Wildman Charcuterie: An approach that is rooted in tradition
Chris Wildman’s staunchly local approach to producing his European-inspired range is a continuation and modernisation of generations-old practice
The owner of Wildman Charcuterie puts his recent Champion of Champions win for his bresaola at the British Charcuterie Live Awards down to the provenance of his beef, but this is nothing new.
The fifth-generation butcher and grazier’s family has been rearing, slaughtering and selling meat in the Yorkshire Dales since the 1800s, and Chris Wildman sees his business as a continuation – and modernisation – of this lineage. “Our family’s been making charcuterie for years,” he says, “bacon, pâté, headcheese, potted meat – it’s all charcuterie, but we just didn’t call it that.”
Wildman’s journey into Continental-style products began 15 years ago when touring the farmer’s markets and food festivals of the North flogging his family’s produce. He decided the offer needed something different to draw in the customers – and one with a shelf-life of more than just three days. Yorkshire Chorizo was born.
The product took off – with a little help from a Saturday Kitchen-inspired fad for the spicy Spanish sausage – and subsequently, more lines were introduced. Inspired by his travels in Europe, Wildman set about putting a Yorkshire twist on many Continental classics.
Now, the range includes the champion Malhamdale Bresaola, home-cured bacons, various salamis – including the award-winning Marmaduke and beer sticks made with North Brewing Co beer – guanciale, pancetta, speck and even a Chorizo Jam made in collaboration with Rosebud Preserves.
Wildman’s Yorkshire Gin Coppa exemplifies the charcutier’s approach. After production is complete at Whittaker’s Distillery, he collects buckets of the used, spirit-drenched botanicals and freezes them. “Then, I just get a handful out and it’ll be packed with orange peel and juniper, cinnamon stick, aniseed, sometimes rhubarb and I just put that in with my cure. It imparts this amazing flavour into the muscle,” says Wildman.
This regional sourcing is important to Wildman, as is – unsurprisingly – the provenance of the meat that is used in his charcuterie and salumi. The Longhorn beef which goes into the Malhamdale Bresaola is from the family’s own herd and, before this year’s lockdown, the family farm’s own Oxford Sandy and Blacks were also used, but that has now changed. “A friend produces the most amazing Yorkshire woodland pork,” he says. “He works with various estates in their woodland areas to graze his pigs, then moves on. It’s regenerative for the woodlands and makes incredible meat.”
During lockdown when Town End Farm Shop – the retail business Wildman also runs – was quiet, the charcutier had time to keep production consistent, putting two pigs a week into the curing chambers, and experimenting with new flavours.
Now, with the tourist season in full swing and restaurants back open, the producer is faced with a busy farm shop and a waiting list for his products. “It could be the award win, but to be honest, I think that just accentuated the problem,” he says. “We have a product that people seem to appreciate and so I need to try and fulfil that demand and take it on to the next level.”
The retailer-charcutier says, with just him and his brother, Nigel, running Wildman Charcuterie, he needs to take a step back from the farm shop to focus on increasing production and playing with new flavours.
Wildman currently has various experimental new lines in development – including something using an illicit-looking, top-secret bag of herbs from a Michelin-starred restaurant in Yorkshire – something which he believes is the biggest asset of British charcuterie.
“The Continental world is very traditional, fiercely local, and they may have been making the same product for hundreds of years in their little village, but over here it’s about innovation and trying new things.
“We have a great position where we can experiment and create some new charcuterie with our own regional flair.”