Award winning Suffolk game pies
IF there’s one thing Steve Tricker knows about it’s deer. My visit is scheduled for three o’clock and two hours later I’m still there, enjoying his knowledge and looking at pictures, certificates and awards which Steve has accumulated over the years. He is particularly proud of a chance photograph he’d taken at dawn a few days ago when an achingly beautiful young stag had wandered into the early morning sun out of the rising mist. It is an awe-inspiring sight and one that Steve values.
“I couldn’t shoot him of course,” he says, “and the photograph is just as rewarding for me.” He talks about the sights and sounds of these early mornings, smiling as he describes the ways of the local wildlife.
Unsurprisingly, he is an ardent advocate of the entire ethos of deer hunting, or rather deer management, because, according to Steve, it is a totally humane way of maintaining the deer population at manageable levels. There’s no stress for the animal, it has a good life, roaming wild with no natural predators, until it’s despatched with one shot from a rifle.
Our discussion - who am I kidding? Steve’s monologue - ranges over deer breeds (there are six in the UK), the strict rules and regulations covering their management, closed seasons and handling. I learn words like ‘gralloch’ (to eviscerate the deer as quickly as possible after it’s dead), ‘tine’ ‘bay’ trey’ and ‘brow’ (the parts of the antlers) and become completely immersed in this arcane and highly skilled world. Just wait until someone, anyone, asks me a cervine-related question.
Steve’s work, though, is just part of the story. Lynn was asked to make sausage rolls when their friends took on the Thoroughfare Deli in Halesworth. Having surplus venison they suggested trying out some venison sausage rolls, and pies too, and the response was amazing. Thus began, in November 2014, the Truly Traceable Venison & Game Pie Company. Lynn, desperately trying to juggle a full time cooking job with the ever-increasing demands of her new role, was frantic.
“It was madness,” she says “trying to do both at once, but I wasn’t quite brave enough to go all out with the pies.” It was a surprising success that forced her to change her mind. On a whim they entered a venison pie into the British Pie Awards, which they heard about by chance on the radio one morning. The organisers called to say they were shortlisted and, after a rush trip to lunch in Melton Mowbray, Lynn and Steve came away with Class Champion. What a day that was! This convinced them that theirs was a worthwhile business with potential to make them a living, their respective strengths dovetailing neatly to make it an easy transition.
In 2016 they picked up three more awards and then another four a year later, all for their fabulous pies. Lynn, though, wouldn’t rest with that and entered sausage rolls into the Great Taste Awards and, of course, they were winners too.
Truly Traceable has become justifiably wellknown in the region. In the last three years or so Lynn and Steve have developed more
‘In 2016 they picked up three more awards and then another four a year later, all for their fabulous pies’
varieties, now nearly 20, and collected more accolades. They’ve been finalists in the EADT Food and Drink awards two years running and have won another four medals from the British Pie Awards.
“I make about 60 pies a day,” says Lynn, “and different types have different pastry. But the more you do, the easier it gets. And now we even do a vegetarian pie and that’s won a silver too.” That doesn’t surprise me at all because their pies are magnificent. Forget dull meat pies with rock-hard pastry, Truly Traceable pies are packed with top ingredients, they are full of flavour and the pastry is just gorgeous.
I like the way they run their business. Steve shoots most days and Lynn, with willing help from a friend and a relative, cooks four or five days a week. They work from home and everything is done by hand and by the book, each dedicated preparation area scrupulously clean and meticulously maintained – “we can’t afford to take risks” – from the butchery room to kitchen and freezer storage. Oh, did I mention Steve is a qualified butcher too? And he completed the three successful stalks stipulated for professional deer management in record time. He shows me yet more certificates. I’m envious. I won an essay prize aged six and have my cycling proficiency, so have no need for a display cabinet.
In spite of their success, the Trickers don’t want to expand too quickly and risk compromising their quality. Lynn wrinkles her nose when I ask and says she likes to keep it manageable.
“We have good loyal customers round here, and nowadays we get great commissions for parties and special events. We do our own deliveries so why would we want to take our pies all over the country? It’s all about Suffolk, so come to Suffolk and enjoy our pies!”
“Forget dull meat pies with rockhard pastry, Truly Traceable pies are packed with top ingredients, they are full of flavour and the pastry is just gorgeous”