A WANGARATTA smallgoods maker may not have claimed the top prize but he’s happy to talk up the quality of his bacon.
Felix Gamze entered his bacon in the National Bacon Awards for Excellence, with the winners announced this week in Sydney as part of Australian Bacon week celebrations.
Mr Gamze, who owns Gamze Smokehouse, was highly commended for his bacon, which was judged on a range of characteristics, including raw and cooked criteria, appearance, aroma and the curing process.
He said he was proud to have his bacon rated so highly but acknowledged that his product was almost in a class of its own.
“It’s Australian pork, it’s free-range and it’s made from traditional breed pigs, some from Yea, Taminick and other places, so I keep it regional with low food miles,” he said.
“The pigs are slaughtered in Wangaratta and manufactured here into small goods.
“But I didn’t expect those things to be taken into consideration.”
The other element to his production that Mr Gamze highlights is the natural ingredients he uses.
His smallgoods don’t contain any additives, any of those “E” numbers with brackets common on commercially produced ingredient lists.
“A number with a bracket around it is generally a chemical product of some kind,” he said.
“The debate is do we need them? We probably don’t.”
Mr Gamze said bacon and ham often contained chemical nitrite but he uses celery extract instead, a naturally occurring nitrite.
It’s an expensive alternative but one he prefers.
“I use a natural wood smoke as well — you can actually taste the smoke rather than the meat just being dipped in a smoke essence,” he said.
Mr Gamze grew up at Wangaratta after migrating to Australia at the age of two from Slovenia.
His family heritage meant a knack for producing tasty smallgoods was on his side.
“The fact I’ve got a wog name and I’m from over there has a bit to do with the passion to make smoked goods,” he said.
“And I love good food.”
Mr Gamze has a shop front in Wangaratta but also sells his smallgoods to cafes and restaurants in Melbourne and through his website, with growing success.
“I’m finding the 30-year-olds with young families are showing a lot of interest in what they’re putting down their kids’ throats,” he said.
“I’m finding a lot more people are showing interest in foods and what additives are going in there.
“I’ve got four ingredients in my bacon — salt, water, celery extract and a local honey for the sweetener.
“Four ingredients — now go into the supermarket and take a look at the bacon ingredients list and it will blow you away.”