Have you tried eating old cow yet?
- Credit: Sarah Lucy brown
Mature, slow-reared, locally sourced 10-year-old beef, hogget and mutton shouldn’t be missed this autumn adn winter says butcher Gerard King.
Old cow, hogget, mutton, game. No, we’re not reciting the menu for an Elizabethan banquet. These are just some of the glorious bounties of the land that we should all be enjoying, says craft butcher Gerard King, owner of Aldeburgh’s Salter & King.
If you want to put flavour into autumn and winter stews, braises, curries and Sunday lunches, you have to look beyond what your local supermarket can offer and speak to the real experts, such as Gerard, who are informed, knowledgeable and passionate about local produce.
The butcher will tell you (quite rightly) that slow-grown, properly reared meat tastes infinitely better than the often insipid, intensively reared variety.
For Gerard, provenance is so important. “As a butcher it’s vital to meet the farmers wherever possible in order to understand where the meat’s coming from. When I talk to customers I can actually picture in my head where the animal has been raised.”
Second to provenance is the age of many of the animals that pass through Gerard’s shop, including chickens from Chestnut Farm, which are three months old at slaughter - almost double that of a regular chicken - giving a traditional, deep rich flavour, just like granny would have cooked.
Something that headlines at Salter & King is ‘old cow’, which is around 10 to 12 years old at slaughter, as opposed to the usual 12 to 20 months, giving it a taste that can’t be surpassed.
Sourced from an award-winning herd of Lincoln Red at Iken, Gerard says the beef is “amazing”.
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“Our Old Cow is beef but even better. It has got another layer of flavour that’s much richer and deeper with a texture that holds up better to long cooking. It’s got another layer of unctuousness that’s really noticeable.”
You might think such a meat will be much more expensive due to a longer lifespan, but that’s not the case. According to Gerard, because the cattle haven’t been fed-up or intensively reared - living instead on grass for most of their lives without being fattened up - the cost is not far off what you’d pay for run-of-the-mill beef.
Another specialism for him is mutton, with the majority coming from Jason Gathorne-Hardy’s Alde Valley flock, and hoggets coming from Westleton. In case you’re wondering, hogget is a year old, and anything two years or more is mutton. Gerard says we should be making so much more of this tasty, now relatively hard-to-find, meat.
“Compared to lamb, mutton has got that extra layer of flavour to it - and you can still cook legs of mutton slightly pink in the middle as long as the butcher hangs it properly. I always hang lamb for a week, hogget for 10 days and mutton for two to three weeks. It’s a misconception that mutton is much more chewy than lamb. A lot of it is in the hanging. You can have mutton chops, a leg, or a shoulder cooked long and slow. Or curries, tagines, hot pots and Irish stew - mutton is perfect for one-pot cooking.”
Now that we’re in the cooler months, game - sourced from east Suffolk and Lincolnshire - is coming into the butchery too.
“I love game,” says Gerard. “It’s lean, delicious, environmentally-friendly and completely free-range. And this year we’re making ‘ready for the pot’ game. It’s oven prepared so when you get it home it’s ready to go. We remove some of the bones from the birds, then roll them in our own hand-made pancetta with a nice layer of herbs and seasoning so that they self-baste while cooking and are lovely and juicy.”
Also look out for haunches of wild venison, venison steaks and burgers. “Anything you can do with beef mince you can do with wild venison,” says Gerard, “and its low fat content makes it a winner for people following a diet.”
If you want to learn more about cooking game, Gerard will be giving a demonstration at The White Lion with head chef James Barber on October 9 as part of the ‘Ladies Who Lunch’ series. He’ll also be working with chef Peter Harrison on ‘farm suppers’ at White House Farm in Great Glemham - home of the Alde Valley Spring Festival.
You’ll find meat sourced and butchered by Gerard at several local restaurants and pubs too, including the brand new grill, Ogilvie at Thorpeness Golf Club & Hotel.
“Try the salt beef hash at The Dolphin in Thorpeness,” recommends Gerard. “We cure the beef for Chris and he makes a mean hash with it. They’ve got a great approach to meat. And James at the White Lion is really experimental with the meat he buys from me. At the moment his wonderful chicken broth is worth stopping by for.’
All in all, it’s clear that Gerard is passionate about good meat, making Salter & King the must-visit butcher’s shop for Suffolk’s meat-lovers. And if you’re less-than-local, Salter & King deliver online, as well as having their own ‘Good Meat Club’ with recipes and interesting meaty news.