Barry Walker from the Hampshire Salami Company was successful in winning a Gold plus two Bronze Medals for its cured meat products at the prestigious British Charcuterie Awards on the 2nd August.

Only established in February this year, the six-month-old ‘Hampshire Salami Company’ was successful in winning a Gold Medal for its Hampshire Black salami, and two Bronze Medals, one each for its Italian inspired Capocollo (cured pork collar) and its Hampshire style Italian ‘Sopressa’ salami.

The British Charcuterie Awards were held at Blenheim palace on the 2nd August as part of BBC Countryfile Live. This hotly contested competition attracted over 100 meat curers and salami makers from all over the UK;  entering over 400 products into the various classes.

“I entered four products into the competition and nervously wondered if our products were good enough,” explains Barry Walker.  “I was ecstatic when our first Bronze Medal was announced, and even prouder to receive a second. However when the Gold was announced I was in total shock, especially as the business has been trading for less than six-months.”

The Hampshire Salami Company makes predominantly Italian influenced cured pork products as well as several speciality cures of beef and lamb which in all total 12 unique recipes. In addition, Hampshire Salami also smokes several of its products to add extra flavour. Now the business is also launching a range of artisan handmade fresh sausages from Italian, Spanish and French influence, to add breadth to the range.

An enthusiastic self-taught cook and butcher, Barry started meat curing ‘Italian style’ in 2010 on the kitchen table, as a hobby, seeking those parts of the house where conditions may be right for hanging and curing. Eventually, with a house full of hanging and curing salami, an all‑consuming passion began and still holds true to this day. Two years ago, Barry set about commercialising his new passion, looking for suitable premises and gaining the requisite authorisations to cure meat to sell to the public.

Based on the Wolverton Park Estate, between Basingstoke and Kingsclere, the Hampshire Salami Co premises was once part of the butchery on the estate, and was in a state of disrepair. Barry set about creating the right environment, with a walk in cold room and maturation room, where some of the products, like his Prosciutto Crudo style hams, can mature for up to 24-months, and where controlling the temperature and humidity is paramount.

All the meat used in the curing and manufacturing process comes from known sources, as well as local producers and in true artisan style, Barry only cures one pig at a time and not buying in commercial meat cuts. Curing one pig ‘nose to tail’ ensures that the true value of the process is upheld, and that the animal’s life is respected and made into the best products as is possible.

From each pig a variety of products are manufactured, including Capocollo from the shoulder, Lonza from the loin, a Parma style ham from the legs or sometimes this may be a smoked version known as Speck, Pancetta from the belly and up to 10 varieties of salami from the other parts of the animal.

With scant information available on the art of curing in the UK, Barry initially bought books from America and Australia written by second and third generation Italians, because little information was available from Italy. Wanting to get closer to the secrets of curing Italian style, Barry also acquired what books were available from Italy, which he has now translated to English, getting closer to the secrets of Italian meat curing.

Gaining inspiration and recipes to fuel his passion Barry travels to Italy at least twice a year, discovering and exploring new regions each time, foraging out the best products, visiting producers and working with salami makers in their factories. Having now travelled from the ‘heel-n-toe’ of Italy right up to the north; probing the undiscovered Italy, steering off the beaten track and re‑defining the culinary ‘Road Trip’, Barry also makes time for the odd pit stop to meet wine and cheese makers, as well as the best markets and places to eat.

Having now established the ‘Hampshire Salami Co’, Barry wants to ‘Cure Hampshire one pig at a time’. He is working with producers of local livestock and helping farmers add value where ever possible, using many of those recipes discovered on those Italian road trips.

Barry continued: “Having products ready and in ‘tip top’ order for the British Charcuterie awards was not easy. It’s a little like entering blooms into a flower show and getting them to be just right on the day of judging.  The ironic thing is I was slicing Capocollo for our mobile deli at Winchester market the week before the awards and I could not believe how stunning it was. The product that I sliced for the British Charcuterie awards was good but sadly did not have the same depth of flavour. Could we have got a Silver with what was sent to market? We will never know!  So, I will be more diligent next year and am already working on several new recipes that may excite the judges. Winning such prestigious awards in our first six months makes me incredibly proud.”

The most recent development for the business has been the development of the Hampshire Deli, which operates from a purpose-built delicatessen trailer at Winchester Market on Friday and Saturday. With sides that open to reveal glass fronted chilled display cabinets and from where the business sells the cured meats from Hampshire Salami, as well as our own fresh Italian, Spanish Merguez sausages, artisan breads and Hampshire cheeses.