Even though it’s early days, our new supper club is already developing a theme. We find wonderful local independent suppliers, incorporate their produce into our menu and ask them to say a few words about it on the night.
Last month our local butcher Lee Frost from WH Frost’s, Chorlton, supplied us with the delicious best end of Cheshire lamb we served for our main course. It’s refreshing to have the opportunity to hear more details about the food you eat in a world where meat now comes from all over the world, shrink wrapped and generically labelled with only basic information on supermarket shelves.
He told us that the lamb was handpicked directly from Chelford market, despatched at the local abattoir in Tabley, and then butchered in Chorlton where it was hung for 10 days. So it had only travelled around 10 miles from field to fork. He’ll also be supplying us with the meat for most of our supper clubs, so we asked him to tell us more about it.
WH Frost was established in 1890 and was originally based in Moss Side before moving to its present home in Chorlton in the late 1960’s. Four generations later the business is now run by Lee and 3 of his brothers, watched over by patriarch Jack. Two of the brothers concentrate on the retail side, preparing meat for the shop, whilst the other two are responsible for the wholesale side, selling the meat served in many of the North West’s top restaurants.
It is 67 yr old Jack who gets up at 4am to choose the best animals on show at market. Just as I was gasping in shock at that early start, Lee quipped that his dad gets a lie in as the rest of them have to start work at 3am. I asked Lee why we should go to him for our meat rather than the supermarkets, their main competition.
“All our meat is sourced locally from local livestock markets supplied by independent farms around Cheshire. So we support the local economy. Nothing is delivered to us unseen; it’s all carefully handpicked by Jack who chooses the best on offer. Not many butchers go to such detail. There is also less packaging and less food miles.”
Lee is also a real champion of the North West
“The Cheshire plains are flat which encourages superior produce as the sheep don’t develop tough muscles by climbing about all over the place. Our weather offers the best grazing for sheep and cattle. The quality of the animals’ food is in turn reflected in the quality of the meat.”
As we are keen to concentrate on seasonality regarding our supper club menus, I asked if meat had an optimum season despite the fact that it’s available all year round.
“Beef is good all year round but best in autumn after cattle have been grazing on fresh grass for 4 months. During the colder months they tend to be housed indoors eating silage (hay and stored grass) and cattle feed/maize.”
He told us that the best time to eat lamb was not Easter as most people believe, but September/October. Spring lamb has been born around January/February but better quality lamb has had the chance to gambol about outside over the summer.
So there you go. In a time when good quality local independent high street businesses are floundering under pressure from supermarkets, it’s worth taking the time to buy local.
Thanks to Christelle Vaillant for the photographs