckily for me, I’ve found another.
|Winning an award|
Albert Matthews is an award winning butchers based in the historic Bury market, with a pedigree as impressive as they produce they sell. Set up in 1935 by Albert Matthews, from the word go they have only ever sourced local, rare and traditional British breeds.
Albert Matthews built strong links with local producers, many of whom the business still uses today. Albert’s dedication to good husbandry, high welfare and the continuation of traditional, rare breeds saw him purchase a farm and abattoir in Cheshire, grow the business to be one of the most successful in the region and become a top supplier to the high end restaurant trade.
In the past few years Chris and Sarah Matthews, grandchildren of the great man himself, have set up shop in Bury Market, to bring local, rare breed, quality produce back to the customer. But let’s stop talking about history and talk about the food.
The first thing I like about Albert Matthews is there dedication to explaining their produce to you. They are so proud of their producers in fact, that there are pages on their website dedicated to where they source from, why, what feed the animals eat and their high welfare standards. If you go into the shop, the customer service and the knowledge is second to none.
The stand out item I tried was the 56 day, dry aged Galloway sirloin. Yeah, I just said 56 days – that’s eight weeks for you struggling with the maths. Dry aged beef is what you want and is a true sign of quality and care on the part of the butcher. Hung on the bone in their cool store, the beef is allowed to age naturally, taking on a dark hue as the enzymes in the meat break down the tough fibres and the beneficial bacteria help develop an amazing taste. Hung like this, the meat loses a lot of water and weight – good for the customer, less profit for the butcher, hence why you won’t find dry aged steak in your supermarket. Those wet, bright red lumps on the shelves? Not aged at all (see how much your steak shrinks as it cooks = water loss). Supermarket packs stating 28 days aged? Unless you see the magical word ‘dry’, the meat will have been sealed in its pack and left for 28 days; no bacteria or enzymes can make their way through that shrink wrapped plastic.
Meat lesson over – the steak was, quite literally, the best steak I have ever tasted. And I’m not exaggerating. The smell during cooking was intensely beefy, akin to a really good stock mixed in with some frying dripping. The taste was intense (I’d cooked them with the merest hint of salt and nothing else); deeply savoury, umami filled, the beefiest beef. To top it all off, the meat was silky soft – think fillet softness, but with a the flavour of a harder working cut. It’s taken Albert Matthew’s quite a while to develop this product and you can tell.
Another winner was the Black Strap Bacon; rare breed (Saddleback/Old Spot), slow grown, dry cured and then cured with molasses. The bacon is deeply porky, the sweetness of the pork shining through and then a big smoky/bitter hit off the molasses. Thick cut, no water/white ming seeping out – the ultimate bacon sarnie bacon.
I’d asked Chris if he could find me some wild rabbit (if your rabbit packet ain’t sating wild, it’s reared in appalling conditions a la battery farmed hens. Just so you know) and one of my favourite meats, pheasant. This was no problem for a company with strong links across Lancashire, Cumbria and the Forest of Bowland.
I also tried the diced heather fed lamb, which made a great hot pot and had a beautiful sweetness, plus two minces, pork and beef. It’s been a long time since I cooked with mince and have memories
of buying the cheap stuff when I was a student; greasy, flaccid, grey, tasteless meat. Both the Albert Matthews minces had a good fat/meat ratio and the resulting mince (before the addition of any other ingredients) had a fine flavour (yes, I was eating mince straight from the pan, I’m not ashamed), which still shined through on the addition of other ingredients.
Because I’m a greedy guts I also tried the beef topside (tasty roast) and the Goosnargh corn-fed chicken supremes – oh my gosh these were a) tasty b) stayed moist and c) massive, great value for money.
I’m a convert to Albert Matthews – I care about the provenance/welfare of my meat, so it’s great for conscious carnivores like me and all the produce is top quality and great tasting. The good news for lazy people like me, or those that live a little too far from Bury, is that they have a wonderful website, which has all the finer details of their producers, their products and some cracking offers; my favourite being the Choose Your Own Box (comes in totally recyclable packaging) – a good value box of a selection of different meats that you choose yourself; like a meaty veg box but without getting items you don’t want that rot at the back of your fridge for a year.
So get off your bottom/get your laptop out; stop buying cheap, mass produced, grey tasting meat from the supermarket and get some passion in your mouth.
Please note, I was given my box of meat for free, but am under no obligation to say anything nice – it’s just hard to say something bad against wonderful, passionate people.