Gunning butcher Aaron Williams has snagged one of the tastiest titles in the land: his beef, cheese and jalapeno sausage has just taken out first prize in the Australian Meat Industry Council’s (AMIC) 2022 Sausage King competition for the ACT and Southern NSW.
He also scored two seconds for his traditional beef snag and his pork, leek and bacon sausage at the AMIC titles.
It’s the first big win for the man who has run the Gunning Butcher Shop for the past four years. He scored “a couple of trophies” in the 2019 competition but the 2022 result is a big deal.
“That cheese and jalapeno one is a good one,” he said. “It’s got a good base of flavours and just the right amount of spice. It also has a bit of a zing to it, with the two types of cheddar I use in it and the onion flavour base. I know it works because my customers love it.”
His customers certainly do, not only Gunning and Yass locals but also Canberra folk who make the hour-long drive to see what’s on the sausage menu that week.
“I read a lot of recipes and then I work out what goes best with what flavours,” Aaron said. “I try to have a strong flavour base and then experiment with other flavours, it can be a bit of trial and error sometimes.”
One recipe he originally wasn’t too confident about was suggested to him on Australia Day. Organisers of a local event wanted a true-blue Aussie snag, so he came up with a Vegemite and cheese one with a beef base.
“I didn’t think they’d be popular but, you know, they just went off,” Aaron said.
Another of his surprise success stories was when he was asked to make a signature sausage by the local council for a tourism event to promote the region’s best produce.
He ended up making a pizza sausage, complete with bacon, capsicum, tomato, and pineapple with a marinade base.
“It had the best pizza smell,” Aaron said. “They wanted it to be the taste of the Tablelands and it was that.
“I sent them 300 snags for the event … then I started getting these phone calls from people at the show saying they wanted more because people wanted to buy them.”
Aaron, who originally hails from Yass, hadn’t planned on becoming a butcher as a young man. Rather, he was labouring at a meat wholesale plant when he was offered an apprenticeship at a butcher shop in Mawson, Canberra. In later years, he moved back to the bush, working as a mobile butcher on-farm.
“A mate of mine had the shop in Gunning and I’d go and visit him,” he said. “Then one day he told me he was selling it … and the rest is history.
“I guess it was meant to be.”
Today he runs the successful butcher shop in the main street of Gunning with the help of an apprentice and a couple of casuals when needed.
“My wife Kate is an important part of the business,” he said. “She’s the brains of the outfit … she looks after the running of the place.”
Aaron can make about 40 different flavours of sausages, usually offering four different ones a week and then rotating the other ones around.
“You generally go with customer demand,” he said, “If they like it, you make it.”
Aaron said the village of Gunning had changed over the years, for the better, with more Canberra people moving in and commuting into the city daily.
That had brought with it a change in taste and, for him, inspiration to keep experimenting with snag flavours.
“The pork, leek and bacon ones I made that came second this year, they’re really good. I mean, how can you go wrong when you put lots of bacon in something?”
Another of his success stories, which he wasn’t too confident about to start with, was the pumpkin, fetta and beef.
“People loved that one too.”
If he has a favourite it would be his classic beef sausage, which has regularly taken home prizes in previous MIC comptitions as well as this year.
“It’s a good all-rounder,” he said.
So what’s the secret ingredient?
“Love … and the right salt content.”
Aaron will now compete in the national AMIC Sausage King titles scheduled for September this year.