RANT. Over. Torvehallerne.

I spent part of my afternoon yesterday agitated and annoyed. I know that I’m getting older as I’m loosing patience easier and am often not as tolerant as I used to be. Why was I annoyed? Well, I overreacted, but my little episode has taught me a valuable lesson about hiring staff (I’m blowing this out of all proportion, all I had was some shitty service).IMG_0406First, let’s have a run through of what I’d been up to. Torvehallerne – two great big glasshouses in a cobbled square on the edge of Copenhagen city centre. They’re built in an ‘up and coming area’, an area a few years ago which was much more unsavoury. The glasshouses are home to two market halls – I find it strange that Copenhagen had no public market prior to this, bizarre even. However, I wouldn’t really compare the market to what we think of as a traditional provisions market, this is a gentrified equivalent, a haven for designed, dressed retailers where moneyed locals and wide eyed camera holding tourists wander the aisles. There’s nothing quite like it in the UK to compare it with (to my knowledge). Some blogs I’d read pre-trip had compared it to Borough Market, but even nowadays with Borough acting as a tourist hub itself, they’re not alike. I remember being introduced to Borough by a Location Manager friend during the early 2000’s, I absolutely loved it. So much so that one year we made it up to London for Christmas Eve just to experience the buzz of the market. I miss the honesty of the place, I was introduced to Gorwydd Caerphilly at Borough, huge rounds of cheese atop a wooden trestle and that was it. No dressing up, no vintage crates, no enamelware, no galv, just the product.IMG_0350

The closest market that it reminded me of is the Oxbow Public Market in Napa, California, though this is much bigger and didn’t feel quite as relaxed. Quite a few people had told me to come to see the market, I don’t know whether that built expectation but it probably contributed to my feelings toward the market. Firstly, it’s stunning, it’s clean, tidy, well presented, beautiful – it’s a spectacle. And that’s probably what killed it for me, tourists are there taking pictures, and locals cling to a small few stalls that they trust – it doesn’t have the feel of a thriving provisions market. It was a Tuesday I know, so I did’t expect it to be packed, but the meat counters were tired looking, they were nicely dressed it’s just the meat had been sat for days. Similarly some of the smaller stalls were immaculate, but you could tell by the servers bored stare that they were clock watching. Earlier this year I went to Spain with some friends, the two markets that we visited in Cadiz and Jerez (especially the fish counters) are amongst the best markets I’ve ever seen, even the small towns in the mountains had incredible markets with just one or two stalls with produce that was out of this world. Each counter was bustling, queues were 3 or 4 deep and most stalls had sold out by lunchtime.IMG_0360

I’m a creature of habit, and when I visit a market I tend to do a walkabout, check out which stalls are busiest, try a few things out and then head back at the end to the stalls that I thought had the best produce. So, I took my tour, had a lovely chat with Bernie from Austria, an ex-Chef training as a butcher on the Cleaver’s stall and who was looking to come to the UK to further train as a butcher. The stall was mainly fresh meat, with a small amount of processed products including sausages from Mineslund!IMG_0374They had some beautiful beef, a wonderful young marbled entrecote/rib-eye from Danish dairy cattle, and some nice aged beef from grain-fed American cattle. They also sold Australian Wagyu (200Kr/Kg) but his pride and joy was their Danish pork from Hindsholm Grisen. They’re an organic, free range producer who rear Duroc breed pigs. From the information on their website they have a very specific breeding regime, sows farrow once per year rather than the commercial 2.5 (5 times per 2 years) and are fed a soya free diet. They’re slow grown, and are weaned late from the mother. It sounds like an idyllic set-up and had I more time, I’d probably try and organise a visit. One thing did strike me as odd – the choice of the Duroc breed, they’re well known for fast growth and good daily live weight gains and seemed an odd choice for slow growth. Bernie and I had a bit of a too and fro on where the Duroc breed comes from, he claimed UK, I thought US. Something for wikipedia to answer… yes, I win USA! USA! USA!

IMG_0371Tired of doing my bit as a gawping tourist taking pictures, I picked the coffee shop with the longest queue and joined it. Now, I’m not a coffee aficionado, I can’t name beans in the way that wine connoisseurs know their grapes, but I do really like my coffee. I’m a bit geekish, I have various ways of making fresh coffee – cafetiere(that’s French press to the Americans), filter but at the moment my favourite is the aeropress (and yes, I have a bean grinder too – am I starting to sound like a twat?). Coffee Collective started off well, I placed my order with an obvious coffee geek –  he ran through the types of coffee they had, where in the world they were from, he was a fountain of knowledge and I placed myself in his capable hands. That’s when things started to go down hill. My coffee was being made by a ‘tanned Danish God’ (my words, but I’m sure he would have been happy with the description). He had an attitude of aloof coolness about him, an attitude that in reality just makes you out to be an absolute tool to the rest of humanity. I started worrying about the quality of the coffee when the whole hoopla of making a brew turned into a show (remember Tom Cruise in Cocktail?). The result; 15mins of waiting uncomfortably for a filter coffee served by a man who ignored me for most of that time; and the coffee itself… on a par with American gas station coffee.IMG_0396

I was irritated at this point, slightly annoyed. I appreciate a bit of flair and theatre, it adds to an experience, but not when the product is terrible. Sadly, I thought this would be the very worst of my market experience, but it wasn’t. The market isn’t to blame really; I am, I chose badly, like a sheep I went with the masses rather than go with gut instinct of who to buy from. Onto Palaeo, that’s right a fast food joint based on caveman ideals. I went for the Palaeo Dog, a smoked organic and free range pork hot dog (though it was more like a brat) in a square omelette with a load of fancy dressing. Sadly, the omelette was cold and limp, the dressing was lumped in bottom part of the omelette and made a soggy mess, but what as worst of all was the tasteless dog – no porkyness, no smokeyness, I could see pieces of chili but I couldn’t taste it.IMG_0410

Having a story, ideal or even a gimmick is fine, but it puts added pressure on you to deliver a good quality product. The Palaeo stall was buzzing, in addition to the small indoor tables their outdoor benches were filled with diners, one of the few places busy mid-afternoon. Was I the purchaser of a single poor item on the menu? Or were we all there like sheep because of pretension? Half eaten, the dog went in the bin, and I headed to find something else to eat and a decent cup of coffee.

IMG_0391So, to give the market its due there were some exceptional stalls. The two fresh fish counters were busy, their fish looked good, bright and their fish was selling well. There were other very popular stalls especially those selling ready to eat food, a liitle Tapas bar was rammed full. But I hadn’t come to Copenhagen to buy from the faux Italian, Spanish and French stalls. There was a real buzz outside – benches and tables were packed with people eating and drinking. Some small more traditional outdoor fruit and veg stalls were doing good business, but their boxed veg stood in contrast to the perfect washed and presented veg inside.IMG_0393Something about the market didn’t rest easily with me. I’m not sure whether it was to do with the fact that for the most part, these were retail stalls i.e. selling a range of goods by different producers. High-end artisan markets work far better when they have a direct connection with the producer, there were a few of these stalls there, and these were the ones that seemed to ‘work’ for me.

So, what did I learn? Choose your staff well, they represent your company, and a poor service will invariably turn people off the produce. Secondly, and more importantly – quality is everything. It doesn’t matter if you use every buzz word going  – ‘free range’, ‘high welfare’, ‘organic’ etc if the product is crap, it’s crap. If I provide crap service, I want to know, I want to do better, I want my customers to be happy.

Monday Crapola

Up early, todays visit was the reason I was coming to Denmark. I wanted to see a large-scale, intensive Danish pig farm. I had the most incredible breakfast at my B&B to start the day, and I was ready to leave at 7:30IMG_0163Then came the call; my guide for the day had been taken ill and he would have to wait for the office to open to see if he could find a replacement to take me. Getting into one of these farms has proven tricky for me, only last week some leads I’d made with one of the largest Danish producers had fallen flat and I thought then that I wouldn’t get to see any of them. With time to kill I made my way to the town of Slagelse, the largest shopping centre in the region for a wander. Some unplanned free time came in handy, I needed fuel, and like a stupid tourist abroad I struggled with the automated pumps until a kindly lady pointed out to me that they didn’t accept debit cards, only credit cards or cash. I found a parking spot in one of the main squares in Slagelse and even though it was early you’re pretty much guaranteed that bakers and butchers will be open. On the edge of town in a quaint brick building stood Slagter Thomsen, a traditional Danish butchery.IMG_0176Butcheries or charcuteries in many European countries (France and Germany spring to mind) offer a differing function to what we expect at home. Slagter Thomsen was an excellent example of this. Fresh meat forms a very small part of the offering in the store, cooked meats, meals to be cooked or re-heated at home dominate. The role of the store keeper is far more than meat, it’s the preparation of meat in all its forms. This is what attracts me to ‘charcuterie’. Too often in the UK, when the term is mentioned, people think of air dried meats and salami. To me, it’s about the versatility of someone who can turn meat into a range of different products, and who can also cook those products and serve them to the public.IMG_0192It was an absolute joy to trawl the cabinets in the store, and the staff were utterly patient with me in answering all my questions. Even though it was early, there was a steady stream of customers coming in for their breakfast, or picking up a prepared sandwich or meal for their lunch. Every time I take a trip away I always say to myself, next time I’ll book somewhere with a kitchen. It’s an utter shame that I keep on visiting such excellent purveyors of produce without fully being able to test out their products.IMG_0180With no sign of a pig visit on the horizon I had to have a change of itinerary, so I headed to the nearby port of Korskor. I’d parked next to the cinema, which I later found out is the Oldest Cinema in the World (ok, the building isn’t original but it’s the oldest cinema in the world still operating on the same spot). The lady in the Tourist Information just happened to be the chairperson at the cinema, and she gave me some history. I know it’s not meat, nor food related but as I’m a volunteer projectionist and trustee at Cross Hands Public Hall and Cinema, it was just up my street. Next stop, the harbour at Skaelsor and a recommendation to visit the produce shop at the nearby Castle.IMG_0202I remembered that another participant on the Taste Local Bursary scheme had been to see a small fish producer/smoker in Skaelsor so I headed for the hut on the quayside. He was shut, as was the local museum, the town hall that had a new photographic exhibition on and pretty much anything else I wanted to see (including the produce shop at the Castle).IMG_0219

The only thing that seemed to be doing any real business on the main street was what I thought was a high end wine shop. When I entered, I realised it was so much more, it also sold posh chocs, loose teas, fresh coffee, kitchenalia, real ale, an incredible selection of whisky and the aforementioned wine. However, in complete contrast it also seemed to function as an ad hoc betting shop, in the corner was a lotto machine and a screen with the results for the gee gees. Lovely shop though, and I watched the assistant put a set of exquisite hampers together for one of the customers.IMG_0233

The lack of pig visit had truly cocked up my day. The plan for tomorrow should be a visit to a beef farm, but as pigs are my thing, I managed to re-arrange the visit (fingers crossed) for tomorrow morning, leaving the afternoon free to head back to Copenhagen. One slight problem – the beef farm, and my hotel for the night is 60miles to the south of where I’d spent my day. Queue another long drive and an early start tomorrow.

And remember kids, Hulk Hogan says…IMG_0198

Host Marked & Kulinarisk Rosenfeldt

Day two, and I’m quickly clocking up some serious miles. The landscape is pretty much the same so far, wide stretches of arable land, a few small wooded areas, lakes, rivers, sea and lots of windmills. I’m impressed by the amount of arable land that I’ve seen, the only other crop of note is the odd pocket of maize, grazing land is kept to a minimum. With so much cereal, there’s no wonder the Danish produce so many pigs!IMG_0022First stop was Krogagergard, an Organic Farm close to Ringsted in central Zealand. I’d chosen to visit them for a few reasons… we’re not Organic Farmers ourselves, I would love to be. We try our hardest to make the best quality produce available, but we also want to be reasonably priced. We’re competitive on supermarket prices on our fresh meat, sausage and bacons and I’m often told that we’re too cheap. Were we to make the leap to Organic we’d have to pass that cost of production onto the customer, which would ultimately narrow our market.

While researching for this trip, it was quite obvious that Danish pork producers fell into two categories – intensive or niche, and that niche often meant that producers are both extensive and organic. In the UK, it’s a far more complicated mix of production methods but what was apparent from my conversations today, is that the Danish are far more in touch with their methods of production. Ask most small pig farmers or smallholders what they feed their animals and they’d probably answer that it was bought from a mill or feed merchant ready mixed. They might know the percentage of protein but that’s probably it. Most sources of protein in animal feeds in the UK today derives from genetically modified soya from North and South America. The majority of pork on our supermarket shelves, on our butchers counters and in our farmers markets has been fed GM soya. Not so the Farmers Markets in Denmark.

IMG_9944There was a reason why I was visiting Krogagergard today, the first weekend in September is the ‘Organic Harvest Market‘. It’s an annual event where organic farms throw their doors gates open and welcome in visitors to see their farms. I parked up in a freshly cut barley field, and wandered into the farm courtyard, hand drawn signs noted the times of the hourly ‘Tractor Visits’, talks that were taking place and events that were happening through the day. An ad hoc playground from barley straw bales had been built nearby for the kids and local food producers were busy setting up their stalls for the day.IMG_9981I headed to see Kirsten one of the owners at the on-farm shop and butchery first before taking a wider farm tour. It was an extensive shop, with a range of organic produce, with dry goods, frozen meat and vegetables from the farm. The processing unit sat directly behind the retail counter, and was a similar size to Mineslund with a piston stuffer, bowl chopper, mincers, vacuum packer and small smokehouse. The choice of produce was similar to what I’d seen yesterday, it was extensive once more, and I was truly impressed with the work that had gone into all the products. I had a taste of their salami, and a rolled cured and cooked belly (which was the standout product for me).

IMG_9966Everything I’ve seen so far has been dearer than UK prices, but I hadn’t realised that everything in Denmark was liable to VAT of 25%. With that taken into account, the +VAT price is pretty close to the UK norm, cheaper if anything considering it’s Organic produce.

IMG_9988The whole farm was open for you to wander, I don’t think this would ever happen in the UK. One shed was filled with machinery, tools, grain mills and assorted bits of equipment. I was in absolute heaven, but it was a ‘health and safety nightmare’. That said, it was obvious that things had been tidied, brushed down and made presentable for the day, but there was no doubt that this was a working farm. This wasn’t a smallholding, or a hobby farm for a pair of Good Lifers, this place saw a lot of hard work.

IMG_0011As the tractor tour was full (the google translation from their website reads ‘pulled torture’) and I didn’t want to deny one of the kids a ride, so a group of us stragglers wandered after the tractor to the outlying areas of the farm. I finally saw my first pigs of the trip! Yay!

IMG_0021Their pigs are kept outdoors throughout the year unless the weather is atrocious and are fed a mixed ration of cereals grown on the farm with peas as their protein source. Breed doesn’t seem that important, as there was diversity of genes in the pigs. They were Danish Landrace but either they’d been crossed sometime in the past or had a modern cross as their ears weren’t to breed standard. Cattle are kept both indoors and outdoors, though their pens were empty today for the visit.

After a full morning of wandering, chatting and nosing in all the sheds I made a move south. I had plenty of time to ponder what I’d seen that morning. Another meat business set in the midst of nowhere that was seemingly doing very well. It crossed my mind for a brief minute, should we have a farm shop of our own?

IMG_0026My afternoon was spent at Culinary Rosenfeldt a food festival being held in the grand setting of the grounds of the Rosenfeldt Estate. It was by accident that I ended up here – I’d contacted Jette of Kaersgaard and was hoping to visit their farm. However, my timing didn’t work so she suggested that I visit them at the festival. In the end it worked out extremely well as I managed to meet some other producers I’d been emailing too.

IMG_0070Before I tracked down Jette and her partner Lars, the first thing I spotted was a deer carcass hanging. The pic above was taken towards the end of the day, I couldn’t get near at the beginning, such was the interest. Avert your eyes if you’re a little squeamish, there’s more gore to come. Other than the hot dog stand the longest queue of the day was for the free tasters of haunch that were cooking on the open fire (utterly delicious though a little tough). The stand and demo was being organised by Danmarks Jaegerforbund (The Danish Hunters Assocciation). I’d missed the cull, but the hunter from the organisation was doing an excellent job of cutting the loins when I arrived. As I ventured back to the stand through the afternoon, there was less and less to be seen, and there were just a few bones hanging towards the end. I’m not a big fan of guns, they scare me (as do chainsaws), I was always much more in favour of hunting with my grandfather with wire traps, but I’m sure even they are outlawed nowadays. We have ‘Game Fairs’ in the UK, but hunting isn’t seen as a mainstream pastime with us. For my grandfather and my great uncles, hunting was a way of putting food on the table. If I look at old family diarys, amongst the notes on the weather, the state of the harvest and market prices are notes referring to their tallies at hunting. IMG_0046

Too much? Well, the throngs of people at the festival didn’t think so. I’m pretty sure few (if any) vegans and vegetarians read this blog, but I do think it’s utterly important for people to know where their food comes from.

IMG_0074And so, to Kaersgard, I had an incredible welcome by Jette and Lars on their stall. I know how distracting it can be when someone wants to talk to you on a stall while you’re trying to market and sell your products. Luckily for me, there was an almighty downpour which moved most people into one of the ancient barns (built 1777) while the clouds passed. IMG_0125They run a mixed farm – cattle, pigs, goats and poultry. I tried some of their delicious duck rillette, I wished I had known that my room for the night had a kitchenette as I would have bought some duck confit to bring with me too for supper. Like all the other meat producers that I spoke with at the festival they didn’t produce their own products – they reared the animals but the production was done by the slaughterhouse or by a local butcher. It’s much the same in the UK, most producers at markets and festivals make a small portion of their products and have the majority done for them by others. We’re slightly different in that we have our feet set firmly in both camps. We rear our own, buy meat from trusted suppliers and produce all our products that we sell (we also make sausages and cure bacons and hams for smallholders who have their own pigs).IMG_0081

The beauty of being a punter at a food market is watching how others sell their products – not necessarily the sales technique but how products are displayed. One big difference from the UK was the predominance of frozen product, I bought a frozen smoked chicken breast from Dalbakkegaard (no photo, as it’s in my belly), as were the products from Kirkenhojens Limousine who served me up an outstanding emulsified beef sausage. Although frozen, products were simply packaged, cleanly labelled and easy to see in display freezer and it didn’t seem to be a problem for customers. We sell our gluten and preservative free sausages frozen and it’s never really been an issue, it’s the marketing of them that’s always been a problem as they melt as soon as we put them out on display.


We recently bought ourselves a new display fridge after our small table-top fridge died. It’s much cleaner and more well presented than what we had before, but it’s a bugger to move about. I loved the trailer that Kaersgard had – it was like a burger van but without sides – they even had additional freezer storage, handwash facilites and cooking space. A completely self contained unit. I’d love to have something like that, but markets and events discourage the use of trailers, or they cost a huge amount more for a pitch. IMG_0039I missed out on the hot dogs, by the time I got to queue they’d sold out. A real pity, as the ‘pit master’ for the day was a right character. Second choice was a salami sandwich topped with a spicy mustard coleslaw. Like any market that I’m at trading, I spent a fair amount of cash at the festival – apples, pears, sweets, coffee, juice, smoked chicken and I have to mention an awesome smoked lamb chorizo I bought from Thorlin. I’m not generally a big fan of air dried lamb due to the rancidity of the fats, but this hit the spot. It was also in a natural casing, only the second product that I’d seen, the other being a beer stick by another producer at the festival.

IMG_0141When I finally made it back to the hire car, I was parked in a near empty field. I know I can talk, but I’d outdone myself today.