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Scotland's Larder: Mark Reynolds of Piggery Smokery Alford

We talk to Mark Reynolds of Piggery Smokery about his globe trotting days, making a pig's ear of it in Aberdeenshire as well as making bacon.

Published: December 8, 2021
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He used to buy his bacon from the supermarkets but he had an epiphany when he cured his own for the first time; "it was an amazing taste I thought wow that is completely different to what I'm used to."

At this time of year the humble rasher of bacon gets to play its part in the Christmas Nativity, it might not be the star of the show but with pigs in blankets and rashers on the top of turkey it is a festive essential.

Epic bacon from Piggery Smokery

It's tantalising aroma has proved irresistible to many including Mark Reynolds of Piggery Smokery, Alford.

Baconeer

He used to buy his bacon from the supermarkets but he had an epiphany when he cured his own for the first time; "it was an amazing taste I thought wow that is completely different to what I'm used to."

Mark is now bug eyed about bacon and has developed a niche range of award winning flavours; Sweet Beaver (Maple), Dark Dubhloch (Treacle, Fennel and Ale), Celtic N'Dubhya, a chilli paprika spreadable bacon sausage which Mark describes as being Kulinary Kryptonite.

Mark Reynolds Piggery Smokery
Dark Dubhloch Back Bacon

Beecon, flavoured with local heather honey and black Cardamom, and Grizzly Adams' Downfall (Maple and ale).

PepperBack Finn is named after his son which is flavoured with Bay and Peppercorn, plus a plain version called Naked Toad (his daughter's favourite.)

Another Pannanich Sprite, uses botanicals from the "Lost Loch Spirits" Murmichan absinthe and they have a Vindaloo version called Pondicherry Pi.

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Another is named after Mark's relative, Charles Christopher Vincent, who was a soldier in WW1. Mark explains; "We just wanted to remember him. It’s a brave bacon (Chilli and Paprika) with depth of character and a wake up call to those who eat it, we like to think he would have approved of it ."

Charles Christopher Vincent, who was a soldier in WW1

Globe trotter

Mark was born in Libya as his father worked in the oil industry, but in 1969 the family moved to Abu Dhabi, then Shetland before settling in Aberdeenshire.

As a youngster he was sent to Blairmore boarding school, "it wasn't the happiest part of my childhood, we played Gordonstoun at rugby and cricket but I wasn't really into all that."

Mark then studied Geography at Glasgow University but in his twenties he sold up all his possessions and flew to America, bought a Harley Davidson and hit the road for a year.

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Head out on the highway

He said, "I have always been a nomad, it was a bit like Easy Rider. I started reading Jack Kerouac's, On the road when I got to Florida."

He also hitched hiked from East to West Canada twice, as well as a spot of European interrailing, "It was quite a risk, quite a gamble but I loved it."

Although he still owns a Harley he admits; "I don't get on it that much, it sounds like I'm a posh kind of guy but I have worked hard."

Mark Reynolds Piggery Smokery
Mark Reynolds Piggery Smokery

Their big break came when Mark got in touch with BrewDog, and asked if they could supply food to the brand's AGM.

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Mark explains more, "I emailed James Watt CEO Co-Founder of BrewDog and sent him some photographs of bacon I had made and asked could I sell it at their AGM. I don't know why I did it. It was pretty stupid really we hadn't got anything ready at all."

Mark Reynolds Piggery Smokery
A range of Piggery Smokery bacon cuts

They only had six weeks to get everything together but they knew that they would they would need a lot of bacon.

Mark rocked up to discover their pitch was outside, he said, "I had to go to Costco and buy a gazebo and gas barbeque. We sold 1100 bacon rolls in 11 hours but had to stop because I didn't buy a light so we couldn't see what we are doing."

Luckily, their bacon went down a storm; "it does help if there are lots of carnivores who are slightly drunk," he said.

Pigs might fly

After that baptism of fire, they acquired a lot of passionate porky fans, and have since sold their wares online and at farmers markets.

Mark admits to enjoying new challenges; " I have these ideas and get involved in these scrapes but I pull myself through it. I am a risktaker, my whole life is run on adrenalin."

Mark Reynolds Piggery Smokery
Mark Reynolds Piggery Smokery

So he then volunteered to appear on TV, on Top of the Shops with Tom Kerridge, he said, " I really thought I was in line for winning, we didn't win it but it did get us noticed."

They have since increased their bacon production from 40 kg to 130 kg and are looking to expand; "we can't really produce any more so we are looking at other sites."

If you can't stand the heat

They currently dry cure their bacon from their family kitchen; "we don't brine it or inject it with anything." Mark explains; "it is a continuous three week process. We clear everyone out of the kitchen, we get the kids off to school and wipe down all the surfaces and get everything sanitised and get on all our kit."

Mark Reynolds Piggery Smokery
Mark Reynolds Piggery Smokery

Monday: we take the raw cuts of pork loin and belly, and begin to dry cure it with whatever flavours we are using, it then goes in the fridge.

Tuesday: we wash the bacon from the previous week and hang it up to dry.

Wednesday: we smoke it using locally sourced hard wood shavings from a furniture maker, that ethos; " fits with us supporting Aberdeenshire, this place has awesome stuff in it."

Thursday: The finished bacon from three weeks ago is ready to be sliced and packaged.

Friday and the rest of the weekend: we stock the fridge and open our Cafe on main street Alford to sell our bacon.

He said; "To be honest, it is relentless, it is still only me and my wife that are doing it. We need to find another premises so we can start to cure on a bigger scale and employ local people. The problem is we are selling more bacon than we have ever done."

This little piggy went to market

Piggery Smokery only uses meat from local SSPCA approved commercial herds, although they'd love to use free range organic pigs the cost would be prohibitive; instead Mark said; "we are doing justice to the pig and that is really important to me. We are making something far superior to shop bought with fantastic flavours and texture."

He explains the slaughter house know exactly what they are looking for; "We are a bit particular with our pigs, we are not looking for fat pigs we just want big pigs. "

Mark is keen to showcase locally sourced food where possible, so they use home grown fennel, heather honey from Udny Provender in Ellon, and Ale from Burnside Brewery; "We are doing Aberdeenshire a favour, as well as ourselves, as the taste is better."

Fit like?

For a proper Aberdeenshire Christmas Mark suggests: Ledmacoy Turkeys at Strathdon who won a gold star at this years Great Taste awards accompanied by his bacon of course.

For the festive die hard bacon aficionado; they offer a "limited edition of 100 boxes with 5 packets of different bacons in each box."

Dark Dubhloch Back Close Up 2 - Land
Mark Reynolds Piggery Smokery

They also have kits that contains something you could put in your brussels sprouts,: lardons, streaky, and a breakfast bacon to get you through until new year, "it is a nice little present for someone. It shows off the different flavours we can do and we have one called Wise man's compass which has got a cinnamon nutmeg clove smell."

His wife is also local from Turriff and is a major part of the business and is the top baconeer, he said, "she makes all the bacon.

Mark Reynolds Piggery Smokery
Susan Reynolds Piggery Smokery's baconeer

She is a bit of an anchor and a stabilising element which I am really grateful for she is really good at doing all of the proper admin which I can't be bothered with but I know is important."

Sow's ear

Mark Reynolds Piggery Smokery
Soo's lug where bacon rolls are always on the menu.

They recently opened the Soo's Lug cafe in Alford, (pigs ear), to sell their bacon products as well as and serving lunches, and of course Piggery-Smokery bacon roll is always on the menu.

Mark is usually to be found in the cafe Friday- Sunday; "we can sell bacon from the shop and it is flying off the shelves. "He went down a crowd funding route for this project, "it seemed to be a lot easier than going to the banks. I am enjoying it, there is a community here and people are happy to talk and swap stories, so it is a real soo's ear.... it is a listening post."

Mark's definitely not making a pig's ear of it with a total of 23 Great Taste Awards over the years, and Piggery Smokery’s unique range of bacons are sizzling hot. I’m not telling you porky pies.

Mark Reynolds Piggery Smokery
Mark Reynolds outside the Soo's Lug , Alford.

Piggery-Smokery

Soo’s Lug
66 Main St
Alford
AB33 8AA

mark@piggery-smokery.co.uk

Catriona is a freelance writer based in the Scottish Borders, and a nominee for Food and Drink writer at this year's Scottish Press Awards.

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