Hello and welcome to the smoky barrel!
I'm Stuart, and together with Natalie (the boss) and our children Tommy and Beccy run our ethical, sustainable and award winning beef Jerky, rub and seasonings smokehouse in the festival town of Ulverston, Cumbria.
(The whole gang posing behind the Smoky barrel stall at Ulverston's another fine fest 2022!)
I was lucky to move to Scotland in the 1980’s, and growing up here was, and still am, in awe of the wild ruggedness and open spaces asking to be explored. My friends and I spent as much of our weekends and free time as possible outdoors, Whether trying to claim an unconquered Munro, carve a new bike trail in the woods or simply relaxing together at the campsite next to a loch trying to catch our supper!
Whichever activity we were enjoying, I found it frustrating that most of the snacks I took with me for a tasty protein boost or to use as a cooking ingredient once camping didn’t travel well in a pack or pocket, and had a relatively short shelf life as well as being heavy (especially tins!) or even unhealthy.
I wondered if there was something out there that had could last for a long time in a tough, waterproof lightweight packaging, was ready to eat, tasty and comforting and could be popped in my pack and forgotten about until needed. Being before the days of the Internet however, my search wasn’t easy!
After finishing school and completing a mediocre year at College (I realized I am no academic) I signed up for the Camp America programme, working at Kamp Kiwanis for a couple of months
On days off, we enjoyed a variety of outdoor activities, and were introduced to Canoeing which I really enjoyed. Whilst stocking up on provisions in one of the many general and outdoor stores I discovered Jerky! Eureka! Many of these stores produced and sold their own jerky in all kinds of smoking contraptions all without artificial preservatives or additives and mostly with prime beef from local herds. I was instantly hooked and decided this was for me and my friends back in Scotland. I must have spent hours chatting to the many patient store owners about how they produced theirs.
I returned to Perthshire with a pack full of American jerky but no idea on how to get more when it ran out, I bought beef in local butchers and made my first attempts at my own jerky in the kitchen oven, much to my parents bewilderment. Things weren’t always easy! My first attempts were disastrous, under cooked, overcooked (black), too salty, you name it, I tried it. It was frustrating to not be able to find a Jerky producer in the UK (again, no internet then!).
I then joined the Royal Air Force and for next 22 years had some unforgettable experiences all over the UK and the world. When not on Operations, Exercise or base duties, I took full advantage of the many adventurous training and expeditions offered by the RAF, Army and Navy. This allowed me to continue with my passion for the outdoors reinforced my love for it. I still have links to H.M Forces and we support the Defence Discount Service as well as the Emergency Services discount schemes
On these travels I was always on the lookout for jerky. I tried Llama Jerky in Chile, Camel jerky in Egypt, and even duck jerky in Hong Kong (I must have been quackers trying that!)
Over the years I experimented with a huge range of meats, ingredients and cooking methods, especially using rubs and seasonings determined to show family, friends and the wider UK Jerky community that they don’t have to accept the many commercial imitations of Jerky available.
Much of the available jerky now is still mass produced commercial, reformed beef with liquid smoke and artificial preservatives. This made me determined to work towards finding my own “holy grail” of jerky that I would end up creating myself.
All good things come to an end; I left the RAF and continued with my quest. with the support of my long suffering wife, I feel we now have a jerky worthy enough to offer the Outdoor Community, continuing our quest to be as sustainable and ethical as possible. Working and living in the beautiful Lake District helps of course!
Taste the outdoors!
Stuart, Natalie, Thomas and Rebecca