Bacon is a beloved staple of the English breakfast table. From its signature aroma—fabled for its ability to stir the deepest of sleepers—to its savoury flavour, it’s a must for a meaty first meal of the day. Fortunately for guests at Summer Lodge Country House Hotel & Restaurant, our local suppliers include Royal Warrant-holder Denhay. This butcher is behind some of the most masterfully hand-cured bacon in the British Isles. Here we talk to Denhay’s Ellen Streatfeild, whose grandfather established the venerable farm.
Firstly, can you tell us about your history?
“Denhay Farms was established in 1952 in West Dorset by my grandfather, Commander Streatfeild, and a friend, Lord Hood. They started by raising beef, sheep and pigs as well as milking cows. We started producing traditional hand-dry-cured bacon in 1994 using our own whey-fed pigs.
Due to the nature of the pig industry, we stopped pig production in 2000 and now only source our meat from high welfare, outdoor-bred British pigs. 25 years later, we are still able to produce our traditional dry-cured bacon to the same high quality.”
How are your pigs raised?
“Having consistency of meat supply is the key to our high-quality product, which is why we only use British outdoor-bred pigs sourced from one area. These pigs are born and raised outside and then come into large straw-bedded barns.”
What sets your hand-curing process apart?
“We have used the same hand-made method since we started in 1994, which ensures each loin or belly is visually inspected, the salt is then rubbed in and the meat is left to mature for up to two weeks. Selected loins and bellies are then smoked naturally over a beech wood smoke. This whole process takes a lot longer than mass produced bacon and ensures that each rasher is succulent in flavour and retains a meaty texture.”
Bacon is a staple of British culinary culture, especially breakfast. Are there any unusual food pairings you can recommend?
“I have a delicious recipe for Denhay Bacon Chocolate Brownies! The bacon just adds an unexpected layer to this pudding which my kids love. Also, in our household we manage to get our bacon into nearly every dish at Christmas—my favourite being brussels sprouts, chestnuts and smoked streaky bacon.”
You were awarded a Royal Warrant in 2008—an extraordinary honour. How did you achieve it?
“We started producing bacon for the Duchy Originals brand in the late 90s. During this time, we met quite regularly with HRH The Prince of Wales who became a big fan of our bacon. We then started producing a special batch just for him every couple of months, which we continue to do today.
Receiving the Royal Warrant was a massive honour and every employee in the business is proud to see the stamp of approval on every pack of bacon we produce.”
Can you share your plans for 2020?
“2019 was a busy year for us as we changed our retail packs from black plastic to clear recyclable trays. It took over a year of research and development to launch it, but we are very happy with the result. We also launched our Wiltshire Cure Thick Cut Smoked back bacon, which is fabulous, and we hope to grow sales of that this year. We are also working on a new bacon but that is all top secret at the moment!”
Stay at Red Carnation Hotels’ Summer Lodge Country House Hotel & Restaurant to enjoy Denhay bacon alongside other locally supplied Dorset delicacies at the breakfast table.