If you’re a regular customer at either Cafe @ All Saints in Hereford or Michaelhouse Cafe in Cambridge it can’t have escaped your notice that we are big fans of the Tudge family and all that they produce: Free range chickens and rare breed pigs which are used for sausages, bacon, ham and everything else porky.
When we opened up in Cambridge we started off using some (really quite good) Cambridgeshire bacon from the River Farm smokery at Bottisham from where we also get our smoked salmon and duck for Michaelhouse. But our chefs – all of whom had used Tudge’s produce in Herefordshire – weren’t satisfied with ‘really quite good’. They wanted Tudge. The bacon, sausages and ham are uniquely flavoursome and they didn’t want to offer our customers anything less. Lots of butchers claim to sell ‘traditional dry-cured bacon’ and ‘real old-fashioned sausages’ but to my tastebuds and those the chefs I work with, Tudge products are unique. I would challenge anyone in a blind tasting especially of their bacon and ham, to come up with anything to compete.
Like many of the best things in life this delicious range of chicken and pig products came not out of a business plan but as a result of dire necessity. Gordon Tudge (now supposedly retired but still selling at the Farmers Markets of Herefordshire most weeks) had just bought his brother out of the family farm when the BSE crisis struck. ‘I had a lot of debt and no income at all – it’s wonderful how that focuses the mind’. His salvation came in the shape of Shaun Hill who said he would buy proper pork for his restaurant if Gordon started farming Berkshire pigs. ‘To be honest if he’s said he’d wanted sharks I would have agreed’. After initially relying on Shaun Hill’s enthusiastic purchasing of his pork Gordon then discovered and helped nurture the nascent Farmers Market movement in Herefordshire. Before long he added (very) free range chickens to the rare breed pigs.
The success of the farmers’ markets enabled him to grow his business to the point where his sons Chris and Guy gave up well paid urban jobs and came with their young families to join him in the farm. It’s now a thriving and efficient setup with a sparklingly clean production unit and smokery alongside the traditional farm buildings. Seeing the Tudges’ pigs and chickens makes you understand what ‘free range’ should be and so often is not. The pigs look deeply contended with space to rootle around and the flock of 2000 or so birds have a 24 acre field – far larger than they actually have the courage to explore.
If you aren’t close enough to come to one of the Herefordshire farmers markets then you can order the Tudges’ delicious produce via http://www.tudge-meats.co.uk/frameset.htm
And if you’re in Hereford or Cambridge and need your fix of Tudge just come in to one of our cafes and ask for a bacon butty or a sausage and onion marmalade sandwich. Pure happiness from field to tummy.