We mainly sell meat; it has no gluten. However, as soon as you start adding value and variety, you are into all sorts of potential allergens. Sausages! Every butcher produces sausages, and traditional rusk or breadcrumb has gluten, that bit’s obvious. Burgers, unless they are 100% meat, the likelihood is there will be gluten or other allergens in them. Then there are the glazes, marinades, meat rubs, stuffings and so on, the list goes on. As butchers we must think about all this and navigate our way through the labelling, declarations etc.
A while ago we had the chefs from Exeter Chiefs, our local premiership rugby team, visit for a tour of our premises. The question of sausages came up and the lightbulb moment was when he said “we find it simpler to only use gluten free”.
I think to myself, well that’s obvious, can we do it, will they taste as good, is it more expensive, etc etc.
We started experimenting and testing. Whilst this was ongoing a friend called Anne ordered some sausages and burger. There was a miscommunication on the phone and the wrong sausages were sent. They were correctly labelled, and she immediately spotted they weren’t gluten free; she quite rightly gave us a hard time! This inspired us to look even more closely at the range we do and try to remove gluten from everything. That was the ambition.
The taste and texture though? We always want to sell the best. Flavour, texture, and nutritious, that’s what we want. So, we started to experiment with gluten-free mixes for sausages and burgers. We made a batch tried it, changed the mix, tried it, and carried on doing this across the full range. I have now been eating sausage and burger twice a day for 5 weeks. I am beginning to look like a burger, in the interest of perfection. I believe we are almost there!
The thing with gluten is it is glutinous. It’s sticky, if you aren’t careful this produces a rubbery burger and a harder textured sausage. Lesson number one has been: – gluten free sausages and gluten free burgers actually have a better texture than those with gluten in. It is actually so loosely textured, you need to put less in, to much and the sausage goes a bit porridgy. This increase in meat content requires a balancing increase in herbs, spices and salt.
Free-from: – the next logical step was to see what else we can take out without loosing the great flavours we have produced. We discovered our ingredients supplier has a natural preservative available, so the hated E numbers including sulphites have been removed. We have reduced the other potential allergens to pretty well zero. We continue to test each batch we make, everyone in the company tries them randomly and all opinions are given serious consideration. The tweaks we make are reducing as we pursue sausage and burger flavours using a variety of meats. We will never be content as there is always improvements, we can make but we believe we are getting there.
All the burgers and sausages we sell in our meat boxes are now gluten free. We are now sourcing and developing marinades, rubs and coatings to allow our full range to be free from all allergens and Es.