Producer spotlight: Richard Bosman
When it comes to food, most of us want to know that what we buy comes from a reliable source. Provenance tops the list of deciding factors when buying food, meat in particular. In the case of cured meats, we have a plethora of imported varieties available – Parma ham, Iberico jamon, Westphalian ham from Germany and the like. These products are all very nice, but what a lot of people don’t know is that here in South Africa we have access to some of the most delicious, carefully reared and expertly prepared free-range charcuterie in the world.
Enter Richard Bosman. A former suit, Richard gave up a successful career both locally and abroad working in retail to open what still remains one of Hermanus’ foodie draw cards. The Deli was where Richard first started experimenting with pork supplied by a friend who was rearing a few free-range pigs in the Hemel en Aarde valley. Soon enough, word spread and he began getting orders for his charcuterie from other establishments. Not one wanting to spend the rest of his days running a deli, Richard left the business in the capable hands of his ex-wife and took up a factory space in Killarney Gardens to focus entirely on his charcuterie. As I was shown round the facility, it became evident that Richard’s attitude towards his trade is unapologetically focused on quality. He’s made it his mission to continually refine his processes to yield the very best product. He experiments with really interesting spices and flavours, and sent me home with armfuls of samples, one of them being an experimental pancetta spiced with star anise, Shaosing rice wine and soy sauce. I am so excited to cook with it!
As Richard did, his staff learns from the master daily. A small team of four, each staff member is involved in all aspects of preparation, from boning, salting, smoking and packing. Each has their special skill, and they are so passionate about making their products. Richard’s skill comes from time spent with German fleishmeister Walter Haller, who taught him early on the value of patience, precision and technique required to truly master his trade.
Charlie Crowther’s affection towards pigs began at a very early age. After running livestock farms in the UK, Charlie returned home with his wife and bought up Glen Oakes farm in a breathtaking valley in the Hemel en Aarde, between Caledon and Hermanus. Not having any point of reference for free-range pig farming in South Africa, Charlie’s attempts have been based on trial and error, but boy is this man getting it right! Sourcing his parent stock from a breeding farm in the area, Charlie has grown his porky family up to 300 strong. Breeding a purebred Red Duroc boar with Landrace-Large White F1 crossbred females has created the ideal charcuterie pig, as is used in Parma, Italy.
With Charlie’s vast expanse of land primed lovingly for his pigs, the result is something of a marvel. Rearing the pigs the way he does take double the amount of time as a commercially farmed animal, as the pigs are encouraged to forage in their pastures of grass, clover and lucerne. They are fed three times a week on a special diet of mostly maize to encourage moderate weight gain. The animals receive no growth hormones or antibiotics, and because they roam freely this promotes even marbling of fat in the meat, which lifts the flavour profile immensely.
Charlie showed me every step of the rearing process, from the birthing pens to the loading area – I was overwhelmed at how much thought and care this man puts into rearing his pigs. I met the breeding boar, a 2 ½ year old, 200kg gentle giant, who came out to greet us and let Charlie scratch him tenderly. We drove past the irrigated paddocks, each of which contains sufficient pasture, water troughs, huts for sleeping under, treed areas for the pigs to retreat to from the sun and either wallowing holes or access to the stream that borders the front of the property. In the last month of the pigs’ lives, they are weighed regularly and kept on a diet of acorns that add even more flavour to the meat. These are seriously happy pigs! I mean, what else could they possibly want? I suggested weekly massages to Charlie, and he just laughed in his casual, happy way.
Richard Bosman supplies a number of local restaurants and eateries around Cape Town. And the good news is traveling fast! Franck Dangereaux buys the air-dried bacon amongst others for The Food Barn. &Union sell a select range at their premises on Bree Street. Melissa’s will also soon be stocking Richard’s charcuterie. It’s also available at the Biscuit Mill each week from The Charcuterie. And the product range is extensive, too: proscuitto, pancetta, coppa, salami, saucisson and bangers to name a few. If charcuterie’s your thing, you need not look anywhere else.
From the way Charlie allows his boar to enamour the female pigs in relaxed surroundings, to Richard’s gentle, engaging manner when selling his charcuterie, it is a real delight to have been privy to this amazing story from start to finish. These are people who, every day, compete against imported products and major retailers in the fight to educate the public about small-scale, locally produced, free-range charcuterie, made with so much love and care. These are stories that need to be told and shared, again and again.
Charlie Crowther runs self-catering cottages on his farm, Glen Oakes. And if you’re that way inclined, he also does one-on-one 4×4 training.