A Culloden butcher says he has lifted the equivalent of Olympic gold for his Lorne sausage.
A&I Quality Butchers in the Highlands was named as a national champion butcher for its square sausage at the Scottish Craft Butchers Award.
Meanwhile, in Arbroath, staff at D H Robertson were overjoyed with the success of its beef link sausage after it was given the top accolade.
The biennial awards also served up a regional award to Banff butcher John Stewart.
Winning is ‘significant for a butcher’
Culloden butcher Ali Paul, who has been in the trade for 45 years, lifted the honours for the Lorne sausage with his team at its Keppoch Road unit.
He likened his success to an athlete winning gold at the Olympics.
“I don’t think people realise what a significant thing this is for a butcher,” he said. “Sliced sausage is one of the pillars of the butcher’s trade and to be judged the best in Scotland is absolutely thrilling – it’s a huge achievement.”
Mr Paul is keeping the secret of his success close to his chest but explained that locally-sourced quality beef, combined with the correct ratio of fat, rusks, water and seasoning, produces his national winner.
“We’re making around 50 bars of 20 slices each week,” he said, “but I expect we’ll have to increase production to cope with the rush of customers a national title invariably brings.”
Mr Paul dedicated the championship to his 16-strong team. He said the team had “pulled out all the stops” to ensure the community was fed during the Covid pandemic.
During the Covid lockdown, The Press and Journal published a list of butchers who were still open around the region.
Mr Paul continued: “We went from delivering 30 orders a week before the crisis to 300 orders a week throughout,” he said. “We refused no one and the staff were fantastic – they just dug in and got on with it.
“To be crowned Scottish champions for our square sausage is something they can all take pride in, knowing it’s just reward for a job well done.”
‘We’ll be dining out on this for a long time to come’
Staff at the newly-crowned Scottish beef link sausage champion 2022, D H Robertson, were overjoyed with their success.
Owner Steven Bennett revealed that the championship-winning sausage that had lifted top honours was a recipe never entered for competition before.
“We’ve been working on an old recipe that I was given when I was an apprentice,” said Mr Bennett.
“We entered it for the championship in hope rather than expectation and we’re absolutely overwhelmed to emerge as champions – it’s just fantastic.
“To know we make the best beef link sausages in Scotland takes a little bit of getting used to but we’re thrilled to bits.”
Mr Bennett praised his young apprentices who have been in charge of the sausage development and production.
“The pressure is now on to make sure we produce plenty beef links to let everyone taste the best in Scotland,” he said. “We will be ensuring we don’t let the quality slip.”
Pork and beef links account for a large part of D H Robertson’s business, using locally sourced top quality meat and hand made at the shop.
Mr Bennett continued: “A Scottish championship for a core product is hard to beat so we’ll be dining out on this for a long time to come.”
Beef links accolade goes to Banff butcher
A Banff butcher was awarded the North of Scotland championship 2022 for beef link sausages.
John Stewart Butchers on the town’s High Street adds the accolade to his current regional title for pork sausages – and owner Andy Grant couldn’t be more delighted.
“This is a tremendous lift for us all at the start of the year,” he said. “The team has worked extremely hard throughout the Covid crisis and this is a reward for all their efforts – I’m absolutely thrilled.”
The biennial Scottish Craft Butchers Awards spotlighted five regional winners across the country, judging Mr Grant’s award-winning sausages third place in the whole of Scotland.
Mr Grant would not be drawn on what makes his newly crowned regional champion beef links winners, keeping the recipe a closely guarded secret.
In Dingwall, Fraser Brothers is hoping to go into a black pudding production overdrive after winning the North of Scotland championship for the Scottish delicacy.
It was also judged reserve champion for the whole of Scotland.
Delighted shop manager Murray Mackay said it was a “real coup” to secure the regional title for the third time for a core Scottish product.
“The business has been in the owner’s family since 1888 and many of our recipes are tweaked from original favourites handed down through the years,” he said.
“Our black pudding has enjoyed great success, taking the regional title three times now and the national title once in 2010 so we’re fairly confident we’ve got it just right.”
“Customers can just be confident that we keep the recipe consistent so that the same high quality of product is assured time after time,” he added.
Same products judged by experts and public
Scottish Craft Butchers president Tom Courts said the standard displayed in the competition typified the quality produced by craft butchers in every part of the country.
He said: “It’s great to see butchers vying for the accolades again after Covid and we’re seeing the very best of the best take this year’s awards.
“It gives a butcher a great lift to know his products are judged to be the best in Scotland and customers can be assured that the championship-winning product they buy across the counter at these butchers is exactly the same as those that secured the judges’ vote in the competition.”
NFU Scotland president Martin Kennedy and chief executive Scott Walker had the privilege of judging the championship final.
Speaking afterwards, Mr Kennedy said: “Scotland’s craft butchers have an incredible reputation for producing high quality, innovative products and getting to taste the very best the nation has to offer was an honour for us both.
“The nation’s butchers remain huge and loyal supporters of our red meat sector and their role in relaying to the public our fantastic story on local, sustainable, welfare and environment-friendly beef, lamb, pork and chicken is pivotal.
“It is no surprise that consumers have increasingly turned to butchers throughout the pandemic for reassurances on where their meat comes from and how it has been reared.
“And with such high-quality products, like those that made it to the final, the future for Scottish Craft Butchers is assured.”