One of the things I love about writing this column is the surprising number of producers of fantastic product I find that I had no idea existed so when a Nelson Mail reporter sent me a website link asking if I had heard of The Honest Sausage (I hadn’t) I just had to find out more.
The Honest Sausage is owned by French couple Guillaume and Benedicte Rebotton they settled in Nelson in 2015 and recently established The Honest Sausage as a part time business so Guillaume could return to the skills of his first love, butchery.
I was surprised to learn they have been in business since in October last year without me hearing about them so I arranged to sit down with Benedicte a couple of weeks ago to find out more about this artisan business, a business the couple run from home.
Guillaume (“it’s French for William so call him Bill” says Benedicte) is from the French region of Savoie in the mountains on the border with Switzerland and learned his butchery skills when he left school. “In France people train in every aspect of butchery and then specialise if they want to, you have classic butchery and charcuterie, that’s making sausages, salamis, hams and pate’s and that is what Guillaume specialised in”.
As young people do Guillaume wanted to travel so from 2008 to 2010 he spent two years in Australia on a working holiday and loved the change from France. When his visa expired he moved back to France but rather than pick up his knives again he decided to train as a carpenter and undertook a very old-school qualification; Les Compagnons du Devoir was created in the middle ages and teaches traditional carpentry, “you work in different regions of France learning traditional carpentry skills used in each region and I first met him when he was working in Paris completing the final part of his course as a carpenter.”
Benedicte on the other hand started her career in hospitality and tourism, “I’m a bit of a butterfly, I did a degree in history then went to Canada for a few years where I worked in a hotel. I loved it so much I decided to return to France and do a Master’s degree in management, my Master’s thesis was focused on hospitality.
“Then I was an assistant manager at a 4 star hotel in Paris for about 3 years and that’s when I met Guillaume. With both of us having lived overseas before we met we both realised that life in France was getting quite complicated with all sorts of political and social issues so we decided to travel again.
“Because Guillaume had already had a two year working holiday in Australia he couldn’t work there again so we picked New Zealand, discovered Nelson and decided it’s where we wanted to stay.”
Benedicte worked at Lambretta’s Café for a while but decided she wanted to do something different in her life so started a studying for a degree and training as a herbalist. She works at Life Pharmacy in Trafalgar St where she specialised in natural health products while Guillaume works as a carpenter.
The couple’s first baby, Raphael, arrived in 2018 with their second due to arrive sometime in the next couple of weeks.
Over recent years Guillaume realised he was missing his old charcuterie trade so they spent a few months working out a plan that would let them slowly establish a business here.
“He works as a carpenter with small building company owned by Simon Murray and, while he loves creating things, he was missing the butchery environment so we decided to start a small, part time business while he is still working as a builder.
“We set up the sausage making business at home in a health certified kitchen and we only produce to order twice a month. Because we don’t have a retail outlet it means we only make what we sell and don’t have to freeze anything, all of our sausages are made fresh and delivered the next day.”
They started with a simple but beautifully made fresh pork sausages, “just free range pork, salt and pepper and then we added a chipolata made with pork, salt, pepper, garlic and herbs.
“Our newest sausage is the Hunter’s Pride, it’s a wild game venison sausage with juniper berries, salt, pepper and herbs. When you combine the noble game meat with juniper berry you get the taste of the wilderness, it has quickly become a customer favourite.
“We try to make something new every couple of months and are currently refining the recipe for a spicy sausage but production of that will be a few weeks after the baby arrives”, she says with a smile.
What makes them special, I asked. “We use the best products we can find and we are very careful how we source the meat, it must be free range and fresh. We only use natural casings, we tried a synthetic casing but we didn’t really like the result. The natural casing dissolves better, cooks better, it really does make a difference to the product.
“We also use fresh herbs and only use New Zealand garlic, the herb flavours are much fresher and the garlic seems to have stronger flavour. Our products are also guaranteed gluten free, dairy free and keto friendly. We keep our recipes simple to enjoy the real taste of the meat, we don’t use any additive, artificial preservative or colouring.”
At The Honest Sausage Guillaume and Benedicte use a classic manual sausage press to force the freshly ground sausage mix into the casings, “it’s much easier to control both how much meat goes into the casing and the size of the finished sausages.”
So how can you get your hands on these beautifully handcrafted sausage treats? Just go to their website www.thehonestsausage.com for pricing and to make an order. When the sausages are made they will contact you to arrange delivery or pickup.
“We only sell in Nelson at this stage, we make the sausages fresh twice a month and usually on Friday and Saturday. We let people know a few days in advance and make a time for mid-morning and everyone turns up to collect them. It was quite funny the first time we did this, we were in a parking lot and people would come up to me and ask if I was the sausage lady, so that’s become my nickname.”