I always knew us Yorkies had great taste. Not for nowt do we have our fair share of foodie Oscars in the shape of the nation’s Great Taste Awards.
This year some 40 Yorkshire artisan food producers have notched up a hugely commendable total of around 125 tasting stars between them, which says an awful lot about the provenance of the quality foods being made here in the land of the White Rose.
The awards, organised by the Guild of Fine Food, are the benchmark for speciality food and drink, and the great taste logo is a sign that whatever food it adorns is a quality job. But the beauty of the awards is that they’re open to any creator of food and drink, whether they be a big producer or someone who’s beavering away on their own in a barn on the family farm.
And there’s plenty of people like the latter in God’s own country – people with a pride and a passion about what they do, who work all the hours available to them to create quality products that have us drooling in the supermarket aisles or hogging the stalls at farmers’ markets and food festivals.
One of the things I love so much about being part of Yorkshire is the immense diversity in its landscapes and people. Wherever you go, whether it be the windswept coast, the flatlands of the Vale of York, the rugged moodiness of the Pennines, the purple sweep of the North York Moors, the black and tan towns of the industrial heartlands or the honeyed York stone villages, as sure as where there’s muck there’s brass you’ll be able to find someone who’s doing their bit to put Yorkshire on the international food map.
And it’s not just about Yorkshire puds, forced rhubarb and Pomfret cakes either. Who would have thought that just over the top from Sutton Bank we’re producing some of the finest cider that’s ever been drunk – Somerset scrumpy makers don’t have the monopoly on quality you know…
Or that the county has nine – yes nine – commercial vineyards and that out of one of them has come an award-winning sparkling wine made with the Champagne grape that is every bit as good, if not better than many of its Gallic cousins made across the English Channel. The fact we’re not allowed to call it Champagne because it’s made on the Ryedale slopes overlooking the Vale of York rather than in the Champagne-Ardenne region of France, doesn’t make it in any way inferior – far from it. In fact, it could give Moet or Brut a run for its money.
We also have some of the finest cheese makers in the business too, with just two Yorkshire producers alone snapping up an amazing 16 great taste stars between them. And if you like charcuterie, forget about the mass-produced stuff from Spain and Italy, for there are some seriously good charcuterie producers in the county, each of them one-man bands where quality is all with meat they’ve reared themselves being used in the process.
As much as the food it’s the stories behind those making it that add flavour to Yorkshire’s epicurean heritage. Like the Yorkshire farmer’s daughter who got her own pig to rear when she was eight and now produces some of the best pork on her East Yorkshire farm to ever hit a British dinner plate.
Or the man who organised bespoke high-end holidays for avid fly fishermen that took him all over the world to the likes of Russia, the Tierra del Fuego and the Seychelles, seeing at first hand as he did so, how locals practised the ancient art of smoking and curing meat, game and fish.
And as for Yorkshire beer, there’s nowhere else in the country that is producing as many fine artisanal beers than we are. There are more than 140 independent brewers in the county making more than 1,000 types of beer between them, each of them with passion and commitment.
Like the former Royal Marine, who is now a science teacher by day and a brewer by night. His brewery is a converted domestic garage and in the evenings he marks his pupils’ homework while his latest brew is heating up in the mash tun. But this is no hobbyist, for his beer is being supped in plenty of Yorkshire alehouses, which just goes to prove what a dedicated lot our Yorkshire producers are.
I take off my flat cap to them….