A recipe for success
In 2011 husband and wife team, Phil and Sue Ambrose, took the brave decision to invest in recreating an old secret family sausage recipe. Known as the Ambrose Sausage, it was first created and sold by Phil's grandfather Gilbert Ambrose in 1920. Gilbert sold the popular sausages from his butchers shop in Westbourne in West Sussex.
Phil spent much of his childhood helping his grandfather to make and sell the sausages. He was inspired by the work and later decided to train to be a master butcher at Smithfield Meat College. For many years Phil worked in the meat industry but it was when he inherited the secret recipe book from his grandfather that he decided one day he would bring the Ambrose Sausage back into production.
Today's reinvented Ambrose Sausages is located in the stunning Hampshire countryside near Upham. It is here that Phil and Sue rear their own herd of traditional and rare breed pigs. The animals benefit from living outdoors in large paddocks where they enjoy rooting and wallowing in the mud. They are fed a diet of fruit, vegetables and cereals and live a contented and stress free life growing slowly and naturally.
The lifestyle of the herd is evident in the quality of the meat. It has a distinctive rich flavour with proper crackling. The meat has more fat than commercial pork but as all good cooks know, that is where the tenderness and succulence comes from. Phil explains the importance of the quality of the meat, 'We had the secret recipe and we knew it was special and would be popular. However, it is the quality of the pork meat which sets our sausages apart from other sausages on the market today.'
After much hard work, dedication and long days the past two years have seen Ambrose Sausages become an established business with a growing range of products. The views of their customers are central to their business development, 'We listen to customer feedback and act on it. Our range of different sausage flavours and pork products including haslet, faggots, bacon and black pudding has come about based on what our customers have told us. They make requests and suggestions which we combine with our ideas to shape our business.'
Sue is passionate about using as much seasonal produce as possible in their products, 'I love using ingredients which are tricky to find in shops but we have growing on our smallholding. We make delicious wild garlic sausages and pork and damson chutney sausages.' Their customers have plenty of choice when it comes to sausage flavour with more than ten varieties available at one time. However, it seems right that is the traditional pork Ambrose Sausage, which was the motivation for starting the business, remains the firm favourite.
Making a success of pig farming in the current climate is an achievement as is starting up a new business. What was the best advice given to them during the early days of the business? 'Persevere and stay positive. We deal with so many variables in our business so it can be a bit of a roller coaster. A bad week can be followed by a fantastic week and you have to learn to take the rough with the smooth,' explains Phil. 'It's been hard graft and a steep learning curve but we are now lucky to be working in a business that we both enjoy. One of my favourite elements of what we do is creating great products and then showcasing them at events. For Sue, it's definitely the farming aspect that she loves - she would spend all her time with the pigs if she could!'
For Phil and Sue the day begins at 5.30am and often doesn't end until 10pm. They tend to the pigs and other livestock twice a day. They make their pork products fresh each day to meet online and telephone orders from individuals and local pubs, restaurants and shops. Most weekends are spent at markets and events selling their produce so it can be easy to find themselves working a seven day week. You would never guess all the work and long days that happen behind the scenes when you are greeted by their smiley faces at local markets.
So would Phil's grandfather be proud of Ambrose Sausages of today? 'My grandfather was a man of few words,' Phil admits, 'so I doubt he would ever have said he was proud but I would like to think that he would have been pleased to know that the Ambrose Sausage lives on. We have received numerous emails from customers who used to buy the original sausages from his shop and they are delighted they can buy Ambrose Sausages again.'
Ambrose Sausages are available to buy directly from Phil and Sue either online or over the phone. Orders can be collected, sent by post or even delivered free locally. Alternatively you can find them at Hampshire Farmers' Markets and Winchester Produce Market (Wednesdays). Visit www.ambrosesausages.co.uk , call 02380 620984 or 07979 024268 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow them on Twitter @AmbroseSausages for their latest news.