Local food hero: Humphreys & Sons butchers, Essex
Humphreys & Sons is a traditional wholesale and retail butcher and abattoir near Chelmsford, Essex. It was started by Charlie Humphreys in the 1920s, as a result of Charlie being the man to go to if you needed your chicken or pig slaughtered. As his reputation grew, he sought bigger premises and took over a local blacksmith’s yard. By 1938, Charlie needed even larger facilities and bought Blixes Farm in Ranks Green, Essex, at a blind auction in a local pub.
Today, Humphreys is a byword for quality for people in the know, rearing its own beef, slaughtering on site and selling both wholesale and retail through the butcher’s shop. It sells top quality lamb, pork and poultry alongside homemade sausages, home-cured hams, bacon and a great range of pies. Having an on-site abattoir means there is always a ready supply of less popular joints and cuts, such as blade and skirt steak, sweetbreads and the whole range of offal.
I’ve had some memorable fore-ribs of home-reared beef, marbled and well hung, cooked for around 15 minutes a pound and rested for, say, 10 minutes a pound. It really is very good. I also use Humphreys’ brisket to make salt beef.
The on-site shop is a proper butcher’s shop and has a considerable following given Ranks Green is off the beaten track in rural Essex. What strikes you is that people in the queue, often 20-deep on a busy Saturday morning, calmly chat while waiting for the next in line to be served, and the time the butchery staff make for each customer is a lesson several food retailers could learn from. The staff are only too willing to share their knowledge and advice, and can often be heard talking customers through a recipe.
The shop also stocks a range of locally grown potatoes, free-range eggs, locally produced jams, sauces and preserves from Wilken & Sons at Tiptree, and local game during the season.
Humphreys & Sons attracts customers from up to 50 miles away and has a well-earned reputation for quality and service. It’s well worth a visit if you are in this part of Essex.
Ian Doughty is a passionate food lover from Essex and director of Turpin Smale Catering Consultants. To get in touch with Ian to recommend East Anglian venues or to share local food news, please email him here or Tweet him here.