Jan Jacob and Anja Baak, Great Glen Charcuterie
The story of Great Glen Charcuterie always sounded an intriguing. A Dutch couple with six children, living in the Scottish Highlands, producing venison (that most Scottish of foods) charcuterie (not such a Scottish food). So how did it happen?
“We moved here from the Netherlands in 2000 when my husband Jan met a Dutch man who then offered him a job on his small estate,” says Anja Baak. We had three girls and they were the perfect age to go on an adventure.” Part of the job was about deer management and so Jan started experimenting with the meat as a way of extending its shelf life rather than just selling to a game dealer and in 2003 they started the charcuterie. He was always very interested in food and having done veterinary studies (which ill health stopped him completing) he had good knowledge about how to work with the meat. In the early days they sold at local markets. “At first we’d buy the whole animal, someone would knock on the door with a stag off the hill and we’d butcher it. We’d make venison burgers to sell to local markets but venison salami was our main product.” There wasn’t a huge market for it locally but luckily through friends they met someone from Fortnum & Mason and before long they were being stocked in the food hall, a big boost.
Having had three more children, in the early days Anja was less involved but now they’re grown she’s very hands on and has been working on the new production premises at the bottom of the drive where they live at Spean Bridge.
The great thing about Venison, Anja points out, is that it’s a sustainable and healthy meat. Wild deer roam freely in the hills feeding on wild plants, heather and grass. With no natural predators, the wild deer population has to be managed to keep numbers at a sustainable level, to protect the environment from overgraing and starvation in the winter.