The Grasmere Gingerbread Shop in the village in the Lake District

The Grasmere Gingerbread Shop in the village in the Lake District

Five top artisan UK food producers

The UK has long been more reticent than other countries about its small producers, but look beyond the supermarket shelves and there’s an army of specialists.

Their efforts aren’t just delicious, but often a heritage and conservation triumph too.

1. Meat: Taste Tradition

This third generation family farm on the North York Moors supplies many of the country’s top restaurants with unbeatable meat, much of it produced from slow growing, deeply flavoured native breeds. Fortunately, many of these choice cuts are also available online: perfect for anyone who takes their home feasting seriously.

You won’t find a better côte de boeuf or rack of lamb than this, but it’s well worth exploring the many less widely available, more budget friendly cuts too. Escape that culinary rut with mutton shank, channel your inner pit master to smoke some brisket on the barbecue or carve up mouth-watering slices of Gloucester Old Spot porchetta.

2. Cheese: Trethowan Brothers

So many of the great British cheeses – Wensleydale, Red Leicester, Cheddar – acquire a reputation for blandness based on pallid supermarket versions. It’s producers such as Trethowan Brothers who show just how worthwhile it is to track down the real thing. Their Gorwydd Caerphilly sets the benchmark for this south Wales speciality. So what makes the difference?

Firstly, milk from the farm’s herd remains unpasteurised to preserve the subtlety of its grass-fed flavour. The handmade cheese then matures for three months rather than the standard couple of weeks. This allows even greater flavour to develop, not least in the natural rind, which adds a mushroomy note to the creamy layer below. Then there’s that vital third element: the trademark crumbly, citrus tang that lies at the heart of proper Caerphilly.

3. Drink: The Somerset Cider Brandy Company

Julian Temperley has almost single-handedly pioneered the revival of Somerset Cider Brandy, a centuries old speciality of this orchard-rich region that had long slipped into obscurity. Europe’s proud artisan distilling tradition had been crushed in the UK by licensing laws, but Temperley eventually overcame this obstacle and began commercial production in 1989. Another victory came in 2011, when Somerset Cider Brandy was awarded Protected Geographical Indication.

Today Temperley’s cider brandy can be found in discerning outlets and restaurants well beyond Somerset. This isn’t just a triumph for gastronomy and heritage but conservation too. In sharp contrast with the biggest cider apple producers, Temperley cultivates over 40 varieties of apple and 20 varieties of perry pear, a move which both preserves rare species and adds to the delicious complexity of his cider brandy. Just as glorious and arguably even more important is the abundant biodiversity in these pesticide free orchards.

4. Smoked fish: Lambton & Jackson

Even as a teenager, Sean Jackson was selling his own smoked salmon to smart London restaurants. Today with business partner Darcy Lambton he continues to channel this expertise, perfectly positioned in the famous salt producing town of Maldon in Essex.

Smoked salmon is just the tip of the Lambton & Jackson iceberg, although sashimi fans in particular will want to discover their specialist options. This is also the place to track down rarer treats, including perfectly smoked eel and cod’s roe, gravlax, hot smoked mackerel pâté and superior kippers. There’s even a very pleasing niche in properly smoked cheese.

5. Sweet treat: Grasmere Gingerbread

There’s nothing like the original Grasmere gingerbread. Not quite biscuit, not quite cake, it was first created in 1854 by Sarah Nelson. She spent the next 50 years selling it to locals and a growing hoard of enthusiastic tourists who still flock to this beautiful Lake District village.

Very little has changed over the last 170 years: the original recipe remains a closely guarded secret, while Grasmere Gingerbread is still made and sold in Nelson’s former home. Fortunately for those unable to make the pilgrimage themselves, the one concession to modernity is an online order service. While you’re shopping, treat yourself to another unlikely but deliciously versatile Cumbrian speciality: rum butter.

Gabriel Stone
Gabriel Stone
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