Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Sizzling win for Hawke’s Bay butchery

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Boutique operation carves out two supreme awards, for ham and bacon.
Jordan and Varnnah Hamilton-Bicknell, centre, celebrate with their team at the 100% New Zealand Bacon & Ham Awards.
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An “old school” butchery in Hawke’s Bay is New Zealand’s best when it comes to producing bacon and ham.

Wild Game in Hastings has been named supreme winner in both the bacon and ham categories at the 100% New Zealand Bacon & Ham Awards in Auckland, with its middle eye/loin and boneless ham entries.

Wild Game owners Jordan and Varnnah Hamilton-Bicknell run the boutique butchery in Camberley, Hastings, creating quality products that are sold in-store and online.

Jordan Hamilton-Bicknell has a passion for hunting and the outdoors and started his butchery career as a 15-year-old in Woodville. After working six years for the previous owner of Wild Game, Hamilton-Bicknell took over the business and takes great pride in crafting his award-winning products.

“It blows me away to be the supreme winner of both the bacon and ham awards.  It’s the first time I have entered and I never thought I would win both,” he said.

“My secret is really just keeping it real, creating old school bacon and ham, using good quality New Zealand pork – keeping it simple and doing it well.”

The victory is a local success story with the winning pork being supplied by Dean Nikora of Crackling Good Farm, also in Hawke’s Bay.

Nikora said he is delighted to have played a part in Wild Game’s success.

“Supplying someone like Wild Game is critical to us because it helps us to grow, in terms of offering a specialised product, caring for the animal really well and being able to present it to Jordan in the way that he needs it. This allows him to create a superior product,” he said. 

Judging took place over three days, with a team of butchers and culinary experts inspecting and sampling the bacon and ham products, all produced from 100% New Zealand born and raised NZ pork. Gold, silver and bronze medals were awarded in each of the seven bacon categories and the two ham categories. From there, all gold medal winners were re-judged against each other to find NZ’s supreme bacon and ham.

Judge and food writer Ginny Grant said it was wonderful to see such a high standard of entries this year. 

“The judging panel were looking for great flavour, good salt levels, subtle smokiness and a nice even distribution of fat. It’s important to get those attributes right to allow the flavour of the pork to shine through,” Grant said.

“The Supreme Bacon winner was a great piece of bacon with a lovely balance of flavour.  Smoke didn’t dominate and most importantly it tasted of pork.”

A less traditional ham took out the supreme award, and the judges said it was quite unique but refreshing to see a pressed shoulder ham win a national award.

Grant said the winning ham was “a beautiful piece of meat – it looked and tasted amazing with a lovely texture”.

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