With Christmas now over and the New Year fast approaching, Launceston's Casalinga Gourmet Meats on Charles Street is taking stock after an impressive year for the butcher's festive offerings.
Casalinga owner and director Rob Perry is busy finalising numbers but is confident he and his team have helped supply a record number of pork and poultry to festive cooks over the silly season.
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But what were Tasmanians hungry for this Christmas? It may come as a surprise to some but, according to Mr Perry, the demand for turkey from his customers has waned in recent years, as the butcher brought in new products to fit the changing needs around the Christmas season.
"Turkey is still on the table, but it's not like in the past when people would come in and buy a turkey, a duck and a chicken," Mr Perry said.
"That's a lot of work and it's usually too much on the table - that leads to more waste at the end - which is why we brought in the turducken," he added.
Popularised in the US, the turducken is a combination of a turkey, duck and a chicken, deboned and rolled together, and for Mr Perry it presents a superior option to cooking a three-bird roast individually.
"We also add quail to the three birds and then place our own seasonings between the layers. The benefit is there's no bones, zero waste and anyone can carve it," he said.
Perhaps more importantly, however, Mr Perry thinks the rising popularity of the turducken also has its roots in its simplicity.
"Christmas is about family - it isn't all about cooking. The world is getting busier and the turducken saves people spending all day in the kitchen," he said.
But while Casalinga's turducken has certainly proved popular this year, it didn't come close to the butcher's signature ham, which continued to bring back dozens of loyal customers.
"Always as a butcher you need to have a leading edge - you can't be a copycat. A turkey is a turkey, but you can't buy our ham anywhere else," Mr Perry said.
Mr Perry first developed his Christmas ham recipe while travelling with his wife - who is now his business partner at Casalinga - in the early years of their marriage.
After more than 40 years, the recipe and accompanying techniques have developed further but still retain certain key elements he thinks remain vital - such as using Tasmanian-sourced pork and handling each cut individually.
That individualistic approach to the product equates to more steps and extra time. The ham must be sourced, lab tested, smoked, dry cured, cooked, cooled and aged - all of which the team at Casalinga take on themselves. To distinguish the unique cut-by-cut approach, each customer that bought a Christmas ham also got a registration number which details every stage of how their ham was handled.
"If a customer comes in and says, 'I want it like that next year,' then we have everything to recreate it for them when they return next Christmas," he said.
And return they did, when Casalinga first put on its signature ham they would sell comfortably all the way up to Christmas eve. This year, however, the butcher sold out a full two weeks before the big day.
"We're finalising numbers but when all is said and done I think we'll have sold in excess of three to four hundred hams," he said.
Mr Perry also dispensed some advice to new owners of a Casalinga Christmas ham, which each come with a cloth bag to benefit their continued ageing.
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"We advise owners to change their ham bag every few days. The better the condition of your ham bag - the better the condition your ham is going to be in. Our hams have a shelf life of six weeks but we've done testing in-house and had them last for four months."
That means current ham holders could be enjoying their cut well into 2022. Meanwhile, Mr Perry has been busy trialing a similar bag cooking technique with the turducken, which may be available next year. When asked how Casalinga managed such a busy period, Mr Perry took the time to highlight his staff's efforts.
"This is the best team I've had since we opened. I'm really proud of what we've achieved," he said.
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