Sussex Life speaks to managing director of Besmoke - leading garlic and spice company
A Sussex business started in a garden six years ago is now the leading garlic and spice smoking company in the UK. Kate Eastman headed to Henfield to meet its Managing Director of Besmoke, Huw Griffiths....
A Sussex business started in a garden six years ago is now the leading garlic and spice smoking company in the UK. Kate Eastman headed to Henfield to meet its Managing Director Huw Griffiths.
On a peaceful farm in the heart of the South Downs is the UK’s leading garlic and spice smoking company, Besmoke. Managing Director Huw Griffiths has been running the business for five years.
Huw began the company in 2004 when he built a small smoker from an old tin ballot box in his garden and began smoking garlic in it.
“I took my smoked garlic to the local deli in Hove where it sold out within days,” explains Huw. “Soon I was smoking garlic everyday in my spare time which I took to local farmers markets across Sussex and London, I also began stocking more and more local delis.”
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Within six months five local ASDA stores were stocking Huw’s smoked garlic. At this stage he moved his operation into an old pig farm near Henfield where he built a larger smoker and began experimenting with various foods. One of the most interesting results achieved was smoked peppercorns, which he sent off to some of the countries largest spice companies, to his surprise he immediately received a call from McCormick Schwartz.
“I couldn’t believe it when they invited me to their head office to discuss the product and arrange for a full development schedule! This meeting eventually saw the product being used by McCormick in a spice blend, which I was over the moon about.”
In the meantime Huw also began smoking salt, this he sold to local retailers before approaching The Maldon Crystal Salt Company in Essex who immediately agreed to launch a new product ‘Smoked Maldon Salt’ which is now sold in Sainsbury’s as well as many supermarket chains over the world.
Huw has one other member of staff, Rob Austin the production manager, who oversees all of the production side of the business and ensures they have enough garlic to meet demand.
“We sell around 2,000 heads of smoked garlic per week,” says Rob, “this has to be hand peeled, inspected and then smoked for three days before being packed into our lovely new display boxes.”
The secret of smoking the garlic is all about using good quality ingredients and spending time to create the delicious smoky flavour.
“We take French garlic and each bulb needs careful attention, we peel any lose skin, inspect the bulb for damage and then place the good bulbs on racks in our specially designed garlic smoker where is stays for three days gently smoking over oak chips," says Huw. “Any rejects are smoked and sold as kitchen grade to caterers."
Huw’s favourite way to eat his smoked garlic, "would have to be slowly roasting a whole bulb and then squeezing the sweet smoky pulp of each clove into mashed potato or perhaps a sauce, it’s even delicious simply spreading the warm roasted garlic onto some hot toast dripping with salty butter!"
Huw and Rob now smoke some very weird and wonderful ingredients for all sorts of people. “Smoked icing sugar is becoming a very popular ingredient in the food manufacturing industry as it is such a good carrier of the natural smoke flavour into the end product,” describes Huw.
“We have taken years to perfect our process to be able to smoke these things and even longer to get accredited by some of the worlds largest ingredients and food companies. We also smoke herbs, spices, starch powders, sugars, pastes and oils for the food industry.”
The experimenting doesn’t always go to plan, “last year we were asked to smoke a load of butter,” explains Rob, “but the smokers got a little too warm and we ended up swimming in it, that took some cleaning up!”
The future looks very interesting for Besmoke due to a huge legislative shift at European level where by the artificial smoke resins from America are being gradually forbidden for use in our foods due to health concerns. “This is already making way for our smoked ingredients which naturally give our clients foods a much more palatable taste and makes it safer for consumers,” explains Huw. “We’re in a business where it takes three days to smoke a garlic bulb. We are living proof that ‘slow food’ continues to play an important part in our food culture.”
Blacklands Farm, Henfield, West Sussex, BN5 9AT
T: 01273 491114